Helpful Tips for a Great First Date – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 52)

There are some surefire ways to turn off a first date – having your cell phone out on the table, drinking excessively, or being rude to the wait staff – to name a few.  But just as important as knowing what not to do is knowing what to do on a first date to increase your chances of making it to the all-important second date.

1. Ask questions

Before I met Jeremy, I went on so many dates where the guy talked the entire time.  Even if I tried to get a word in edgewise, the conversation somehow had its own way of settling on him again.  I know the art of asking questions, but sadly, some people don’t.  I remember one date in particular with a guy we’ll call Paul.  It wasn’t until the check came for our drinks that he said, “Oh, so tell me about you.”  At that point, I was already turned off.  Conversations are a give and take, especially on a first date, so remember to ask some thoughtful questions.

2. Be optimistic and happy

It’s important to have a good attitude on a date, even if your happy face is only covering up the fact that this is your third date this week, and the rest have been, well, sub-par.  People smell negativity, and it creates an unpleasant aura on a date.  In other words, try not to be “J-Jaded,” and if you are, fake it ‘til you make it.  (Or, take a Guyatus, or Girlatus, from dating until you’re really ready to get back out there.)  A simple smile goes a long way.

3. Discuss issues that are important to you

I’m not talking about politics or anything, but if there’s something that you’re passionate about, it’s going to come out sooner rather than later, so it might as well be sooner.  A lot of my female clients worry that a guy will judge her for her interests.  One in particular takes a pottery-making class.  She was concerned that a guy might find that lame and grandma-like.  My response: Who cares?  It’s what you like to do, so own it.  If a guy couldn’t handle that I like doing my daily crossword puzzle, religiously watching Glee, and reading the occasional US Weekly (ok, ok – I read it every week), then he wouldn’t be getting the whole package.  (Lucky for me, Jeremy doesn’t mind… and he even helps me with the last few clues of the puzzle when I can’t get them.  As for Glee, I’m on my own with that one.)

4. Walk her where she’s going

Generally, it’ll be dark out by the time you end your date, especially as we enter fall and winter.  Men, it’s important to walk your date to where she’s going – her car, the entrance to the train station, or home.  Even if it’s not a love connection, let chivalry be alive and well.

Much of a first date is less about the actual words you say and more about your attitude.  Are you listening, being nice, and making the effort?  These things go a long way.  Even if you’re perfect for each other on paper, the attitude makes all the difference.

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  Check out her interview on NPR here. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for JDate.com.