If you're single and dating, you may be surprised to learn that the dating pool is actually quite deep, even if it doesn't always feel that way. There are more than 100 million unmarried American adults -- which is more than 45 percent of all adults in the U.S. -- but not all of them are unattached [source: U.S. Census Bureau]. Roughly 5 percent cohabitate with a partner, effectively kicking them out of the pool. But what we can take away from this is that there are many single Americans, and a good percentage of them are swimming around looking for a date.
While the dating scene may seem like a lot of work to one person, to another, it's a fun way to meet other people. But all things being equal, first dates can make most of us anxious. It's Just Lunch, a dating service for single professionals, surveyed single American adults and found that nearly 70 percent of men and about 50 percent of women won't bother with a second date if the chemistry isn't there. When there is chemistry, though, 97 percent of men will call to ask out their love interest again -- in 72 hours or less [source: Search Your Love].
Trying to ensure a second date? Or develop a long-term relationship? First, let's get you through the nerve-wracking first date. We've compiled 10 first date tips for both men and women, so let's get started with choosing a first date activity.
First Date Activities
While going to a concert or movie -- or even skydiving -- can be a lot of fun, these types of activities tend not to make the best first dates. Why? The first few times you hang out with someone, especially on your first date, should be about getting to know that new person. Planning a date around an activity that doesn't allow for conversation won't help you learn anything, except that your date likes butter on her popcorn or is really into the local music scene. Pair these types of activities with dinner or coffee after the show, though, and you have a good second date combination.
You asked her to dinner, she accepted and now you can relax, right? Not yet -- now the work begins. Dating takes preparation, so you'll need to consider the following before you even head out the door:
- Does she have dietary concerns or restrictions you should consider when choosing a restaurant?
- Are you meeting there, or picking her up?
- Do you have directions to the restaurant?
- Should you bring cash for parking?
Also, consider that you're new to her, so plan a first date that's intimate, but not too intimate -- a cozy corner table in a restaurant is a better choice than making dinner for her in your home. Save showing off your culinary skills for after the first date, when she knows you're safe and feels comfortable being alone with you.
Be Confident and Comfortably Dressed
Deciding what to wear on a first date can be almost as nerve-wracking as choosing what to talk about over dinner. You want to look good and smell nice, but what outfit fits the bill without being too sexy, too dressy or too casual?
The truth here, though, is that your confidence will take you further than the shoes you choose. But even if you're confident in your T-shirt and jeans, you shouldn't count on them to make a good first impression. Take a cue from where your date will be: Whether you're dining at an upscale restaurant or a corner cafe, you'll want to dress appropriately for the venue.
Put Away Your Phone
Checking your mobile phone during a date is one of the quickest ways to make someone feel uncomfortable. Whether you're taking a call or a text, using your phone sends the signal that you're not interested in your date. Even if you want to text your best friend about how great the date is, don't do it. Instead, concentrate on making your date feel special. Even if there are no sparks, be courteous, pay attention to the conversation and offer a goodnight handshake.
Have Some Conversation Starters
Are you terrified that you and your match will sit in awkward silence over appetizers? Keep up with current events and keep a few prepared questions in mind, ready to go if you find a lag in conversation. The thing about questions, though, is that some are better than others. While it's a decent, common icebreaker, "How are you?" isn't a very good way to get conversation rolling. Aim for open-ended questions, the type that requires more than a yes or no answer, and you'll find yourselves talking about everything from work to movies to wherever the conversational wind blows.
Remember: First dates are not the time to talk about exes. Politics and religion? Maybe, but don't take it too far.
Be a Good Listener
Just as important as asking great, open-ended questions is how you listen to your date when he or she is talking. Listening skills are more than just waiting for your turn to talk. Keep the conversational back-and-forth flowing by showing interest in your date's answers. Pay attention to what your date is saying, but also pay attention to your own body language. Good listeners have open posture as well as open ears -- lean in as your date is speaking, nod in understanding and try briefly paraphrasing your date's answer as encouragement to keep her or him talking.
There are nearly 13 million single-parent families in the U.S. -- that's about 10.4 million single moms and 2.5 million single dads [source: U.S. Census Bureau]. While a first date is often not the place to chat about your children, if you're a single parent in the dating scene, it's unfair to your date not to mention the kids early on. No one likes to learn that the person they thought they were getting to know and like is actually very different from the picture that's been painted.
Being honest is one of the most important things you can do to help a first date go well. Be honest about who you are, what you do, what you like, all of it. Turn your idiosyncrasies into something to highlight about yourself, rather than trying to be what you think your date will like. In the end, you want him or her to like who you really are, not who you pretend to be. And that includes everything from the type of music you like to whether or not you have kids.
Watch Your Body Language
Maybe you've perfected your witty banter, picked out a killer outfit and made reservations at the hot new place in town, but if you're not careful, your body language may give your date the wrong idea.
Be conscious of the signals you're giving off. The first time we meet another person, they judge us (and we, them) on appearance and body language most of all -- 55 percent -- followed by 38 percent on our style of speaking and 7 percent on what we actually say [source: Social Issues Research Centre].
When you greet your date, smile. Not only will it show the other person you're happy to see him or her (regardless of whether or not this is a blind date), it also shows open and friendly qualities -- perfect for a first date. Other things to watch out for: Uncross your arms (crossing them can make you seem uninterested and unapproachable) and don't forget to sit up straight.
Flirting with your date not only shows your playful side but also allows you to share details about yourself in a humorous yet intimate way. Making eye contact, smiling and lightly touching your date's arm are great nonverbal cues to show attraction. Also, when we're attracted to (or comfortable with) another person, we often unconsciously mirror the gestures and body language of that person. This matching is called mirror-image postural echoes, and when we mimic another person this way, we're signaling that we like that person. Intentionally mirroring your date's posture or synchronizing gestures can help break tension and make the other person feel more relaxed around you -- be sure to do this subtly, though, or risk having your flirty behavior seem downright awkward.
If you're nervous about making a good first impression and worried about whether the two of you will hit it off, then above all else, you need to relax. Remember, this is just one date, and it's just date one. Before going out, spend a few minutes (that's all it takes) breathing to help relieve any pre-date jitters. Breathe deeply and slowly, and concentrate only on your breath.
Your first few dates are all about getting to know another person. Sometimes there are sparks, sometimes there aren't, and often, you'll at least find yourself with a new friend from the experience. You can't force a long-term relationship -- it'll either happen or it won't -- so stay in the moment during your date, remember to breathe and have fun getting to know the other person.
HowStuffWorks looks a study which showed 'aspirational online dating' didn't pan out for most people.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Baker, Katie. "Seven New Rules for the First Date." Newsweek. Oct. 20, 2010. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/20/patti-stanger-7-new-rules-for-the-first-date.html
- Breslin, Susannah. "10 first date rules for guys." CNN. Feb. 23, 2010. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://articles.cnn.com/2010-02-23/living/tf.first.date.rules.guys_1_hands-first-dates-smile?_s=PM:LIVING
- eHarmony. "Master the Art of Conversation." (Nov. 14, 2010)http://advice.eharmony.com/article/master-the-art-of-conversation.html
- Fenamore, Laura. "Confidence, Casualness and Care: The Three C's For Date One." eHarmony. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://advice.eharmony.com/article/confidence-casualness-and-care-the-three-cs-for-date-one.html
- Freeman, Shanna. "How Flirting Works." HowStuffWorks. 2008. (Nov. 14, 2010)https://people.howstuffworks.com/flirting.htm
- Greenwald, Rachel. "Seal The Romance Deal And 'Have Him At Hello'." The Huffington Post. March 9, 2010. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-greenwald/have-him-at-hello-author_b_490702.html
- Irvine, Martha. "Note to cell phone junkies: Txting + date = :(" Msnbc.com. Feb. 12, 2009. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29164464/
- Kovacs, Jenny Stamos. "Blissing Out: 10 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress On-the-Spot." Feb. 23, 2010. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot
- Morgan, Nick. "The Truth Behind the Smile and Other Myths -- When Body Language Lies." Harvard Business School. Sept. 30, 2002. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/3123.html
- Search Your Love Online Dating Service. "Dating Statistics." Sept. 13, 2006. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.syl.com/singles/datingstatistics.html
- Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC). "SIRC Guide to Flirting." (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.sirc.org/publik/flirt.html
- U.S. Census Bureau. "American FactFinder, Subject tables, 2008." 2008. (Nov. 14, 2010)
- U.S. Census Bureau. "Families and Living Arrangements." 2010. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam.html