You can plan all you want, dress fancy and go the whole nine yards. But if you don’t know how to behave on a first date, all your plans count for nothing.
First dates are akin to going on a roller coaster ride while drunk. There’s the initial hesitation, after which you decide to go for it, then comes the excitement, and finally the “oh-crap-I’m-seriously-regretting-this” moment a few seconds before the drop. In the same way, the first date drags you through the same emotions. And knowing how to behave on a first date is crucial to how it all ends.
How to behave on a first date
The first date determines how you fare with the person later. The outcome, which decides whether there is a second date or not, makes people neurotic. From where to what to wear, everyone wants their bases covered. However, all those areas only lend to about a 40% success rate.
The rest depends on your behavior during the date itself. So, understanding how to behave on a first date to make a good impression is the question we answer.
Three general rules to follow
#1 Be yourself. It may sound overly used and clichéd, but being yourself is probably the summary of all the tips to follow. As mentioned, the nerve-wracking preparation for a first date gives a tendency for people to overdo things in order to make a good impression.
#2 Calm down. You are not on trial, in an interview, nor asking her hand in marriage. Again, overthinking only leads you to screw up, so calm down and let things run their natural course. This way, you find your “groove” and focus on the actual moment, not on what the other person might think of every move you make. [Read: How to work through the 7 stages of first date panic]
#3 Leave ulterior motives at home. Even if you think you can bag it on the first date, it will be better for you to leave those thoughts for a later time. Use the first date to establish a good impression, and most of all, have a good time with them. After all, it is not wise to gamble all of your chips in the opening hand.
Additional rules to follow for first date success
Now that we have those out of the way, how else should one behave on a first date to ensure you make it to the second one?
#1 Be on time. Being late even with a valid excuse gives the impression that you don’t value the time the other person allotted for that date. Arrive on time, or better yet, a few minutes earlier.
#2 For Guys: Be a gentleman. Being a gentleman never gets old and the ladies appreciate the display of chivalry. You know how it works: opening the door for her, pulling out a chair, taking her coat, and getting her a cab if you can’t walk or drive her home. [Read: 15 courteous ways to be a gentleman and keep any girl happy]
#3 Be attentive to your date. This means being sensitive if they are comfortable with the location, the food, and the topics you converse about. You don’t need to ask your date if they’re okay every minute, but it’s about taking in non-verbal cues that suggest if she’s bored or uncomfortable. Being attentive also calls for you to not let yourself be distracted by other things in the environment which give the impression that you’re not interested in your date.
#4 Keep the touches friendly and casual. Though not forbidden to touch on the first date, it is advisable that these touches lean towards the friendly and harmless side. A friendly tap on the shoulder or a touch of the arm for reassurance but nothing more. Wait for your date to take the touching up to the next level before you respond in kind. [Read: How to flirt by touch without making it obvious at all]
#5 Use your sense of humor. The best way to make the date memorable and enjoyable is by filling it with laughter. If you consider yourself the comedian then use the moment to charm your date with your sense of humor. Girls in particular are endeared to a guy with a good sense of humor. Guys on the other hand, also think a funny lady is a sexy lady. One word of advice: keep the jokes smart and appropriate.
#6 Don’t hog the conversation. Don’t get overexcited and start machine-gunning your date with questions making the topic transition uncomfortably fast. Try to stick to one topic until you fully exhaust it before you shift to another and make sure you let your date finish speaking before you open your mouth. [Read: 40 perfect first date questions to warm your date up]
#7 Don’t drink too much. First dates more or less involve alcohol but that doesn’t mean that you should imbibe more than you can handle. Not only that being dead drunk makes you incapable of proper conversation, it also leads you to acts that may or may not land you into prison.
#8 Keep the conversation light-hearted. When it comes to knowing how to behave on a first date, you should remember that a first date is not really a moment to discuss seriously depressing things like death, poverty, war, and the like. Keep it light and casual. Work your way to securing the second or third dates before discussing your interest in the woes of the world.
#9 Do not bring up income in the conversation. Bragging on your own income and prying on your date’s income isn’t only inappropriate, it makes you look like a gold digger. Money talk is something reserved for people in a relationship, not for two people who just met each other. [Read: 20 ways to perfect your first date conversation]
#10 Do not talk about past relationships. Common sense tells us that this is one of the big conversation no-no’s on first dates. If you talk about a past relationship it gives your date the idea that you look for a rebound and leaves them not so keen for further dates.
#11 Don’t complain. Have you ever been with a person who complains too much? Remember how you wanted to be miles away from that person? Complaining too much is a big first date turn off. If you’re a guy who complains about the restaurant you selected in the first place, it’s a sign that you didn’t prepare. And if you’re the girl, he’s conveniently imagining how unpleasant married life with you will be.
#12 Do not psychoanalyze your date. Even if you’re a licensed psychologist, giving psychoanalytic interpretation to everything your date says is not only presumptuous, it may also come off as rude and condescending. Keep your business out of your date’s unconscious. Instead, pay attention to her dress or his hobbies instead of their daddy issues. [Read: Signs you’re ruining your first date unknowingly]
#13 Keep sex out of the conversation. Bringing up sex in a first date conversation is like plopping a dead pig’s head on the table in a family dinner. It only accomplishes giving you unfavorable attention and may cause your date to be wary of you. A little naughty joke would be fine but outright prying of your date’s sex life is a mortal sin.
First dates can be fun, exciting, but also nerve-wracking. All people want to make a good impression. Hence they try to overthink and over-prepare to make the first date memorable. While preparation is good, the best way to bag it is knowing how to behave on a first date.
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Paul Timothy or “Morty” (as he likes to call himself) is a writer-photographer based in Manila. After finishing a degree in Psychology he found himself swep...