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So You Met Someone You Might Want to Date, Now What?

What to say and do after you’ve said hello.

In a recent article, I described how I helped a client develop a plan for meeting Mr. Right.

A reader asked, “So you’ve met him. Now what?”

Here are some thoughts.

Watch that first impression. Per Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, we tend to, in just a few seconds, develop a hard-to-shake impression of a person. Often that’s surprisingly accurate: Looks and even a person’s first few words embeds many of their characteristics. For example, if they make eye contact, they’re not unduly shy or troubled and may be interested in you. If their first line comes out without hesitation and is clever but not cutesy, it speaks to their intelligence. If their dress is restrained vs.Goth, that says something.

You can learn all that in a few seconds and develop an impression of someone that’s quite indelible. Psychologists call that confirmation bias. Once we have an opinion about someone, we tend to reject input that’s discordant. For example, if a person who first said something intelligent and then something stupid, we might ignore the latter or even, if the person is physically attractive, deem it cute.

So yes, value that first impression but, at least for a while, remain open to the possibility you’re wrong.

Revealing your sexuality. Of course, some of sex appeal is mystical, magical, ineffable, but here are some behaviors that many people perceive as sexy:

  • Posture. Shoulders back, back straight. Chin slightly above 90 degrees. Occasionally, slightly tilt your head to the side.
  • A warm but not salesy smile. Ah, the gift of an easy smile, someone who without trying, seems upbeat.
  • Stand 2 ½ to 3 feet away rather than the typical 3 ½ to 4.
  • Eye contact. Don’t stare but, most of the time, look the person in the eye well enough that you remember their eye color. That can be seductive.
  • A relaxed voice. Don’t talk too fast. A relatively slow pace implies confidence.
  • Long latency. After the other person finishes talking, wait a second. That both shows respect and calm confidence. That’s sexy.

What to say? Best to start with a positive “environmental” comment. No, not “I’m glad they recycle here.” Say something about your immediate environment. For example, if you’re standing in front of a bookstore’s psychology section, you might say, “Quite a collection they have here.” If you’re in a Trader Joe’s line and you see something intriguing in the person’s shopping cart, you might say, “I’ve been curious to try the Kouigg Amann. Have you had it before?” Don’t use “lines,” for example, “Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?” “Lines” are transparently canned and appear techniquey.

Some people dislike small talk but it’s important. An opening bit of small talk lets a person know you’re interested without your being too forward or threatening. The person won’t think you’re shallow unless after two hours, all you’ve discussed are the weather, sports, and the Kardashians.

Now what? After your opening comment, listen, really listen and then say or ask something in response. This part of the conversation could be called the slow dig: Slowly dig a little deeper: reveal a little more, ask something a little more intimate. For example:

You: They sure have quite a collection of psychology books.

S/he: Uh-huh.

You: (perusing the shelf): Hmm. “The Art of Communication.” I could use a few tips.

S/he cracks only the hint of a smile and turns away.

You: I like this bookstore.

S/he: It’s nice. (S/he turns away again.)

You: I like that they have sofas as a reading area.

S/he: That is nice.

You: They should install a kitchen and a bedroom. What do you think?

She smiles but turns away.

You: Were you looking for a book on a particular topic, or just browsing?

S/he: I’m not sure…

You wait, giving her a chance to think about whether s/he wants to say more.

S/he: Well, maybe a book on ADHD.

You: I was a very active kid in school. It was really hard to sit still. You don’t seem hyper.

S/he: It’s for my son.

You: Has he been diagnosed?

S/he: No, but his teacher thinks I should get him evaluated.

You purse your lips.

S/he: Maybe it’s just because I’m his parent but I think he’s just an active boy.

You: I’d guess the thought of putting him on Ritalin feels wrong or at least scary.

S/he nods.

(In real-life, the conversation should probably go a little longer before his asking her out but for space reasons here, I’ll cut to the chase.)

You: Hey, I gotta go now but would you like to get together for coffee or a drink some time this weekend?

S/he: Okay.

Principles demonstrated in that dialogue

In addtition the principles explained in the "What to say" section, here are others used in this dialogue:

A ping-pong exchange. Both talked about the same amount and their comments were brief. That back-and-forth leads to more connection than do lecturettes.

The longer your statements, the more likely you’ll be viewed as egotistical.

If you tend to be long-winded, consider using the traffic-light rule: During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green. In the second 30 seconds, it’s yellow: the person may start to think you’re long-winded or has something they’d like to say in response. At the 60-second mark, your light turns red. Yes, occasionally you want to “run a red light,” for example, if telling an interesting story, but generally you want to stop, perhaps asking a question.

Mirror their pace of revealing intimacies. Some people say little about their fears, insecurities, and problems for weeks. Others tell all in the first few minutes. While remaining true to your basic character, err on the side of mirroring your conversation partner.

Quickly ask for a date. First meetings like at a bookstore usually can’t last long without seeming pushy. So if you want to continue the conversation, after just a few minutes, ask the person out on a date.

What’s next?

Tomorrow’s installment: On making the most of a first date.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at

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