The Pre-Date Method

Is it love? Try a low-risk coffee first, if you’re not sure.

Erika‘s off this week but worry not. Plenty people want to weigh in on dating for GTJ, including Mr. Sharon, the author of this post.

How many awful first dates have you been on?  Lots?  Have you been on one where your date is more concerned with her smartphone than your company?  How many minutes did you spend in awkward silence on your most recent first date?  Or worse, how much tedious small talk did you have to put up with?  Do you really care to learn the names of all of her cousins followed by the names of all of her dogs?

Whatever the problem may be, I have a simple solution:  Don’t go on first dates.

Rather, don’t go on one immediately. Go on a pre-date first. A pre-date is an informal affair that loosely alleges a purpose for the meeting other than the formal date.

Some of the best pre-dates are those across industry and interests: “You work in consulting?  So do I!  Would you want to grab lunch some time to talk about the field’s best practices?”  But it doesn’t have to be so concrete.  I’ve heard of people who have blurred the date line through incredibly simple means: “You work in Georgetown? I work in Georgetown. Let’s have coffee next week.”

Pick some innocuous time and activity, sit down with your interest, and take a test drive.  Don’t go right into date mode – remember, you’re there for an alleged other purpose! – but have casual talk without all the pressure of a date.  Then, see if you’re interested, and, at the end, start testing the date waters.    The connection should be an informal affair that straddles the line between friendly and flirtatious.

If your pre-date goes well, ask your interest out on a proper first date just before you part. This method has the following advantages:

  • The pressure is off! Your pre-date conversations form the basis of your first “real date” conversations.  By having the pre-date under your belt, you can better plan and prepare for the real thing.
  • By asking her out after the pre-date, it shows that you’re not just interested in your date’s appearance or a free meal – you’re interested in her personality.
  • If you and your pre-date don’t hit it off, then cut loose!  This way, you didn’t have to spend a tedious evening trying to force chemistry; you didn’t have to pay for two; and you don’t have an awkward “I think we’re better suited as friends” conversation.  Get on with your (pre-)dating life.

The pre-date is the best way around that awkward first date.  So get out there, and start looking for those connections that can lead to a nice pre-date lunch.