How to Have a Great First Date

Is there a divorced person on planet Earth who actually enjoys first dates? Does anyone really look forward to meeting a complete stranger for coffee or drinks? Yes, there are some singles who are excited by the thought of a first date. These intrepid women and men are hopeful that the new person they are about to meet might turn out to be someone special. But if you were to poll all of your single friends, the majority would say they might choose a root canal procedure instead of enduring another bad first date.

Why are so many divorced women and men so down on first dates? Well, we’ve all experienced dates that were disappointing and maybe even agonizing. We’ve gotten all primped up to look our best, only to sit on the other side of a table from a complete slob. Single women, in particular, have had their hopes dashed by an eligible single man who looked great on but couldn’t carry on a decent conversation if his life depended on it.

So what’s the answer? I’ll tell you what NOT to do: don’t give up on dating altogether just because you’ve had your share of crummy first dates.

If you want to have better dates, start by doing a better job of screening your potential first dates. If a person’s online dating profile or early phone calls reveal any red flags (including no job, no sense of humor, heavy relationship baggage, etc.), maybe you should respectfully decline a first date with that person. If you’re already having doubts, maybe your intuition is trying to tell you something.

Once a potential new date has passed your initial screening process, there are ways to increase your odds of having a great first date. One of the easiest ways to start a great first date is this: be the first to arrive. If you’re the first one there, you give yourself a chance to get comfortable in the surroundings. Psychologically, you now “own” the space, and your date will be visiting you on your own turf. That means you will naturally be more comfortable and less anxious.

While you’re waiting for your date to arrive, check your phone for messages and see if anything interesting is happening on Facebook. Do some normal things so you’re not even thinking about the date. Then, when your date arrives, turn your phone off and put it away. During the date, your focus needs to be completely on this new person who might become your next lover. Give him (or her) a chance to impress you. Try to connect with them. It’s the least you can do.

Once you’ve greeted your date with a smile and perhaps a hug, take a deep breath and relax. More first dates are ruined by nerves than anything else. If you’re not enjoying yourself, neither is he. And if he isn’t having a good time, you will never hear from him again.

Now it’s time for you to be charming. Back when I was single and looking for a relationship, I discovered what I call The Talk Show Principle. I realized that if I pretended I was on a talk show, my first and second dates went way better than if I was in my normal, “hanging out” mode. If you watch Jimmy Fallon or Steven Colbert, you’ll notice that the guests tell stories. “Here’s what happened to me the other day at the bagel shop” or “You won’t believe what my coworker did in a meeting yesterday.” A lighthearted story brings out the humanness in us all, and it’s something everyone can relate to.

Remember to cut your date a little slack. Some people (maybe even you) aren’t instantly comfortable and charming when meeting someone new. If there’s any kind of spark at all, give it a chance to grow brighter. Also remember that most people don’t fall in love on a first date. Magic happens, but sometimes you’ve got to give it a chance to work its, well …, magic.

The most important thing of all during a first date is this: have fun. Dating is supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right. And seriously, if dating isn’t fun for you, it’s probably time to take a little break from it. Hang out with your friends. Go see a few movies. Come back to dating after you believe that every first date could be your last first date.

Chad Stone is the author of The Love Magnet Rules: 101 Tips for Meeting, Dating and Keeping a New Love. He blogs at

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