26 effective first date tips to make a great impression

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Thanks to dating apps and websites, scoring a first date is easier now more than ever. But nowadays, there are too many first dates and not enough follow-up dates.

Is it you? Is it him or her? Is it just dating in the modern world? How do you make sure they’re having a good time without sacrificing your own fun?

Worry not. Here are 26 first date tips every woman and man should know before hopping on a carriage with the one.

1) Do something different and fun

Tired of the usual first date gimmicks? Then why not try something fun for a change?

Instead of setting up another alcohol or caffeine-induced date, why not spend the day doing something outside typical first date traps?

Think museums, escape rooms, and all the other recreational spaces open to the public.

Remember, you don’t have to be nervous, and you don’t have to be formal.

According to Kristen Fuller, M.D., “Even if you don’t meet your Prince Charming or Cinderella, you still have an opportunity to laugh, let your hair down, and practice your conversational skills.”

Especially if you’re trying to get a good impression, it helps to plan the day with a little bit of creativity.

2) Location, location, location.

It’s true that the best first date has a lot to do with the location you choose to have the date.

For example, if your first date is at a corn maze in the middle of October, but your date didn’t bring a sweater and there’s mud up to her knees, well the date isn’t going to go well at all now, is it?

Alisha Powell, a couples therapist, told Bustle that a first date should be casual, rather than a big production:

“It should be a time where you get to know the other person by talking to them about their life and experiences…A setting that has a fairly low noise level is a good idea so that conversation can flow smoothly.”

It’s a good idea to not spring a surprise on your date either, by the way, especially if they needed boots for wading through mud and is wearing their cute going out shoes they bought just for the occasion.

3) Make it less about you (and more about them)

I know first hand the temptation to make the first date all about you.

How do you look? Are you saying interesting things? Are you flirting enough but not too much?

The truth is none of these things really matter. Because the first date is always much less about you and more about how the other person feels when they are around you.

Common wisdom says that men only fall for exceptional women.

That we like someone who they are. Maybe this woman has a captivating personality, is funnier than all her friends, or she’s a firecracker in bed.

As a man, I can tell you that this way of thinking is dead wrong.

None of those things actually matter when it comes to men falling for a woman. In fact, it’s not the attributes of the woman that matter at all.

The truth is this:

Men fall for women because of how those women make them feel about themselves.

So when it comes to a first date (and subsequent dates), you have to consider how you’re making the guy feel about himself.

4) Who pays?

Let’s settle this debate once and for all. It’s totally okay to let a guy pay, especially if he was the one who initiated the date. 

If the guy has agreed to the date, the chances are he’s prepared for the entire day and yes, that includes spending some time and money.

Jamie Long’s Psy.D. advice in Psychology Today is this:

“Yes, we live in a modern world in which women can pay for themselves and open their own door. Still, it’s nice when the man foots the bill after a dinner date. Likewise, ladies shouldn’t try to be just one of the guys.”

Of course, the girl can offer to pay; most guys appreciate that. However, know that the girl is not obligated to split the bill every single time.

If the guy offers, it’s because they want to treat the girl to a good time. Besides, it’s the first date.

Don’t sweat a detail as small as this. Just have fun and see how it goes then decide whether it’s better to let them pay or to split it with them instead.

QUIZ: “Does he like me?” Every woman has asked this question at least once about a guy. I’ve put together a fun quiz to help you figure out whether he likes you. Take my quiz here.

5) Come as yourself

Jamie Long’s Psy.D. advice in Psychology Today advises to “talk about yourself as who you are today in the present and the values and goals you have for yourself in the future.”

Too many people worry about whether they’re interesting, smart, or attractive enough for a person they’re seeing for the first time.

Out of anxiety, some of us end up fabricating lies about our jobs and our personal lives just to make ourselves look a little bit more interesting.

Not that it helps in the long-run. A relationship founded on lies is never going to work out.

Before going on that first date, remember first and foremost that you’re awesome just the way you are. Even if you think you’re behaving awkwardly, it’s much better to be yourself than someone else. 

Take a shot (or two or three) or call a friend to settle the nerves. Stop worrying so much because, after all, this is just your first date. Your primary goal should be to enjoy the day.

6) Keep the conversation going

A surefire way to not get a second date is to be a boring conversationalist. That’s not just science talking, that’s every person on the planet.

Studies show that if you’re going on a date, with a woman particularly, it’s better to let go of the cheesy pick-up lines and focus on an engaging conversation starter instead.

Richard Wiseman ran a study that looked into what topics work best on a first date. He suggested that the best topic to talk about was travel.

But perhaps the most consistent suggestions that comes from research on conversations is to ask for someone’s advice on something.

This is a great way to get someone talking and if they’re giving advice, they’ll feel like they’re being helpful and you might pump up their ego, too.

However, the truth is that conversations can get awkward between men and women when they’re attracted to each other.

Male and female brains are biologically different. For instance, the limbic system is the emotional processing center of the brain and it’s much larger in the female brain than in a man’s.

That’s why women are more in touch with their emotions. And why guys can struggle to express what they’re thinking and feeling.

7) Put your phone on hold

Aside from alcohol and coffee, awkward lulls and deafening silences are the staples of any first date.

In these moments, it can be extra tempting to whip out your phone and pretend like you have a dozen emails to attend to.

However uncomfortable it feels, never resort to pulling out your phone to fill in the silences.

According to Kristen Fuller, M.D., “You are on a date, with a real human being, so please take an hour break from texting, social media, and surfing the web, and focus on the present.”

Use it as an opportunity to reflect on how the date is going with your company.

You can ask things like, “Are you enjoying your time so far?” or “How do you usually spend your time with someone?” as ice breakers for those awkward moments.

Whatever you do, though, keep your phones in your pockets.

8) Have a reasonable amount of alcoholic drinks

So the date’s going really well. You decide to extend your lunch to dinner and dinner to drinks.

The next order of business?

Making sure you’re not too drunk that you either start giving them the lowest moments of your dating history or that you throw up in their car.

According to Bustle, one drink is the pre-date max. Then pace yourself when you’re drinking. You can use an online blood alcohol content calculator to figure out how long you need to nurse the first drink.

Basically, your liver can handle one drink an hour without getting you wrecked.

Enjoy the night, sure, but not so much that you end up on their list worst first dates ever.

Because let’s be honest:

If you want to get a thumbs down from your date, drink as much and as fast as you can. This ensures that they don’t get to know the real you and you don’t have to be nice about it. No second dates for this lush, thanks.

9) Prep your mind

Before heading out on the date, make sure you don’t have any lingering thoughts or issues from the day that might take away from your excitement or experience.

A recent small study found that women tend to be more attracted to men who are high in mindfulness, which is the ability to be fully present without judging.

If you are really troubled by something from work or a family matter, consider rescheduling the date because science tells us that when our mind is not in the right place, many things go wrong.

We miss red lights, we say stupid things, and of course, we don’t make a good impression on our date.

10) Don’t be afraid to tease him

Who doesn’t love witty banter?

Don’t be afraid to poke fun at them and joke around with them a little bit.

Studies have shown using humor in conversations makes a person appear as more likable, and telling jokes can bring a sense of calm to the conversation during the flirting process.

Tease them just enough that they laugh but not so much that they think you’re an inconsiderate jerk by the end of the day.

It’s only natural for people to enjoy the company of those who they think can pick their brains. 

So don’t hesitate to throw in a sassy line or two; chances are they’re going to think you’re confident, witty, and undeniably attractive.

So much so that they could already be planning date number two!

11) Know yourself

Dating is tough stuff sometimes so it helps if you are comfortable with who you are and what you have to offer someone in a relationship.

Jamie Long Psy.D. says in Psychology Today:

“DO present yourself authentically. It is much easier than putting forth the energy required to pretend.”

If you are unsure of your own worth or what someone might see in you, it might end up like being a terrible experience for both of you and you’ll walk away feeling less than stellar about yourself.

“DOES HE LIKE ME?” QUIZ: If you don’t know whether a guy likes you, you need real and honest advice. My new quiz will help you figure it out. Take the quiz here.

12) Look them up

As casual as first dates can get, there’s nothing wrong with making sure you know just enough info about them to get a conversation going.

The dating experts at eHarmony suggest that “you look up a potential date on Facebook to see if you have any mutual friends. This can help you see if you have “anyone or anything in common”.

The same way you don’t want to go into a job interview knowing absolutely nothing about the company, you also don’t want to go into a date knowing nothing but they’re screen name and face.

Look them up just enough that you have conversation points. And the most important thing is to actually mention that you did.

Casually say stuff like, “So I saw you on Facebook and…” as opposed to launching off to ask them about their 7-day backpacking trip. Now that’s how you come off as a stalker.

13) Clean up

First dates can make or break any future potential of your relationship, so take the time to take a shower, put on nice clothes, and do your hair.

Jess Kirby, a style blogger, gave The Every Girl some great advice on what to wear on first dates:

“I always say more is more–and by that, I mean don’t give it all away on the first date! If you wear something short, balance that out with long sleeves and a low heel. If you decide to wear something backless or low cut in the front, wear it with a maxi skirt or jeans.”

Sounds simple but in this day of “come as you are” and “love me for who I really am” it can be hard to stomach someone who shows up looking like they just fell off a dump truck.

14) Check your body language

Before you go out on a date, consider how your body language might help to make the experience more enjoyable or at least, less awkward.

If you are confident in your body, you can lean in and be close.

If you are awkward and shy, it will not leave your date feeling like they want to be involved you at all.

Thomas Edwards, the founder of The Professional Wingman, has a great acronym to help with body language on dates: SOLD — Smiling, Open Body Language, Leaning, Direction.

This means to keep a friendly smile, an open body posture, and point your body toward your date.

Consider how your body presents itself from a scientific point of view and make the necessary changes before heading out on a date so you and your date are comfortable.

15) Watch and mirror their body language

If you want your first date to go well, make your date feel as comfortable as possible by mirroring their body language.

They’ll leave saying they feel like they’ve known you forever and not even know why.

The reason why is that they felt like they were talking to themselves all night, in the best way possible.

This is actually rooted in the brain’s Mirror Neuron System.

This network of the brain is the social glue that binds people together.

A greater level of activation of the Mirror Neuron System is associated with liking and cooperation.

How do you do this?

Talk at a similar pace. If using relaxed body language, do the same. If they’re expressive with their hands, feel free to do the same.

16) Be interested

Showing that you’re interested in what they’re saying and you’re actually listening is a great way to make a good impression and get them to open up.

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. in Psychology Today:

“They will only open up if you show that you’re interested. You can expand your knowledge of other regions, cultures, and nations, ultimately making you a more interesting conversationalist as well.”

It only takes a listening ear and interest for you to expand your knowledge of other regions, cultures, and nations. Armed with this new information, you can become a more interesting conversationalist as well.

17) Let go if it doesn’t work out

If it clearly doesn’t work out, do you call them to ask if they want to go for round 2?

Do you text them five messages telling them you had a good time? Or do you simply accept the fact that maybe there was no spark between you two?

Never put all your chips in a first date because it’s never going to be as rewarding or as meaningful as a long-term relationship.

Take these dates exactly for what they are: as an opportunity to mingle, practice social skills, and understand what you’re looking for in a partner.

And anyway, first-dates aren’t really that important.

According to a study:

“Maybe we should start worrying about second impressions more than first impressions because it turns out they matter more in the dating world. Researchers found that 53 percent of men and women are willing to go on a second date with someone, even if they felt no romantic chemistry with them on date number one. When asked why, 50 percent of singles said that they felt a person may ‘grow’ on them if they were given another opportunity to get to know them.”


18) Keep your hands to yourself

If you are a Grabby George on your first date, you can pretty much guarantee that things will get awkward, and maybe even a little blurry for you.

Relationship expert April Masini says that “You might think that touching her a lot on the first date shows that you’re into her. Not the case…What you’re actually showing her is that you’re super-touchy on every first date.”

She (or he) might smoke you upside the head and let you know the hard way that they don’t like being groped.

19) Don’t be afraid to reveal information about yourself 

If you don’t want to go on another date with someone, make sure to tell them nothing about yourself.

We’ve heard of lots of people who do this by accident citing, “I was just trying to be polite and listen.”

If you’re going to see them again, then you need to let them know something about who you are.

You don’t have to reveal everything, but you should at least have something to say about what you do and what some of your hobbies are.

Now if you struggle to talk about yourself, you may want to consider a date where you’re doing something you’re passionate about.

“Invite her to do something you know a lot about, and are passionate about, like a baseball game or a concert with your favorite band,” says relationship expert Dr. Lieberman. “You’ll have lots to say.”

It will make them feel more comfortable and it will help build rapport between the two of you.

20) Don’t use a coupon

Okay, so there is something to be said about being frugal and with the right date this might be totally okay, but on the first date, you just can’t tell.

Leave your savings clippings at home until date number two unless you don’t want a second date.

You can enjoy the 2-for-1 pizza all to yourself next time.

Relationship expert Dr. Lieberman says,“If you’re cheap with money, you’re probably cheap with emotions and possibly in bed, too…This is not the impression you want to give.”

21) Don’t let them do ALL the talking

If you’d rather be anywhere than be on this date, let her (or him) do all the talking.

You can zone in and out as it suit you and then you don’t need to commit to anything after that. It’s easy to guarantee you won’t have a second date with someone: don’t pay attention to them.

However, don’t talk too much yourself.

Jamie Long Psy.D.  says in Psychology Today:

“According to DON’T monopolize the conversation or make yourself the highlight real, no one healthy or worthwhile being in a relationship with is interested in getting into a coupleship with a narcissist.”

22) Don’t talk about your ex non-stop

If awkward is what you are after, bringing up your ex is a great way to kill the mood and make your date want to run home.

Kristen Fuller, M.D. says, “Bringing up an ex on a first date can make you seem like you may still have feelings for him or her or you may have some unresolved issues that need to be addressed.”

It’s worse if you say mean and horrible things about your ex. Your date can easily see you saying those things about them and it’s game over from there. It also clearly shows that you’re not fully over your ex.

23) Don’t badmouth other people in front of your date

This kind of communication, although is shows you’ve got an eye for detail, only serves to enhance your toxic energy. And nobody likes spending time with toxic and negative people.

According to a relationship expert in Business Insider, it’s a giant red flag if “your date is rude, to a server or to anyone for that matter.” Don’t be that person.

So if you want to lift the positive energy and build some rapport, try to see the best in people when you talk about them.

24) Don’t name-drop as much as possible

People love it when you name-drop on first dates. Oh sorry, that’s not true.

So if you want to make a lasting impression that isn’t so positive, be sure to name every single person of any influence you’ve ever met or seen walking down the street.

Your date will love that – just kidding.

According to Liane Davey, an organizational psychology expert, “Name dropping is absolutely terrible for our credibility…as the listener almost always sees through it”.

25) Don’t tell offensive jokes

Again, this one might really depend on your audience, but it’s just good manners to not tell awful jokes on your first date – or ever.

Jokes have their place but until you know who you are dealing with and their background and beliefs and just so many other things, you shouldn’t tell offensive jokes on first dates.

Kristen Fuller, M.D., has some good advice:

“Yes, it may be important that you share the same political and religious views, but there is a time and place to have these discussions and the first date is not one of them.”

26) Don’t talk poorly about your family members

According to Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D. in Psychology Today, a giant red flag for dating is when someone talks badly about their Mother.

So if you want to make a terrible impression on your first date, say bad things about your mom. Any guy or girl worth dating is going to be turned off by this and they’ll turn around and head the other way.

If you want the first date to go really well, and a second date is what you want, be positive about your family.

In conclusion: Making the first date lead to a relationship

First dates should be fun and exciting. Yet they can also be nerve-racking in equal measure.

If you really like the guy, you want the first date to be a stepping stone into a long-lasting relationship.

However, there’s one crucial ingredient to relationship success I think you might overlook:

Understanding what he is thinking at a deep level.

But how?

I’ve recently come across a new way to help you understand what could be driving him in a relationship with you.

James Bauer – one of the world’s leading relationship experts – revealed a new concept that brilliantly explains what really drives men romantically. He calls it the hero instinct. 

You can watch his new video here.

Simply put, men want to be your hero. Not necessarily an action hero like Thor, but he does want to step up to the plate for the woman in his life and be appreciated for his efforts.

And the best part? 

You can trigger the hero instinct in him right from the first date! 

I don’t usually pay much attention to popular new concepts in psychology or recommend videos. But some ideas are game-changers. And when it comes to relationships, I think this is one of them.

Here’s a link to the video again.

Recommended reading:

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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