Your 10-Step Guide to Nailing the First Date

With credit to the brave new world of dating apps and the millennial generation’s affinity for instant gratification, getting a date is easier than ever before.

Hell, you don’t even have to leave your apartment — a few mutual swipes to the right, some emoticons and clever GIFs exchanged, and voila! You have a first date in the books for the upcoming weekend. But just because it’s easier to get your foot in the door, doesn’t mean the rest of the process has been streamlined for easy success.

We have no trouble getting to the first date, but how do we get through it (and on the the second date)? Luckily, we’re going to break it down for you.

1. Change-up Your Go-To Spots

Listen, don’t be that person that always rotates dates through the same spot. Take it from someone who worked as a bartender… we recognize you. We know your routine and all your moves. So, remain mindful of your favourite suggestions, but try to mix it up here and there.

If you’re sticking to drinks or a quick meal, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to choose a place that has cocktail, beer and/or wine options. This way, you know your companion won’t be at a total loss as they stare at the drink menu. Also, don’t be afraid to suggest a Monday or Tuesday night for a date, as bars and restaurants might be less busy and crowded on those nights and therefore more friendly to first-date conversation (AKA not screaming at each other over the drunken banter of a Friday night crowd at a local hot-spot).

2. The Day-Of Text

Even if you’ve firmed up plans earlier in the week, take the time to send your date a text earlier in the day to confirm your date and mention that you are looking forward to seeing them that day or evening.

When it comes to the date itself, don’t be late. If you are meeting at a location, get there 5-10 minutes early so you have time to get a spot and text your companion to tell them where you are (to avoid any awkward searching or fears of an impending catfish scenario once they arrive).

3. Try Out an Activity

Who said dates have to be confined to the cafe, bar or restaurant setting? Don’t be afraid to switch it up with a unique activity. Not only will you set yourself apart from the other dating app dates they’ve likely been on to local watering holes, but you’ll break up small talk with the demands (and potential bonding) of whatever activity you choose.

Plus, a little competitive edge thrown into the dynamic of a first date can not only be fun, but will give you a little insight into how your personalities mesh together

4. Ask Questions, but Don’t Treat it as a Job Interview

Active listening is crucial, and you should be totally invested in getting to know your date, but try not to drill them with so many questions that they feel like they’re on trial or don’t have a chance to learn about you, too.

Building rapport requires output and input from both sides of the table, so allow for that conversational give-and-take to find an enjoyable balance.

5. Put Your Phone Away

Don’t even keep it on the table, ideally. The last thing your date needs is to spot an influx of “You have a new match!” notifications or texts popping up on your phone while you’re attempting to get to know each other. Be present and engaged. Your phone (and those notifications) will be waiting for you when your date is over.

6. Body Language

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, found that 55% of any message is conveyed through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). Think about it, when we first meet someone, how quickly do we piece together judgements about their friendliness, dominance and potential as a romantic/sexual partner? Body language matters.

With this in mind, pay attention to your own body language as well as your companions. Maintain eye contact while speaking to each other, smile and notice how you both might start to open up as the date goes on, in order to gauge how you can naturally progress things and get closer.


7. Cut the Bullsh*t

Remember that, while dating apps provide a constant rotation of local singles at your fingertips — and therefore a seemingly endless cycle of potential dates — this convenience can translate into an convoluted approach to courtship, at times.

While dating in 2017 may be extremely accessible and streamlined, so to speak, it should never be treated with the same addictive regard as a game on your phone. After all, constantly swiping through potential matches on Tinder or Bumble can make us feel (consciously or not) that we are always just one swipe away from someone better.

So whether your goal is to really connect (for a potential relationship, perhaps) or something more casual, don’t lose sight of that goal during the date and be open about it. Eliminate the chance for miscommunication or future conflict by cutting the sh*t and being real about what you’re looking for, and what you can offer in return. 

There is a great deal of romantic value and associated maturity to be found in someone’s ability to be transparent and true to their self and intentions. Also, this is a huge time saver and guess what? Time is valuable.

8. Manners Matter

It may seem like a small, unimportant detail, but always be mindful of your manners on a first date — not just to your actual date, but to everyone else, too.

We live in a busy society and unfortunately, the chaos of day-to-day demands often translates into a neglect of simple manners. So, to set yourself apart with natural kindness and an inherently friendly nature, can make more of a difference than you might expect.

9. Don’t Pull a Taylor Swift

I’ve worked as a writer for years, especially on the topic of dating/love, so being overtly open about my personal life and experiences comes with the territory. As such, I’ve always been the type of person to openly discuss almost any topic, especially as it relates to my opinions on relationships etc., while getting to know someone.

However, there is a (very critical) fine line between being open, and tossing a heavy load of ex-related baggage onto the table between you and your companion during your first date. 

Try not to pull a Taylor Swift here and unload any and all grievances or residual emotional trauma associated with your last relationship. Be open, and speak to your experiences when the topic is naturally there, but try to keep it about you and your mindset/what you learned from that experience, instead of unleashing too many (heated) specifics relating your ex.

Otherwise, you risk giving off the impression that you are definitely not over what happened, or could be the type of person to trash a relationship once it stops progressing the way you had hoped.

10. Set Up the Second Date

If during the date you both seem mutually interested in one another, don’t be afraid to broach the topic (or at least make mention of) a second date. 

By being assertive and open about your interest in seeing each other again, you are eliminating any post-date stress or insecurity as you wonder, “Well, were they interested in me? Will I see them again? Should I text first?”

After all, in the world of online dating, it’s easy to second-guess almost every interaction you have (nothing is sacred after all), so this move can actually really set you apart.