If you’re an introvert, going on a first date can be a special brand of nerve-racking. To be fair, most people, even the most extro of extroverts, experience some butterflies or insecurity before a first date, because getting to know someone for the first time — especially in the context of potentially becoming romantic partners — is awkward and tricky, even when it is also wonderful. For introverts, it can be difficult to juggle the desire to meet new people and date with the deep-seated need for time alone, which is why introverts should take some simple steps to ensure that their first dates are as comfortable and easy as they can be.
To be clear, being an introvert isn’t about being shy. Despite stereotypes that say otherwise, introverts don’t hate people, nor do they all suffer from crippling social anxiety. The intro/extra personality divide has to do with how people gain and expend energy. Extroverts tend to gain energy from interacting with people, and from being in stimulating environments. Introverts, in contrast, find that socializing and being in hectic environments drain their energy. That doesn’t mean that they don’t like to socialize, but it does mean that they need to counter that energy loss with restorative time on their own, in settings in which they feel comfortable.
So, if you’re an introvert going on a first date, keep your introversion in mind as you decide what you and your date are going to do together, and plan a date that will work with your introverted tendencies, rather than against them. Read on for nine things you can do to make your first date easier for your introverted self:
1. Keep it small.
As an introvert, you’re someone who finds parties and other crowded events draining. Feeling over-stimulated and exhausted is not the way to get to know someone or to make a good impression, so plan to keep your first date small — between just the two of you, in fact. Go somewhere where you can get some quiet one-on-one time with your date. If things go well, there will be plenty of time to party it up together in the future.
2. Keep it short.
Introverts find that getting to know someone expends a lot of energy, even when they really like the person they’re talking to. So instead of planning an exhausting all-day excursion for your first date, do something with a limited time frame, instead — like coffee in the afternoon or an after-dinner drink. By keeping your rendezvous down to an hour or two, you’ll feel more prepared to really make an effort to get to know your date — because you know you don’t have to keep it up for the whole night. And if the date goes really well, and you find yourself more energized by the encounter then you though you’d be, you can make plans to meet up again, or even extend the date you’re on. (Also, if you’re an introvert, and you find yourself wishing that a first date were longer, take that as a very good sign and ask that person out again ASAP.)
3. Don’t have your date in an over-stimulating environment.
Introverts often feel over-stimulated by things outside of them, from other people, to loud music, to flashing lights. So don’t plan a first date in a crowded, noisy bar, no matter how trendy it is. You want to be able to focus your energy on the person across the table from you, not struggling to make yourself heard over the music.
4. Do find a quiet and cozy place to sit and talk.
Aim to have your date in a place where you can find a secluded corner and where you don’t have to raise your voice to be heard. That might mean you and your date meet up at a low- key pub, have breakfast at your favorite bakery, or go for a walk though the park.
5. In fact, think about going to a place where you already feel comfortable.
It’s anxiety-inducing enough to be on a date with someone for the first time, so why add to the stress by putting yourself in a new environment? Have your date meet you somewhere that you feel comfortable and happy, whether that’s your favorite coffee shop, the park you walk in every day, or your most beloved bookstore.
6. Try not to overthink it.
Introverts tend to be thoughtful, self-reflexive people — which can be some of their best qualities — but that can also mean that they overthink things to death. As you’re planning your date or preparing to go on one that someone else has organized, try not to get too mired in speculation and worst-case scenarios — What if my date hates the restaurant? What if I hate the restaurant? What if I ask them to get coffee and they’re anti-caffeine? Can I date someone who’s anti-caffeine? What if that’s a deal breaker? What if it’s awkward??? — just take a deep breath and trust your gut. If a certain activity sounds fun, go for it. If you get a bad feeling about the person part way through the date, trust that. If you find yourself really liking your date, enjoy that feeling and go with it.
7. Plan to give yourself time to recharge afterwards.
Even if your date goes perfectly, chances are that you’ll feel a bit drained by the end of it. So plan your date with the idea that you’ll need some time to yourself after — that might mean you curl up with a book an hour before bed, or you have your date on a Friday, so that you have the weekend to hibernate before hitting work on Monday.
8. Be honest about who you are.
You’re an introvert — own it! You may feel pressured on a first date to be more extroverted, to seem more into parties and crowds than you are in reality. But when you do that, you’re doing yourself and your date a disservice, because you’re not giving your date the opportunity to like you for who you really are. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to push yourself beyond your comfort zone (and I would argue that first dates aren’t in most people’s comfort zones, regardless of their personality types); by all means, try to resist your instinct to curl up in your apartment, and get to know a new person instead! But don’t pretend to be someone you’re not — after all, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert.
9. Think of your introversion as an asset — because it is.
In an interview with Scientific American, author Susan Cain explained that America has an “extroversion bias”: “In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight. … Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts.” Because of this cultural preference for extroversion, many introverts can feel as if there is something wrong with them, and as if their enjoyment of alone-time and quiet activities is somehow a problem. But they’re not!
Introverts have many qualities that make them excellent leaders, workers, and, yes, romantic partners. So remind yourself of the ways that introversion makes you a great catch: Introverts tend to be good listeners; they tend to be thoughtful and creative; and they’re able to focus and “go deep” into topics that interest them. Instead of trying to fight your nature or present yourself as more extroverted than you are, emphasize the ways that introversion makes you awesome.