Dating can be really stressful — and sometimes that anxiety can translate into not being the best or most likable version of ourselves at the very moment we most want to shine (AKA a first date). The good news is there are tangible ways to be more likable that we all can do — it's just about practicing some solid self-awareness.
As Travis Bradberry, behavioral expert and author of the book Emotional Intelligence, wrote in a piece for Forbes, "Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that being likable comes from natural, unteachable traits that belong only to a lucky few—the good looking, the fiercely social, and the incredibly talented. It’s easy to fall prey to this misconception. In reality, being likable is under your control."
Emotional Intelligence , $15, Amazon
I'll repeat it: Being likable is under your control. This means that even those of us who say we're shy or "just aren't good at dating scenarios" definitely have it in us to overcome our conceptions about ourselves and presenting the best self possible when meeting someone for the first time.
If you struggle with accessing the best you on dates, or are just worried that you're not putting your best foot forward without even realizing it, here are seven ways literally anyone can be more likable on a date.
1. Ask Questions
A profile in Forbes on Alan Garner's Conversationally Speaking: Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness, noted the immense important of asking questions when first meeting a new person. Garner also recommended always keeping your questions open-ended to help the flow of conversation. So instead of asking, "Where are you from," ask, "What's your home town like?"
Conversationally Speaking: Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness , $11, Amazon
I recently talked about this in a piece about tips for the best date ever. A ton of studies show that we respond well to people when they subtly mimic our movements and manner of speaking. Not only that, but subtle mimicry indicates attraction. So if you're digging the person you're on a date with and want to show it through body language, position yourself in a way that mirrors their own position (so if they're leaning forward on the table, lean forward too instead of leaning back).
3. Banish Your Phone
OK, while I've read this tip from actual experts, I actually don't think any of us need a trained professional to tell us that going on a date with someone who is constantly checking their phone is extremely off-putting and makes you feel like they're not really present in the moment. So make sure to keep your phone tucked away in your bag so you don't run the risk of doing this to someone else — and if you must check it, apologize beforehand.
4. Come Prepared
In a piece for Real Simple, Debra Fine author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, recommended thinking of specific things to talk about before going into any social situation. "As I drive to a party, I try to come up with two or three things to talk about in case the conversation runs dry. If I've met the host before, I try to remember things about her, like her passion for skiing or a charity we're both involved in.” Another tip is to think of a good movie or two you've seen recently, or even just an interesting program you happened to catch on TV the day before.
The Fine Art of Small Talk , $11, Amazon
5. Be Positive
In a piece for Match.com, relationship expert Steve Friedman noted the importance of keeping things positive on a first date. For example, if asked about your past relationships, don't spent the next fifteen minutes bashing your ex. Instead, frame it on the context of, "The breakup was rough, but I learned a lot about myself in the process." Or if asked about your job, try telling your date things you like about your office or the industry in general as opposed to getting into the nitty gritty of why you hate your boss.
Your mom told you to smile for a reason. According BodyLanguageSignals.com, it takes another person a mere 3-7 seconds to form an impression of you upon first meeting, and a smile is one of the absolute fastest ways to help make another person feel at ease. "Smiling indicates happiness and a friendly attitude [and it] indicates we want to communicate with someone. It shows interest," they write. So don't forget about this incredibly easy yet powerful social cue!
In a piece for Psychology Today on how to talk to anyone about anything, psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne stressed the importance of listening when you're having a conversation. "Too often when we're meeting someone new, we try to fill the dead moments with chatter about ourselves. Far better for you to listen first, talk second. Of course, someone has to start the conversation, but if you and your companion actually listen to each other and not worry about what to say next, things will flow more naturally," Krauss said.
Dating can be hard, but there are several super easy things you can keep in mind to maximize how well everything goes and to make sure you feel like you were your absolute best self. So go forward, and remember to enjoy yourself!
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