If you worry about impressing someone on a first date (particularly if you have a hunch that you and your date might really hit it off), you're definitely not alone. But it's important to remember that, at its core, a first date is really no big deal: it's merely an opportunity to have fun, meet someone new, and experience something together.
“First dates are the beginning of something, and like with first impressions, these first dates are the door that opens your relationship with this person,” April Masini, aka “Ask April,” New York–based relationship expert and author, tells Bustle. “The best first dates are those in which you not only do something together, you learn about yourselves and each other, and create this great experience together.”
Even though first dates have the potential to grow into something amazing one day, it's totally OK if they don't — and if you focus on the experience instead of on the hypothetical future, it's easier to relax, let loose, and really be yourself. If you're still nervous, though, here are the number one first date tips from nine different love experts that are sure to help you become a professional dater in no time.
1Psych Yourself Up In The Mirror Before The Date
It's normal to be nervous before a first date, but if you're too nervous, you might have a hard time letting loose and being yourself — which is why it's important to build up your confidence as a dater by doing things like psyching yourself up before a first date.
"Whether you are nervous and jittery, or are simply worn out from the dating grind, it is dead useful to build up confidence before a first date," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Zen teachings stress the importance of developing rituals, and this one can be performed before the date even begins, and smooth the transition into 'date mode.'"
2Be An Active Listener
If you tend to be a chatterbox when you're nervous (or in general), remember that first dates require you to actively listen, too. After all, the point of a first date is to get to know someone, which you can't do if you're only talking about yourself.
"Don’t try to impress your date with crazy stories and facts about yourself; this will almost always backfire," online dating consultant Stacy Karyn tells Bustle. "You should rather learn how to engage, listen, and genuinely respond to your date. This will make them feel valued and excited to see you again."
3Stay Present In The Moment
If you're genuinely trying to connect with someone on a first date, the number one rule is to stay attentive and present; try not to let yourself get distracted or "tune out."
"Keep your mind and attention focused on your date — pay attention to what they say and how they act/behave," Davida Rappaport, Psychic, Spiritual Counselor, and Dating Expert, tells Bustle. "When you are present, you establish and maintain eye contact with your date and are able to gauge if your date is going well — or not. Being present allows you the ability to hear what your date has to say, experience chemistry if there is any, and discover if you both have the mutual interests."
4Don't Ignore Red Flags
If you're super excited to meet someone, you might be tempted to sweep any potential red flags you notice under the rug. But according to life coach and astrologer Linda Joyce, you shouldn't ignore first date red flags; in fact, she actually advises her clients to make a list of three to five things they disliked about their date after the fact.
"Red flags should go up when your first date seems perfect, when [they] check all the boxes," Joyce tells Bustle. "When you want a date to work, you are less likely to see what’s not working. You won’t see what you don’t want to see and then down the line, you’ll be so surprised when personality traits begin to emerge that destroy the perfect picture."
5Don't Expect Too Much From One Date
It can be hard not to feel pressure for a first date to go well, but it's important to remember that a date is simply an opportunity to meet someone new and wile away a few hours of your time.
Stephanie Chambers, matchmaker for online dating site The Compatibility Club, tells Bustle, it's important to focus on being appreciative of your date took time to meet you. "Don't expect too much," she says. "Allow time to get to know the person before you start passing judgment. Acknowledge that it could take days, weeks, maybe even a lifetime to fully know and appreciate someone."
6Ask Questions That Are Actually Important To You
You don't need to shove note cards with hard-hitting questions up your sleeve, but if you're worried about running out of things to talk about on your date, spend a few minutes coming up with questions to ask your date that will help you make a connection.
"Asking questions that are more personal will not only get you the answers you need but will also make your date different than most dates [they've] been on," Anna Morgenstern, a Dating and Relationship coach in NYC, tells Bustle. "[They'll] feel more connected to you because you asked questions to really get to know [them], rather than just getting [their] stats. You'll build a connection much quicker if you come prepared with questions that are important to you."
7Be Your Genuine Self
The key to finding a real, lasting connection with someone? Always be your genuine, most authentic self — even on date number one.
"The absolute best thing you can do on a first date is genuinely be yourself," Nancy Brooks, Psychotherapist and Couples Counselor, tells Bustle. "One of the reasons why couples don’t work is because people try to be on their best behavior and only give a great impression of who they want to be, not who they really are."
8Don't Get Too Hung Up On Their Dating Profile
It can be tempting to pore over someone's dating profile and analyze every detail before deciding whether to go out with them, but according to Chicago-based matchmaker Stef Safran, you shouldn't get too caught up with what you read about someone before meeting them.
"While I get that it's hard not to want to check everything out these days, sometimes people put too much into a profile," Safran tells Bustle. "...Take your chances by spending 60-90 minutes with someone that might make your life change by giving things a chance!"
9Remember To Have Fun
The number one rule of first dates is simple: regardless of whether you think the date will lead to anything more, try to have fun in the moment.
"If you have fun, your date will have fun," Auntie Jodi, love expert, tells Bustle. "Even if there's no chemistry or you immediately have a visceral dislike to the date, if you have fun, then at least there's that. You may never see this person again or it may be a love match to end all love matches, but the bottom line is to make sure YOU have fun on your date. You can never get that time back again, so you may as well make the most of it."
Sure, first dates can be nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, a date is just a date. So instead of getting all worked up about what will or won't happen after date number one, try to enjoy the moment and have fun. The one silver lining? Even if it leads nowhere, that's one more "practice" date out of the way before you eventually meet someone who sweeps you off your feet — on the first date and the hundredth one.