How to Prepare for a First Date

Conversation on a first date.

Posted Aug 28, 2019

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Dating couple
Source: SaMBa/Shutterstock

So you’ve gone from online chat to meeting up face-to-face. This is your big chance.  How are you going to make a good impression on this first date? There are several things to consider.

Where should you go?

A first date needs to be somewhere you can talk exclusively with the person you are meeting in order that you can get to know each other better. Therefore, somewhere reasonably quiet might be good. Going to the movies might not be such a good idea, because you won’t be able to have a proper conversation, unless of course you want to discuss the movie somewhere afterwards. Similarly, it might not be a good idea to meet with friends or family on a first date, as you won’t get the chance to talk exclusively to each other. 

What to say

On your first date you are trying to find out about the other person and generally get to know them. You need some conversation and questions to ask, while at the same time being prepared to give answers to questions you are asked. This means asking questions which will make your date feel good and not awkward. If you know they play a sport or music, for example, ask about these things. Try to find some common ground; similarity is one of the strongest predictors of attraction

Remember that questioning is not interrogation. Its function is to find out information and to make your date feel good that you are interested in them. Ask open questions to give the other person a chance to expand on their answers: ‘Why do you like...' rather than, 'Do you like...?’ 

One of the things many people get anxious about is that the conversation will dry up and that there might be periods of uncomfortable silence. One solution to this is to think of the things you will ask or talk about in advance. In other words, take some conversation with you to your date. 

Finally, if you are nervous, which is perfectly natural, why not rehearse the date with a friend, or just mentally rehearse it in your head? This is a tactic used by athletes before big events, and you can employ it before a first date. 

Self-Disclosure

In the course of questioning your date and allowing them to question you, you are engaging in a process of mutual self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is the process by which a person conveys to another person information about themselves. Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor suggested that self-disclosure may be defined in terms of the breadth of disclosure (the range of things discussed), and depth of disclosure (the level of intimacy of your disclosure) (Altman and Taylor, 1973).

In their review of self-disclosure and liking, Nancy Collins and Lynn Carol Miller noted three things:

  • Those who disclose at intimate levels tend to be liked more than those who disclose at more superficial levels. Having said that, you wouldn’t want to disclose too much intimate information on a first date.
  • We disclose more to the people we like. So disclosing information to someone may well make them feel that they are liked.
  • We tend to like other people more as a result of disclosing to them. So, someone who opens up to you may be starting to like you.  

Quite obviously there are some don’ts when it comes to disclosure on a date. It might not be a good idea to talk about an ex, for example: A date is not a counseling session. Similarly, it might not be a good idea to discuss any other problems you may have. You want the other person to leave having a good impression of your date and of you being happy, which is generally more attractive than appearing negative.

Be Yourself?

Well, maybe. Obviously don’t try to be someone you are not. For instance, you are probably not a pilot on an Airbus 380 or a brain surgeon. However, if you have been told you are pushy, slightly arrogant, or timid, for example, try to modify these behaviors on a date. 

Be positive. Even if the date doesn’t go well, you will at least leave a favourable impression. Remember they are associating you with the situation, and it is possible to be found attractive by association with a positive experience.

And smile. You are more attractive when you smile. There are also differences between false and forced smiles and natural smiles. Each type employs different facial muscles. Forced smiles are smiles of the lower face, whereas genuine and natural smiles involve muscles around the eyes, too. On your date, try to smile naturally and genuinely.

References

Altman I., & Taylor, D. (1973). Social penetration: The development of interpersonal relationships.  New York.  Holt.

Collins, N. L. & Miller, L. C. (1994) ‘Self-disclose and liking:  A Meta-analytic review’ Psychological Bulletin, 16 (3), 457-475.