First dates can be uncomfortable.
They always start out a bit awkwardly, but if you're lucky, you both loosen up throughout the date and enjoy getting to know a new person — one who might turn into a long-term romantic interest.
You might wonder what to do on a first date to make it memorable and enjoyable, and hopefully, lead to a second date.
Most people don't think much beyond how they look and how to impress this new person they are about to meet.
But there's so much more involved in making the first date a positive experience, whether or not it leads to something more.
With a little forethought and planning, you can ensure that this first encounter goes as well as it possibly can.
Let's look at some simple ideas to consider before you go on that next, first date.
- 28 First Date Tips that Will Make Your First Meeting Soar
- General First Date Tips for Everyone
- First Date Tips for Men
- First Date Tips for Women
- Topics to Talk About on Your First Date
28 First Date Tips that Will Make Your First Meeting Soar
General First Date Tips for Everyone
1. Know the reason you're dating.
Stop to do some mental preparation before you go out on your date.
- What is your relationship goal for dating?
- Are you looking for a committed relationship?
- Are you dating around just for fun and to meet new people?
Once you can honestly answer these questions, you can interact with your date in a way that aligns with your end goal.
For example, if you are just dating around, you don't need to worry whether or not you and your date are perfectly compatible.
However, if you want a committed relationship, you might want to pay attention to your date's life priorities, values, and interests. With clear intentions, you'll feel a sense of purpose during your date.
2. Relax and have fun.
Before you even leave for your date, decide that you are going to have fun — even if he or she doesn't turn out to be the perfect match.
Dating is a process. Each time you meet a new person, you are learning more about what you are looking for in a partner.
Even if the first date doesn't lead to a second one, if you have a positive attitude and decide to have fun, you have nothing to lose.
3. Choose a neutral location.
For a first date, you want a location that allows you both to talk and get to know one another. The location of the date shouldn't distract from that goal.
Dinner at a loud restaurant followed by a movie isn't a good choice if you're hoping to converse. Even something fun and creative like a bike ride or going to the farmer's market might be more about the event than the other person.
But a quiet coffee shop or an out-of-the-way bar are neutral spots that lend to good conversation and are easy to leave if things don't go so well.
4. Keep it short.
You want to leave your date wanting more — not wondering if the night will ever end. Leave on a high note and don't let your date run out of steam.
You're simply going on a date to figure out if the two of you have chemistry — not to learn each other's life stories.
Start out meeting for coffee or a drink. You can plan a longer date if you decide you want to meet again.
5. Be fully present.
This doesn't mean leaving your phone sitting on the table so you can look at your messages — or looking around at other men or women who walk past. Stay fully engaged in the conversation without distractions.
You also need to stay self-aware (so you can pick up on social cues) and listen as your date tells you about his or her life. Look at your date and give visual and verbal cues that you are engaged in what he or she is saying.
If you're nervous, don't obsessively wonder about how the night is going to end. Neither of you knows the answer to this question, but you need to be present with your date in order to find out.
6. Don't overshare
The first date is not the time to tell your potential partner about your ex-lovers or about that night you ended up naked and in jail.
Sharing too much too soon is a turnoff, as your date might think there is more weirdness under the surface.
Share enough information to reveal the type of person you are, your interests, and your personality, but save your crazy (we all have some) for the time when you've built some trust in the relationship.
Also, don't ask questions that are too personal or would suggest that your date needs to overshare with you. For example, if your date tells you that his or her parents are divorced, you don't need to ask why.
7. Be aware of your body language.
Make good eye contact with your date (without staring intensely), and try to avoid a defensive posture by crossing your arms over your chest. In fact, you can show your date you're interested by mirroring their movements and expressions.
Pay attention to your body language so you don't reveal any nerves by playing with your hair, looking around the room, or fidgeting. Smile often and lean in when your date is speaking to show that you're interested and engaged.
Touch your date's arm during your interactions with each other to show that you’re interested in him or her. But don’t be too pushy or grabby. Too much touching on a first date might show you're more interested in a physical relationship than in the person you're talking to.
8. Be yourself.
Pretending to be some enhanced version of the person you would like to be is misleading and sets the stage for awkward future interactions.
Acting like someone you're not is a game that can’t be played forever and guarantees that both of you will eventually be dissatisfied.
The goal of dating is to meet someone who is authentic and possibly whose desires in life align with yours. This can only happen if you show your date the real you — someone who is confident enough that pretending or acting isn't necessary.
9. Prepare ahead with questions and conversation topics.
Before you leave the house, take some time to write down some ideas for topics you want to discuss and interesting questions you'd like to ask your date.
You don't have to pull out your notes during your date, but writing down your thoughts will cement them in your mind. But if you want to slip your notes in your pocket or purse, you can review them during a bathroom break if conversation starts to lag.
We have a great list of first date questions that you can check out before your next first date.
First Date Tips for Men
10. Make a confident decision.
There isn't much worse than the “I don't care, what do you want to do?” back and forth conversation.
Women want a man who has confidence in his decisions while being thoughtful and flexible enough to consider his date's desires.
If it becomes obvious that she isn't enjoying your venue choice, just smile and say: “This isn't your scene, is it?” You can learn more about your date by finding out why she doesn't like the venue and then suggest that next time you can do something else.
If she doesn’t like where you chose to take her, make up for it by having a great interaction. But if the location is loud or otherwise not suitable for getting to know each other, have the confidence to say, “Let's get out of here and go somewhere we can talk.”
11. Be a gentleman.
Yes, times have changed, and women and men are more equal — and the rules of dating have changed as a result.
However, this doesn't mean that women don't appreciate good, old-fashioned, gentlemanly manners and consideration.
Open doors, pull out her chair, and if you've initiated the date, pay the tab (unless you've already discussed going Dutch).
Make your mom proud and show your date how classy you can be. Women notice this and certainly appreciate it. Being a gentleman will set you apart from many of the other dates she's likely had.
12. Be curious.
Instead of spending the date trying to find ways to make her attracted to you, spend your time learning about her. This is where the advance preparation comes in that we mentioned in point #9.
Having a curious mindset and showing real interest in the woman you're dating will take things to a new level. Find out about her values, hobbies, and passions.
As a result, you’ll learn if she’s the kind of girl you want to go out with again and if she is right for you or not.
If you are truly curious, your conversation will naturally flow, and she will be more inclined to want to learn about you.
13. Don't brag or show off.
You may feel a strong desire to tell your date about your expensive new car or the promotion you just received.
But if the woman is second date-worthy, she’ll be more interested in who you are, not what you have or what you have done. Let your character and personality speak to her about the kind of man you are on the inside.
Imagine how much more your accomplishments will impress her when she is already into you as a person.
14. Dress the part.
Make sure that you look nice without looking like you're trying too hard — or trying to be someone you're not.
Dress for the environment of your date and for yourself. Wear something comfortable and that makes you feel confident.
Both the cut and the style of your outfit should fit you. Women notice the small details of your clothes, down to the dirt and wear on your shoes.
You want to look presentable so that your date sees you care enough to put in some effort.
15. Communicate properly.
One of the most important first date tips is to communicate both before and after your date. Make sure to touch base the day before to solidify your plans so she knows that you're not going to flake out on her.
If you realize during the date that she isn't a good fit for you, don't just bail. Finish the date naturally, and tell her you enjoyed your time together — but don't suggest another date.
However, if you can see a future with her or you want to go on a second date, don't wait two or three days to tell her. Follow up with her the next day to let her know how much you enjoyed your time together and to ask her out again.
16. Manage your nerves.
Confidence is the most common quality both men and women desire in a date. It's perfectly natural to be a little nervous, especially if your first meeting was online dating. But try not to focus on your nerves.
Telling a girl how nervous you are can be offputting and make her feel uncomfortable. She is likely nervous too, so take a deep breath and remember you are both just trying to get to know each other.
Your calm and natural demeanor will set her at ease and show that you feel comfortable in your own skin.
First Date Tips for Women
17. Break the physical barrier.
If your date seems shy, you can establish appropriate physical contact to show your interest.
Guys are sometimes hesitant to do this because they can't tell if a woman is into him or not. Breaking the physical barrier will immediately put you both at ease.
Give him a warm hug at the beginning of the date and find ways to casually touch him during your time together. Don't overdo it, but offer the occasional touch to build rapport and connection.
18. Know your deal-breakers.
What immediately turns you off and makes you know for sure that you don't want a second date?
Your instant non-negotiables might be that your date is a smoker or that he mentions he's into open relationships. Maybe he is rude to the waiter, or he answered a call from his mother in the middle of your conversation.
In advance of your date, be aware of the qualities or behaviors that instantly tell you that this guy is not for you. Your non-negotiables should be about character traits, personality flaws, and value systems.
19. Watch out for red flags.
Listen to your intuition if it is telling you that something isn’t quite right. If your date can’t answer basic questions like where he works, or he acts shady in some way, chances are that he is hiding something from you.
Also, if he starts to get on your nerves during your first date or acts overly cocky or opinionated, these are big red flags too. Pay attention to these clear indicators that you’re not going to work out as a couple.
20. Don't hide your interest in him.
If you feel like the date is going well, don't hide it and play hard-to-get. Let your date know that you are enjoying the time that you are spending with him.
Sure, a bit of mystery might be a good thing, but acting like you have no interest when you really do can get old quickly and send the wrong message…permanently.
21. Forget your superficial wish list.
Hold onto your non-negotiables and boundaries, but forget about your itemized wish list about his height, the type of car he drives, and his occupation.
Having lists like this will limit you in the dating world and could keep you from connecting with someone who could be great for you.
22. Watch your alcohol consumption.
This is especially true on your first date. Keep to a two-drink maximum (or less if you get tipsy easily).
Getting sloshed with someone you don't know well can be risky, and it can also quickly turn the other person off.
Also, you don't want to have clouded judgment when you are trying to make a genuine connection with another person.
23. Act like the date you want to have.
It isn’t your date’s sole responsibility to make your time together a success. You need to help make this happen also.
Put away your phone and engage in conversation. Ask questions and be attentive. Show an interest in his life by using your active listening skills and trying to relate to what he is saying.
If he pays for the date, be appreciative and gracious.
Topics to Talk About on Your First Date
24. It's Sunday at 2:00. What are you doing?
If your date works a typical Monday through Friday work week, they probably spend their Sundays doing something that is important to them or something that reflects their values in some way.
During this free time in your week, are you visiting your parents? Catching up on work or getting ready for the work week? Maybe you are at a sports bar with your friends?
Asking this question in this specific way rather than saying, “What do you do with your free time?” helps your date give you a more specific and truthful answer.
25. What do you splurge on?
This question will give you a glimpse into your date's values and also start a fun conversation about what each other's favorite things are.
Whether it is a large annual vacation or a vast music collection, finding out what your date values more than money is a good way to get to know them.
26. Outside of your career, what are you an expert on?
Maybe your date speaks multiple languages or knows everything there is to know about ancient Egypt. Or maybe it's something simple like bowling a perfect strike almost every time.
Everyone has those one or two things they excel at doing. Who knows, maybe you will find you're great at the same thing.
27. What are some items on your bucket list?
Talking about each other's ideal experiences or long-term goals is a quick way to get to know one another. This will help uncover your date's values and help you gauge your compatibility.
Whether each of you has a formal bucket list or not, talking about what you would like to do is a unique way to learn a bit more about each other.
Are you both adventurous or do your goals revolve more around family and career?
Maybe one of your dreams of going skydiving in the French Alps while the other's idea of adventure is learning to be fluent in German. This can uncover how much you have in common.
28. What makes you laugh?
Laughing with someone is a quick road to a connection. If you and your date have opposite senses of humor, it may be a barrier in the long run. You may find his or her sense of humor to be offensive or juvenile.
On the other hand, there is nothing better than hearing someone genuinely laugh in a manner that you know truly touches them.
Everyone has things that get them laughing every time. Talk about what these things are for each other, and it may bring up a few laughs as you're coming up with things you find to be hilarious.
29. Talk about the real you.
Talk about where you were, where you are now, and where you are going. This means talking about the things in your past that helped you evolve into the person you are now and what your goals are for the future.
These substantive conversations are more engaging than listing off the facts of where you went to school and what you do for a job now.
Have your conversation in a storytelling way by describing the significant points in your life and tying them into the present day.
30. Ask positive and fun questions.
Everyone expects the “Where are you from? What do you do? Where did you grow up?” questions. These are all easy to answer and evoke little positive emotion.
Instead, ask your date about their favorite vacation or have them tell you about their favorite book.
- “Where would your dream vacation be?”
- “What is your best memory?”
These questions for couples invite a more interesting conversation that won't end in a brick wall.
31. What do you like to read for fun?
You'll first find out whether or not your date is a reader at all. Some people don't enjoy reading for pleasure or prefer to listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
If your date does read, the genre of books he or she prefers can give you insight into their personality, interests, and values. It can also reveal where your interests and values intersect. Do you both love mysteries, political autobiographies, or self-improvement books?
Knowing your date's reading list will give you plenty to talk about and share.
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Put these first date tips to good use.
Landing the first date can be hard enough, so once you on one, you want to make sure that you approach it correctly and are able to enjoy yourself.
Next time you are scheduled to go on a first date, use these first date tips to help your date go more smoothly.
Think about how positive it would be if you went on a first date with someone who is prepared with questions and topics, engaged in the conversation, and self-confident.
And think of how happy your date will be if you are equally prepared.
Look at first dates as mini-adventures that give you more insight into yourself and what you want in a partner.
Don't put pressure on yourself or on the other person. Just enjoy the opportunity of meeting someone new and sharing some time together. For now, that's enough.