How Do I Act On a First Date? Advice For the Confused Man (Or Woman)

Today is Valentine’s Day…or was, if you’re in New Zealand and finished with your weight in V-Day chocolates. To celebrate, let’s talk dating.

More specifically, are you a man or woman who doesn’t know how to act on a first date? Do you find yourself saying the wrong thing?

You would think a grown-up person would know not to search a girl’s handbag because he thinks she has condoms in it as she visited the restroom. This happened to a young lady I know. Or, you would think a man wouldn’t approach me with, “I don’t think you’re attractive, but you’re smart, and you would be good for my career.” Ouch. OK. I’m sure you have your own horror stories.

One thing that gets in the way is that everyone have assumptions about how first dates should be, but these assumptions may or may not be in the mind of the person you are meeting,” Dr. Sanjay Nath, associate professor of Clinical Psychology and the director of the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University, says is the cause of nerves wrecking your date.

“This goes for issues like paying for a meal, whether there is physical contact at the end of the date and post-date contact. Part of what is difficult is that you may be trying to read what is going on, but because of your own assumptions, and because you don’t know the other person very well yet, you can easily be uncertain or off-track.”

Dr. Sanjay Nath’s Big 8 Tips to Succeeding On a First Date

#1 Be specific.

“One way to approach this: ‘I would like to . . . does that sound alright?’ Being clear and explicit at least allows you to better read how the other person is thinking or reacting rather than being indirect or making an assumption.”

#2 Plan ahead.

“Remember, there is no set script, and negotiating what to do (where, what activity) even before meeting is always a good way to begin imagining what a date may be like.”

#3 Ask your date about himself or herself. It’s not all about you!

“Once you are there: questions, questions, questions. They are a good way to show interest and curiosity. Make sure that after you talk about yourself or something related to you that you allow space for your date respond or talk about their experiences. Things to talk about: leisure activities, interests, work . .

#4 Don’t tell your date too much.

“Remember, it is a first date, so too much disclosure may be a problem.”

#5 Don’t get drunk.

“Another word of caution: many individuals deal with the anxiety and stress of dating by drinking and perhaps drinking too much. This often makes it even harder to read others’ cues and to be oneself, since alcohol disinhibits most folks. Be sure to eat when consuming alcohol and drink moderately.”

#6 Monitor yourself in case you say the wrong thing, especially if you have foot in mouth syndrome.

“if you know you have done this in the past, try to monitor it and be aware of it. Pay close attention to your dates’ non-verbal cues, and if you think you may have said the wrong thing, say so and apologize and check in with him or her. Don’t be too cool to do so. In the end, communication is a major predictor of relationship success, so why not start early on a first date?”

#7 Give the person a second chance. Or third. Or fourth.

“We also have a culture that is very quick to judgment of others which puts tremendous pressure on first dates. Sometimes it takes several meetings to know whether there is chemistry or a possible fit. Additionally, sexual compatibility often improves over time as individuals learn what their partners want and need, so making a quick assessment of this may be limiting.”

#8 WARNING: Beware of friends with benefits situations. You will never have a clear picture.

“Part of our youth-oriented dating culture is very ‘hooking up’ based and sometimes, many folks connect sexually without dating or even much conversation or knowledge of one another. These situations are also complicated in terms of even assessing whether individuals are dating or interested in more commitment.”


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