How to Salvage a Bad Date

couple, bad date
Can this couple save their boring date? Maybe if they inject some humor into the situation.

Let's face it: Whether it was during high school, college, adulthood or all of the above, we've all been there when it comes to finding ourselves in the midst of a bad date. In fact, it's become so common, the Washington Post reports there are now online communities dedicated to swapping horror stories, such as and

Any number of factors can make a date go south. Some are beyond anyone's control: car trouble, last-minute work obligations, bad weather or even the sudden closure of the restaurant where you both were meeting. But then there are those internal forces: no physical "spark," boring or awkward conversations, rude or obnoxious behavior, mean comments and more.


As professional matchmaker and Huffington Post columnist Samantha Daniels notes, "It's easy to excuse a lot of bad behavior if you really like someone; however, you always need to remember to like yourself better than you like [your date]." Keeping this advice in mind during the courtship process can be a challenge, especially as that first meeting often feels like a social job interview.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the typical dating scenarios that can make things take a turn for the worse. We'll also outline some tips for getting the evening back on track, from using humor to save the day to simply knowing when to say when.



Using Humor to Salvage a Bad Date

couple, bad date, cell phone
Think she'll still be there when he's finally finished?

Can the gift of laughter help alleviate a bad date? Here are a few situations where humor might be the best medicine.

Scenario No.1: Cell Hell

Cell phones, PDAs and smart phones have become everyone's BFFs, so you might find yourself on a date where you're the third wheel to technology. Is the preoccupation legitimate, such as a work obligation, or just merely a bad habit? Either way, a humor fix could be appropriate. Try a lighthearted joke or comment, about how "in demand" your date is, which will hopefully make him or her give the phone a rest for the remainder of your time together. If that doesn't work, ramp up the humor and ask if your date and his cell would like to get a room.


Scenario No. 2: Silence is Not So Golden

Pausing for effect is one thing; long, "I have no idea what to say next" pauses can be awkward to say the very least. If you find yourself in such a situation, try throwing a life vest into the conversation pool via a funny comment. Have some prepared ahead of time: It's what the experts like stand-up comedian Tracie Jayne would do. She always has stock one-liners "locked and loaded" to help her recover when jokes fall flat. Apply the same tactics:

  • "Is this thing on?"
  • "Am I coming in clear?"
  • "We need a crash cart … stat."

If that doesn't work, try posing a question to your date to reengage the conversation, such as:

"What's the last book you read?" or "If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?" or "What was your first/best/favorite concert?"

Another idea would be to suggest switching locations to a place where there's an activity involved, such as bowling or miniature golf, to lessen the need for talk.

Scenario No. 3: Too Much, Too Soon

Whether it's you or your date airing your dirty laundry, there are certain topics that can take anyone aback, especially during the initial courtship. Subjects like nasty diseases, tales of the no-good ex, how much or how little money is earned. If any of these scenarios come into play, try to redirect to more lighthearted topics such as those listed above. Or ask your date about some of the positive things going on her life.


Other Tips for Salvaging a Bad Date

Sometimes humor isn't what the bad date doctor ordered. Let's take a look at some situations where a different approach is called for, along with the best plan of attack for each.

Scenario No. 1: Defensive Tackle


Certain hot topics can catapult even the coolest cucumber into a pickle. We're talking issues such as politics, religion, or an über-sports team allegiance. If your conversation has detoured into this type of territory, and you've offended your date, consider this advice from the author of "How to Fix (Just About) Everything," Bill Marken: "If you inadvertently insult your date, apologize and drop the subject. Depending on the severity of your insult, your date might forgive and forget." Try shifting the topic into something more neutral, such as pets, pop culture, or travel.

Scenario No. 2: Mind Your Manners

If it's a case of bad table etiquette, loud behavior or a clearly unprovoked sign of disrespect to those around you (wait staff, other diners), try to lead by example. If that doesn't work, politely suggest your date dial it down a bit by showing her you get more bees with honey. Be discreet to avoid embarrassing her and adding fuel to the fire.

Scenario No. 3: Happy Hour Becomes Unhappy Hour

Did someone signal for (yet) another round? If it's your date that's had one too many, discreetly switch to water or something else that's non-alcoholic. If your date is resistant, pull the waiter aside and let him make the suggestion. Do not get behind the wheel with your date under any circumstances.

If you're the one feeling like you're too many sheets to the wind, don't try to hide it, as it's probably just as obvious to your date. Offer a quick apology and stop drinking immediately. If you drove, leave your car behind and call a friend for a ride or a cab.


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More Great Links


  • Daniels, Samantha. "Here's what I know... Men again.... bad topics for a date." (Sept. 16, 2010).
  • Daniels, Samantha. "Matchmaker in the Know: Bad Dating Behavior That You Should Not Tolerate." The Huffington Post. April 5, 2010. (Sept. 16, 2010).
  • Frank, Mary Kate. "Bad Date? How to Salvage It." (Sept. 16, 2010)
  • Horn, Kathleen. "Online sites allow lovelorn to commiserate over bad dates, get dating advice." The Washington Post. March 14, 2010. (Sept. 16, 2010).
  • Marken, Bill. "How to Fix (Just About) Everything". Simon & Schuster, 2002. (Sept. 16, 2010).