A reader sent me an email the other day asking me, “What are some first-date tips that you would recommend I follow?” I thought this was a great question. First dates are always challenging!
The first key is to understand whether you’re a man or woman on the date (yes, I understand you may both be men or women—and you can still take these tips with you). Depending on who you are and what the two of you expect on the first date, will dictate which tips you should try to follow.
A study performed by Mary Claire Morr and Paul A. Mongeau titled First-Date Expectations looks into the many factors that dictate what happens on a first date. They defined three key factors as having an impact: gender, consumption of substances, and relationship type. In short, it comes down to the communication of potential partners and their intimacy expectations. And the importance of these factors when it comes to the relationship potential.
My experience with first dates… And how I came up with the best first date tips…
There’s no worse first date than when two people don’t seem to “align.” Whether it’s discussing politics, music, sports, movies, TV shows, or other topics that could be of interest. What I’ve learned through many failed first-date attempts is that you are never going to find that “perfect person.”
The two of you may have different views on the world. Different interests. And those things are okay. You’ll be wanting to look for alignment on a few key “important areas.” For example, your values. Are you both family oriented? Do you value the relationship you have with your family? Do the both of you have a strong and good relationship with your mother and father? These are all great questions to try and get an answer to on your first date.
Don’t attempt to make the first date the “answer to it all.” Meaning setting your own expectations for what success looks like on the first date. And set realistic goals for it.
Try to look for some of the following:
- Do the two of you have real chemistry together?
- Is there good and mature communication that takes place between the two of you?
- When you ask her/him questions, do they reciprocate?
- Are they showing a healthy amount of interest in you as a person?
- Could there be a chance that the two of you could share similar values and interests in the future or right now?
First date tips for women
—First date tips for women
Women get nervous on first dates, too; it’s not just men! I’ve spoken to many women who say that first dates can be extremely stressful. And the amount of “bad first dates” that they’ve had often leads them to want to avoid the first date in the first place. This isn’t good! Men need to show women that there are “good guys” out there. For the women who are still putting themselves out there, these tips can be extremely helpful in finding the “perfect guy” for you.
Plan out your conversation with him—first date tips to set boundaries
Some women struggle with opening up. And rightfully so. They may have felt that prior relationships make them uncomfortable with being vulnerable early on. If this is the case and sounds like yourself—it could be worthwhile to spend some time reflecting on what you want to be vulnerable about on the first date.
Just take time to reflect and be willing to share certain details. Although, come to terms with the topics that you want to avoid discussing. In this way, you’re setting healthy boundaries.
Know what you want out of a relationship—a first-date tip all women should follow!
A key part of a successful relationship is knowing what you’re looking for. Susan Piver in the book “The Hard Questions” discusses the questions that all couples should ask themselves and each other before they say “I do.”
While this is certainly a book related to the art of setting your marriage up for a successful future, there is much to glean for those who are just starting out in a new relationship. Instead of thinking about the questions you want to ask—think about the things you know you want.
For example, have a good understanding of the following questions:
- What values do you want out of a relationship?
- The way the relationship could look when you’re in a committed relationship.
- How the two of you would define a successful relationship?
Ask questions and interview them—an odd but effective first date tip!
As mentioned above, the best tip is to come prepared with a few questions that you want to know from the other person. Remember, a first date is a great opportunity to learn whether or not you’re going to move forward with them.
In a way, this is a lot like a job interview. And it’s okay to treat it as that. Especially if you’re more serious about finding a long-term and committed relationship. If the other person is turned off by that idea, it could be a strong red flag.
Related: Relationship red flags
Don’t try out a new look—one of the BEST first date tips for women!
While there are many forms of body language communication. Like the art of mirroring, fronting, and leaning—there is one key body language sign that the other person is going to be looking for. And that’s your level of comfort.
If you feel comfortable, you look confident. It’s best to pick an outfit that you know you feel comfortable with. Don’t try out a new look and risk not feeling comfortable. Go with an outfit that you’ve worn in the past and know you “look good in.”
First date tips for men
—First date tips for men
It’s most common for men to be looking for first-date tips. Since they often “take the lead” when it comes to the first date conversation and general engagement, it’s best to consider some of the following points before you decide to go on your first date.
Extra tip: If you met her online, these first-date tips are going to be even more important than you might think.
Decide what you want to know about her—preparation for the first date is the best first-date tip!
Just like for women, men should know what they want out of a relationship. In fact, going into a first date without a keen idea of what you want is like going to the gym with no workout plan. You’ll go, and sure, you’ll get something done. But in reality—you won’t be making progress.
It’s important to ask yourself a few questions before you go:
- What do I want my spouse to value out of life?
- Do they have a healthy relationship with their family?
- What do their prior relationships look like?
- Are they conscious of what they want out of a relationship?
- Is our idea of what a successful relationship looks like, somewhat similar?
Modulate how much you talk and listen—the “hard to practice” first date tip!
A research paper published by Ngyuen Trang looks at the differences between men and women when it comes to listening. And shockingly, it shows that men listen better than women. Ngyuen calls these men “metacognitive learners,” showing that many young boys and men end up being more metacognitively aware of their experiences at a young age.
Practice these skills when you’re on a first date. A woman will notice how much you listen to her. When she speaks, don’t just listen, but respond in a way that shows you comprehend what she’s talking about. For example, if she mentions her parents’ names. Be sure to refer to her parents by name if you’re continuing the discussion about them. This “echoing” of the conversation shows that you’re interested in what she has to say.
Ask questions and engage her in the conversation—BEST first date tip to follow
Coming prepared with first date questions is a great way to set your first date up for success. The most valuable tool that these questions provide is your ability to feel comfortable. The “dead silence” issue can be very real on the first date. Silence is acceptable when the two of you are more comfortable with each other (assume after the third or fourth date). Although, on the first date, it could send the wrong message to her.
Have a few questions memorized and prepared. And then allow the conversation to unfold and evolve naturally. You don’t want to seem like you’re reading questions from a prompter. Instead, use the questions as a way to “gap-fill” the conversation.
Related: Funny first date questions
Dress comfortably, don’t try out a new look
Similar to the best tips for women, it’s important to show a large amount of self-confidence. Your body language (much like mirroring and leaning) shows your general interest in the conversation and the other person. The best body language to display is one of comfort. For example, don’t cross your arms. Instead, cross your legs, lean back, and listen. Make direct eye-contact with her and listen.
Although, all of this is very hard to do when you don’t feel comfortable. This is why dressing in a way that you know already feels comfortable to you is very important. A new look could make you feel like you need to “fidget” in your seat.
Text her directions to where you’re going—a simple first-date tip that will take only a few seconds to do!
A small but great act is to help her feel comfortable with the upcoming date. A great way to do this is to text her frequently before the first date. For example, make sure that you text her the day before, asking, “Are we still on for tomorrow? Looking forward to seeing you!”
In addition, make sure that you send her the location of where you’re going and any tips that might be helpful for finding parking. It’s going to be a bad thing when she shows up feeling flustered from not knowing where to go.
Lastly, this small act really shows your empathy toward her and your ability to display a general desire to protect her well-being. These are great qualities that women look for in a man.
Be considerate and polite—an obvious first date tip!
It goes without saying that being polite on the first date is something that you should strive for. But I’ve heard horror stories about first dates from women. In particular, a hinge date decided that toward the end of the date, they wanted to see if she wanted to go home.
This is not a great idea. And shows that you’re not interested in a serious and committed relationship. Even if she prompts you—it’s best to avoid any type of initial intimacy on the first date. For example, avoid having a first-date kiss.
Related: First date conversation starters
End the date with a way of moving forward—a first-date tip that works well!
A great tip for men is to make sure that you end the date with something about the next steps. For example, all you have to say is something like this, “I really enjoyed spending time with you today. Would you be willing to go on another date with me?” By having this immediate prompt, it shows her that you’re very interested in moving forward with her.
Of course, if you didn’t feel like the date went well, you can say something like the following, “It was a really nice time this evening. It was great to meet you.” While this might seem somewhat harsh, it’s the best way to politely let someone down.
Common questions around first date tips
—First-date questions and answers
Should you kiss on the first date?
The answer is probably not. This would most likely send a signal to the other person that you’re only interested in one thing. And that thing is not a committed and serious relationship. Instead, opt for a really nice and romantic hug if you can.
What should you NOT do on the first date?
Some key things to avoid doing on the first date is: talking about yourself too much, not listening to the other person, having too much to drink, being impolite, and trying to make the first move on the first date too soon.
These are all things that should be seriously avoided if you’re trying to get into a real relationship that could lead to a healthy marriage.
What are “red flags” on the first date?
Red flags include: the person being too focused on themselves, not asking about you, not having a healthy relationship with their parents, struggling with finding or keeping steady work, not having a strong relationship with their friends, and having a physical display of unhealthy habits (think hygiene or otherwise).
For more relationship red flags, read our complete guide.
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.