Even for the most confident person first dates can be intimidating. Essentially, we’re prepping to go meet a stranger without knowing what could possibly happen. We forget that everyone we meet starts as a stranger! But, this particular stranger could end up being your next serious relationship or spouse. So, you feel “on stage,” and it’s important to you to get it right. You remind yourself that first impressions count and you don’t want to screw it up!

What makes a good first impression on a date? In my opinion, many little things and one big thing.

After conducting my own research on this topic, looking to see what others have to say, I found the following suggestions to tops most lists:

Be on time.
Dress nice (appropriately)
Have good table manners.
Put the phone away
Don’t drink too much
Don’t talk about your ex
Stick to positive conversations (don’t complain)

Pretty self-explanatory. And, while some of these are date specific, for the most part they are general code of conduct when interacting with anyone.

Shouldn’t we always strive to be on time?

If I’m meeting you for a date, I’ll notice if you’re late, but I won’t mark it as impressive if you’re on time.  You should be on time. It’s what I expect. At least give me a heads up if you’re not going to be.

The best thing you can do on a date, the best way to make a great impression, is to simply be yourself. The truth is, when you are meeting someone for the first time, you have no idea what’s going to impress them. So, you have nothing to lose by being yourself. It’s a crap shoot anyway.

For argument’s sake, let’s say you do know. You consulted your crystal ball and learned that your date is a Civil War buff, or a wine connoisseur, or a remote airplane enthusiast. With that information you decide to become a quick study in order to impress with your knowledge.

How authentic are you really going to be?

Now, let’s put yourself on the receiving end. YOU are the master gardener and landscape artist. Are you going to be impressed when your dates pretends to know how to grow roses and midnight orchids?

Yes, it’s nice when someone goes out of their way to impress. It’s flattering to know that they want you to like them that much. But, it’s not sustainable. True colors are always revealed. So, why waste your time hiding them, or being someone you’re not. You’d be setting yourself up for some first-class awkwardness.

Another twist on this same concept is you also don’t want to be completely agreeable. Even if you don’t have the foreknowledge of your date’s hobbies and interests, you can still pretend by agreeing with everything they say. They share what movies and books they like, and of course, you do too! Their favorite kind of vacation is lounging at the beach, and you pretend yours is too. When really, you’d rather be camping atop a mountain somewhere.

Again, the truth will come out, and it will come out after time and energy has been spent building a relationship that ends up on the rocks because really, you’re completely different people!

Be yourself, hold true to your likes/dislikes, your convictions/opinions, your values and perspectives, etc.

Most people who fall into the trap of pretend or agreeableness are trying to avoid awkwardness. But really, awkwardness is just being delayed. Even if your first date becomes a little uncomfortable, isn’t that better than making all the way to date 2,3, 10, 20? Once all is revealed everything you’ve built will blow up in your face.

It’s not fun when you learn someone has been spending time and energy lying to you about who they really are.

Perhaps if your differences are revealed on the first date it will be awkward and maybe you won’t be impressed, but at least you’ll know that you respect yourself enough to be who you are, and your date will respect that, too. They will respect that you were honest, even if the romance ends right then and there.

Don’t forget that differences don’t necessarily mean a relationship shouldn’t continue or bonds can’t be formed. Most differences aren’t deal breakers. Some people believe opposites attract. Some people are looking for someone who doesn’t like everything they like. They want to have separate interests and hobbies; doing so promotes individuality.

Difference also create room for curiosity. If you’re on a date with the Civil War buff isn’t it better to ask questions and show genuine interest in what they know and what their passion is rather than show up to the date armed with talking points?

Most people will enjoy talking about and sharing their passion with someone who is genuinely interested. It certainly beats listening to someone else talk about something they know nothing about. Most people are going to be more flattered that you care enough to be inquisitive.

Remember this too, some conversations that happen are not just about interests and hobbies. Sometimes personal topics come up. You’re asked a question about your family, work, past relationships, etc., and you’re not ready yet. It’s still not OK to lie to like about it, or to make something sound better than it is. You don’t have to feel like you owe an explanation. You don’t need to spill your guts on a first date (or second or third).

If it’s a touchy subject, ask to speak about it another time or find a way to change the subject.

Don’t forget to do a little quick reversal. If you are on the receiving end of hesitation, don’t push, pry or interrogate. Respect boundaries, don’t judge and give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, wouldn’t you also like to be treated with that kind of patience and compassion? We all have things that are tough to talk about, and we have the right to talk about those things, when we are ready and comfortable, and once genuine trust has been established.

If someone asks you a question or brings up a topic that you’re not comfortable with, don’t lie just to accommodate. The truth will bubble up later and it could have detrimental effects.

In conclusion, being yourself will be impressive and it will reveal confidence (even if you don’t necessarily feel that way on the inside). Owning who you are will never be a bad thing. If you’re rejected, so be it. You didn’t meet the right person for you. That’s what dating is all about.

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