Why do first dates fail? It’s an interesting question because fail they do, and with alarming frequency. In my own 10-plus years of dating experience, as well as what I’ve learned through friends’ failures, I’ve seen first dates bomb for lack of “chemistry”, because the guy was more interested in getting laid than getting to know his date, or because the girl didn’t look like Jessica Alba. But of all first date disasters that I’ve been privy to, the single most common hitch was a failure to communicate.
It’s no secret that poor communication is often a key source of misunderstandings, jealousy, distance, and a host of other dysfunctional dating side-effects. But… let’s face it, when it comes to communication the rules of the road in dating etiquette are as a clear as mud. Fear not, with a few helpful hints to upgrade your messaging we’re confident your success sealing that second date will become the envy of your single friends.
Apply a filter
After a recent interview with Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker star Patti Stanger, Glamour magazine blogger, Erin Meanley, noted that “single women are so trusting that they tell too much information about themselves. They pump and dump — they baggage dump!” This is sage advice. Take Steve, a self-proclaimed South Loop foodie. Whenever the conversation turns to the subject of what to eat, he can’t control his urge to blurt out every fact and opinion he has on the hottest new dining scene, why free range chicken isn’t *really* free, and what to bring to a bengali wedding banquet. It’s not hard to see how the gift of gab can be something of a curse during a first date. Burdening your date with information overload will kill any chances you have of getting a second date.
It’s not an interrogation
Let’s be clear… most people don’t want to be put on the spot the first time you go out with them. If you hurl questions at your date like Katie Couric on steroids, you may find your date making a beeline for the bathroom. If your date keeps her answers brief, seems annoyed, or genuinely disinterested it means its time to cut short your line of questioning, Columbo.
Fungus is never an appropriate first date topic
Common wisdom dictates that first date conversation should never include topics like sexual prowess, ex’s, family medical history, finances, or the like. On a first date, it’s important to keep the conversation light, casual and fun. Steer clear of heavy, negative, or crass topics – it’s simply not romantic. Don’t recount every detail of your latest breakup, the best sex you’ve ever had, or your plan to get hitched before the New Year (unless you are trying to ditch your date, of course).
A good listener is a good talker with a sore throat
Let’s get right to the point… listening is a basic rule in any relationship, but on a first date it’s rule numero uno. If you don’t listen to what your date has to say, how will you know if you want a second date? (We’re giving you some credit here by assuming you care about more than what your date looks like.) Listening means really paying attention to what your date has to say, not just giving the appearance of listening all the while thinking about what color panties she’s wearing, whether his hair will recede by age 30, or what time you need to jet to hook up with your friends.
Watch your non-verbals
Your hair-twirling is revealing more than you think! Don’t believe me? Research has found that, when communicating, 55% of your message is transmitted as body language, 38% by the manner of speaking (such as pace, pitch and volume), and the remaining 7% through spoken words. What this means is that no matter what words you choose, ultimately it’s your body language that reveals your real feelings. To make sure your date knows you’re interested and engaged, lean forward (no slouching), maintain eye contact, and stop playing with your napkin/wine glass/cell phone, etc.
Lay off the sauce
Sure, you’re a little nervous and a drink or two will help chill you out a bit. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and start spilling your life story, deepest dreams, or theories on why your ex dumped you. No one wants to hear about your skeletons on the first date (and they definitely do not want puke in their car). Even if you pride yourself on staying mum when drinking rum, understand that throwing back a bevy of beverages is sending a message to your date – you care more about getting your drink on than getting to know the person your with.
Mind your P’s and Q’s
This should go without saying, but if you sometimes find yourself slacking in the “please” and “thank you” department, put in the extra effort to remember your common courtesies! Guys, go ahead and be a gentleman – arrive on time, hold doors for her, and walk her home at the end of the evening. And don’t forget, women ARE really watching how you treat the waitress to foretell how you’ll treat them in a long-term relationship. Ladies, show some appreciation for his efforts to plan a fun/romantic date (even if it’s neither). And having your friend call with an “emergency” is really quite rude – you can stick it out for one date!
OK, so it could have gone better. You didn’t find your soulmate – maybe he’s just not your type or maybe she has some major issues! Regardless, help your date out by DateRating him/her and requesting that he/she does the same for you. No attacks! Offer feedback and your insights on what your date needs to work on in order to grow, and ultimately, date better in the future! Tell the truth, but challenge yourself to recognize some of this person’s strengths in addition to their areas for improvement. Your “ex” will appreciate your guidance and their next date can take heed of your warnings!
Although first date jitters can challenge even the savviest of singles, with these tips in your arsenal you’ll be sure to keep things fun and light, while still getting to know your date. Now go forth and date!