What To Do On A First Date When It's Not Going How You Planned

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It's an unfortunate truth that the perfect first date doesn't really exist. Yes, you may have some really great first dates, but often, when there's bound to be something that goes a little wonky from time to time. And in some cases it can go very, very wrong, but often it's more just... meh. But before you let your inner perfectionist take over, remember that it can be useful to go on first dates just for the experience — and the practice.

"It’s very important to go on fun dates, even if they don’t develop into a full-on relationship," dating coach Julie Spira tells Bustle. "More often than not, a date with the same person doesn’t go past one or two dates, so it’s time to manage your expectations and cast a wide net."

So what if things aren't off to the best start? How can you turn it around so you can at least enjoy it as an experience? Luckily, if you're struggling through a first date with someone you just met and things aren't going to plan, there are a few different ways you can handle it. From asking different questions to changing up the location to straight up leaving, here's how you can salvage a first date, according to experts.

1Ask Them About Passions

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First dates can easily get into a really boring, interview-like territory. "This is a mistake, because you’re not on a date to get hired, but to make a connection," Sandy Weiner, a dating and relationship coach at lastfirstdate, tells Bustle. If this is the case, you need change the conversation. Weiner says to "share your passions, dreams, [and] things you're proud of". If you give a little, your date may be willing to give a little as well — and you can get on to more exciting territory.

2Change The Setting

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It's not just the conversation that can feel like an interview, sometimes the setting can as well. "Don't get trapped in the job interview date (coffee shop, bar, restaurant)," Eric Resnick, owner and lead dating coach at ProfileHelper.com, tells Bustle. "They are awkward and high stress... These dates are rarely fun and they never give you a real sense of the other person." Even if your plan was to get drinks, after the first one you can suggest that you take a walk around the park or neighborhood — it can help you change the setting and the atmosphere along with it.

"Good dates are interactive," Resnick says. "Do something where you are both on your feet and moving around together." It may help conversation flow more smoothly.

3Try To Find Common Ground

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If the date is going badly, try paying extra attention to finding common ground. "You should be as attentive and engaged as possible not only because you're trying to get to know the person, but so that you can enjoy yourself," Heather Ebert, a dating expert at WhatsYourPrice, tells Bustle. If you can find even a little nugget where you relate to this person, it can help change the dynamic between the two of you.

4Decide To Cut Your Losses And Have Fun

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So it has become very clear you're not going to date this person — can you still manage to have a good time? Not all first dates have to be huge landmarks of your romantic history. "It’s important to manage your expectations of what going on a first date means," Spira says. "[Instead of] wondering if you’re auditioning to be [partner] material, you should just go and have fun and bring the best and happiest version of you to the table." Maybe you can even have some fun, if you take the pressure off.

5Remember That It's Good For You

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It might be going terribly, but that's also a learning experience. "Take comfort in the idea that if you are uncomfortable, you are growing," Christine Carpenter, PsyD, dating and relationship consultant at Evolve Dating, tells Bustle. "The more you grow, the better a dater you will be. The better a dater you are, the better the fit will be when you do land the relationship."

6Back Off The Controversy

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Sometimes, you end up deep into a debate or an argument on a first date — and you're not even sure how you got there. If this is the case, try to dial it back. "Save [these topics] for when you know each other a little better so that even if you have differing views, you’re able to communicate with empathy and respect," Ebert says. Or, if it's really bad, just let it go, knowing knowing you're never going to go on a second date or see this person again.

7Leave

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Finally, you don't have to stay. If a date is painfully bad, if the other person is rude, or if you feel truly uncomfortable, why are you sticking around? Don't let politeness put you through hell — remember you can make your excuses and move along.

Not every first date goes well but, if it really isn't going to plan, remember that this is a total stranger who you're never going to see again. So take a step back and let yourself off the hook — either make the best of it or feel free to move on. Either way, it's an experience.