There you are, all dressed up and seated across from a cute stranger in a fancy restaurant. Situations like these always make you kinda nervous, so you made a mental note to avoid being awkward on the first date. But, try as you might, embarrassing stories are spilling out left and right, and you've already dropped food on your shirt. (Twice.)
While this isn't exactly how you saw the evening going down, it is the norm for a lot of people. "First dates can be a very awkward experience," relationship expert Mara Opperman says in an email to Bustle. "There are a lot of unknowns when going into a first date. You don’t know anything about each other and are trying to have conversations without the 'awkward silence.' You also want to have interesting conversations, but at the same time don’t want to let your guard down completely to someone you barely know."
It's definitely a lot to think about, which is why it can help to go into a first date armed with ways to keep your cool. Showing up with conversation ideas is a good place to start, as is lowering your expectations (in a good way), and wearing whatever the heck you want. These are all tricks that can take the pressure off the evening, while truly feeling like you can be yourself. Read on for more tips, so you can calmly navigate your next date — no awkwardness necessary.
1. Make Plans Ahead Of Time
Perhaps the worst thing you guys could do is meet up without a plan. It may seem like a fun idea (because hey, spontaneity). But it will most likely result in a long "No, you decide" type of conversation, according to Sex & Relationships Writer Scott Power on Women's Health. It's much better to choose a place beforehand and save yourselves the awkwardness.
2. Wear Something That Makes You Feel Comfy
A first date is a good excuse to really do it up in the fashion department. If that's your thing, then have at it. But if you're usually a sweatpants kind of gal, don't force yourself into a dress and stilettos. "Trying to pull off a new trend or wearing something you don’t feel confident in on a first date might make you feel more nervous," relationship expert Carli Alexa Blau wrote on TheFrisky.com. Since nerves can lead to awkwardness, you'll feel way better if you show up looking like yourself.
3. Have Realistic Expectations
Another surefire way to make yourself nervous? Going into a first date with a mile-long list of expectations. As you strive to live up to the idea of the "perfect" date, you might find yourself acting a fool. So try not to put too much pressure on yourself, Opperman tells me. "Just try to relax and enjoy yourself," she says.
4. Ask Questions To Keep The Convo Flowing
Ah yes, awkward silence. It's a moment we all dread, and yet it can be avoided if you ask the right questions. "Ask about their family, job, hobbies and interests, but make sure to not sound like you are interrogating the other person," Opperman says. "This will allow for ease of conversation." And a way better date.
5. Avoid Overly-Fancy Restaurants And Bars
In the same way you might want to avoid getting too dressed up, you might also want to avoid an overly-dressy restaurant. "Going to a fancy restaurant on a first date might make you feel like you have to be on your best behavior, making you tense up rather than just [being] yourself," said Blau. If you think wine glasses and candles will weird you out, then go somewhere with a more relaxed vibe.
6. Forget About Impressing Your Date
Of course you want your date to find you interesting, but it shouldn't be at the expense of a little humility. "If you’re both trying to impress one another, you may end up not really liking each other and could be missing out on something that is real and fun," Opperman says. So remember to act like your usual self, and leave those humblebrags at home.
7. Consider Passing On The Alcoholic Beverages
We all know that alcohol is a great social lubricant, so it may be tempting to smooth the evening over with a few whiskey sodas. While the decision to drink is totally up to you, getting drunk on a first date isn't always the best idea — especially since it can up that awkward factor. So if you think nerves will drive you to throw them back, then consider sticking to water.
8. Start The Date Out Casually
If you two haven't met before, then committing yourselves to a grand evening might be a mistake — and a recipe for awkwardness galore. That's why it's often better to start off small and build from there. As Blau said, "If you grab a drink and realize the chemistry is there, that can always lead to grabbing a bite to eat afterward." And so on and so forth.
9. Don't Panic If There Is Silence
Let's say your attempts at conversing have failed, and now the two of you are sipping water and punctuating the evening with coughs and glances around the room. This can be a panic-inducing moment, for sure. But try not to freak out. According to Power, if you give into this nervous moment, you're more likely to make things worse. Staying calm is the better choice, as it will help the convo resume naturally.
10. Resist The Urge To Be Negative
"Sometimes as a filler, people have a tendency to complain or talk about something they hate," said relationships writer Kate Ferguson on TheBolde.com. If this is your go-to convo trick, try chatting about things that interest you instead. It'll set a much better (read: positive) tone for the evening.
11. Own Your Awkwardness
OK, so you followed all of these tips and still managed to be awkward AF. If that's the case, your best bet is to own the awkwardness, according to Power. If you say something silly, laugh about it. If things go wrong, make a joke and apologize. Your date will appreciate the release of tension, as well as the fact that you're being genuine.
And isn't that the point of dates? Being your truest self (awkwardness and all) is the best way to find someone who really likes you for you. Keep this in mind on your next date, and you'll likely feel much more comfortable.
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