When I was single, I remember spending hours mentally preparing myself for first dates. I'd run through conversation topics to bring up if we reached an awkward silence. I'd memorize online dating profiles. But this didn't safeguard me against first date mistakes. Apparently, some of the most common dating conventions end up setting us back.
The best way to avoid shooting yourself in the foot on a first date is to chill out beforehand, says psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD. I know: It's easier said than done. Thomas recommends taking deep breaths and reminding yourself that nothing has to come out of this. You may not meet The One or even your next significant other on your next date (though you might), so just focus on having a fun night or pleasant afternoon.
Thomas also suggests assessing yourself before you go on a date to figure out if you're truly ready. Are you over all your exes? Are you able to go in with an open heart and mind? Do you even want a relationship?
And, of course, awareness of potential pitfalls is helpful. Here are some of the biggest mistakes people tend to make on first dates.
Checking Your Phone
I'm surprised I have to say this, but given that one in five people check their phones during sex, it seems we have a smartphone addiction problem. "There is nothing more rude than implying that whatever is happening in your phone interests you more than the person you are sitting with," says Salkin. "Turn off the volume and put it in your pocket. Do not keep it on the table even if you turn it upside down. That just sends the signal that at any moment, you're going to look at your phone."
While there's a time to talk about aspects of yourself or your past that you're not proud of or things in your life that bother you, a first date is not it.
"Put yourself in the other person's shoes," says Salkin. "Would you want to go out with someone overly sarcastic, needy, or negative again?" Probably not.
Talking About Yourself More Than The Other Person
Don't just answer the questions your date asks. Ask your own in turn, says Thomas. Otherwise, the conversation becomes uneven, your date feels neglected, and you come off self-centered.
"When people go on and on about themselves on the first date, they may be nervously rambling, wishing to impress their date, or are simply unaware," says couples' therapist Melody Li, LMFT. "While that may stem from their desire to be known, they’re actually neglecting the fact that their date is seeking the same thing."
Asking Generic Questions
The socially acceptable thing to do when you first meet someone may be to make small talk, but that's unlikely to forge a strong connection.
"Instead of what they do, how about asking what their life passions are?" suggests Li. If you're not sure where to start, Li recommends these 36 Questions. You can also check out this list of questions to ask a first date.
This one also seems like it should go without saying, but whether to show off or just break the ice, people do all sorts of dumb things on first dates. One of Salkin's clients wasted $700 at an arcade. Driving carelessly is also an especially bad idea on a first date, says Salkin, since it doesn't exactly make your date feel safe with you. Excessive drinking is another bad idea, says relationship expert April Masini. "Consciously limit your alcohol intake to two drinks," she advises. "It’s a great way to make sure you’re present and not loosening inhibitions beyond what is appropriate or useful."
Bringing A Friend
Group first dates rarely work, says Masini. Bringing along a third wheel keeps you from getting to know your date and sends the message that you're not focused on them. If safety is your concern, make sure to meet in a public place rather than enlisting a friend to eavesdrop.
Luckily, these mistakes are all things you can avoid. Sure, first dates can be nerve-wracking but they don't have to be. Like Salkin said, putting yourself in the other person's shoes isn't a bad idea.