photo by youngjun coo for

photo by youngjun coo for

I know that dating may seem to be passé, but whether you call it hanging out, “Netflix and chilling” or dating, it’s pretty much the same thing.

I hear over-and-over from my single clients: “How do I get to know a potential partner?” One client put it more succinctly: “Once I meet someone I like, how do I get to have a second date?”

In other words: how can I help our first date go so well that both of us want to see each other again?

Here are a few ideas:

Be willing to listen. Some of us get so nervous that we blab on-and-on. Be aware of how much you’re talking. Remind yourself to listen.

Notice your insecurities, but don’t fight them too much. If you’re shy, don’t go to the opposite extreme: just be your shy self, only a little more forthcoming than usual.

Overconfidence is usually a cover-up for feeling not good enough. Be brave and let yourself be real. Remind yourself, “I am good enough just as I am.” You don’t need to be 10 pounds thinner or 3 inches taller. You’re just fine as you are.

Be interested in your date: ask them questions. Most of us like to be asked about ourselves. Plus, don’t you want to learn who this person is?

Be clear about lust and love: you may lust after their body, which is fine, but don’t confuse it with love. If you want to have sex on the first date, know that this is about your bodies, not your emotions (heart) or thoughts (brain).

Now, let’s break down your date into 3 parts, look at the challenges each holds and see how you can give them your best shot:

The initial meeting

This is often the most difficult part of a date: you don’t really know them and vice-versa. You’ve seen their on-line photos, but the real person may look different…sometimes, VERY different. If this person has knowingly deceived you, you have a right to be unhappy, e.g., if this woman had an amazing body on OKCupid but is almost unrecognizable in person, that’s deception.

If you’ve been deceived, decide before you sit down to coffee or food if you want to hang in and see what happens or if you prefer to call it off before the date gets going. It’s your call.

If they look like their photos and the conversation is flowing well, enjoy it. If talking is awkward, try changing the subject to something easier and see if things improve. It takes a while for most of us to find a “rhythm” with someone new. Give them (and yourself) a chance to connect. Try to keep your judgmental mind as muted as possible.

The middle of the date:

This is a time to check in with yourself: how are you feeling about this person? Is it relaxing and easy to be with them, or tense and difficult?

If things are a bit rocky, monitor your anxiety: if you like him/her but are afraid they’re not into you, don’t jump to conclusions. Most of us are not very good at mind-reading and shy people are often misjudged as aloof or bored.

If you don’t care for this person at all – and that is crystal clear to you – this is when you might cut it short. If you’re meeting for coffee or a drink, you can finish your drink and say: “I don’t think it’s a good match, but thank you for meeting me.” If you’re having a meal and are “stuck”, you need to wait it out (as graciously as possible).

The ending:

For some people, this means hooking up. For others, it means a handshake, hug or kiss. Your gestures could say, “I like you a lot” or “Goodbye forever.”

Avoid extremes: don’t be overly complimentary or distant. Be friendly and kind, whether you like them or not. Eventually, we’re all the rejected and the rejectors, so be classy about it.

Regardless of the outcome, you gave it your best shot and you can feel good about how you handled it. You were brave, took a chance, and put yourself out there, honestly and respectfully. That’s what matters most.

Now, about that second date…