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First Date Tips to Help You Avoid Screwing It All Up

A man who listened to this first date tips, making his date laugh as they sit in the trunk of his car.

Is there anything more terrifying than a first date? Here you are, at your most vulnerable, meeting someone who you’re excited about and interested in, but also extremely unsure of. Every little thing is scary—like, what happens if you stumble over your words? And why did you order pasta with red sauce, and not something a little neater?

The good news is, the right person will understand if you make a human mistake. Nobody’s perfect, especially in times of high anxiety. Even so, you’ll want to be prepared going in, so that your first date is as flawless as possible. Here are some tips to avoid screwing it up.

Don’t make any assumptions about who pays.
It’s always a little weird to figure out who’s paying. Usually, if it’s not a 50/50 split, it’s the person who sets up the date. No matter what, don’t leave your wallet at home. Be prepared to pay for two meals if you have to. Just remember, if you feel mislead or taken advantage of when the bill comes, you don’t have to meet up for a second date.

Don’t monopolize the conversation.
First dates are the perfect time to get to know each other. But make sure to do as much listening as talking. You might be talking too much, or not really listening to the flow of the conversation. If you feel like things are one-sided, make sure you sprinkle in some questions for your date—and follow-up questions prove you’ve been paying attention.

Show up on time.
There’s nothing worse than a date who’s late. It makes it seem as if you don’t value the other person’s time, and the “did I get stood up?” fear is hard to avoid. If for some unforeseeable reason you know you’re running behind, make sure to text or message your date and let them know as soon as possible. And make sure you’re apologetic.

Don’t dig too deep.
Since this is the first date, you might want to avoid the really heavy topics, like asking personal questions about their family members or allowing yourself to go on a political rant. If the date shows potential, there’s plenty of time for that when you’re both more comfortable with each other. For now, it should be the basics. You want to see if you’re compatible, not scare them off by being a bit too intense.

Don’t bring flowers or a gift.
Yeah, it might have been seen as a romantic move to present your date with a bouquet while picking them up way back when, but these days, you’ll just look like a tryhard. Your presence is enough of a present on the first date. If things go well, you have plenty of time to shower them with gifts later on. With a little more information, you’ll actually learn what their favorite flower is, or if they even like them at all.

Try to be a little adventurous.
If you’re going out to eat, try to find a fun or crazy appetizer the two of you can split. By doing this, you’re sharing an experience together right off the bat. If there’s a fun special, or something that just seems like a weird selection, you’ll be making the date memorable. And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up finding a new favorite go-to appetizer that you never would have tried otherwise.

Be upfront about your likes and dislikes.
If you hate seafood, and your date chooses to bring you to a restaurant that serves nothing but shellfish, you’re going to have a bad time. It’s easy to try and stay quiet to avoid looking like you’re high maintenance, but you’re not—you have a right to have a food preference, and there’s plenty of other places with varied menus out there. This is also true if you have a food allergy. It might not be the most romantic topic to bring up, but it’s an important one.

Relax, and have fun with it.
Remember, there’s no pressure. Either you get along with your date, or they’re not your type. As great as it’d be to have chemistry with them, you won’t be the first person in the world to strike out. Just be positive, smile, and know that your date agreed to go out with you for a reason.

First dates are a lot less scary if you view them as friendly meet-ups. You shouldn’t have a strategy going in—just be yourself, stay confident, and see if you have a natural connection with the other person. You may very well have a lot of first dates in your life, and the more you put yourself out there, the less intimidating they’ll be.

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