First dates, first impressions - there's no user manual.
However, there are some definite sand traps we can avoid.
What are those potential pitfalls outside of the obvious?
How can I pre-empt those and roadblock any awkward avenues of conversation?
In today's article I want to focus on preparation ahead of first dates and hopefully impart some ideas that I bring into my key meetings. I should say upfront I'm still in the dating game and I'm going to touch on some of the tactics I adopt when I talk and meet people one on one, I believe can cross-pollinate into this topic. So let's get to it.
Firstly, we need to address that it's not a sign of failure if a first date doesn't go to plan. Despite our greatest efforts and affectations, sometimes the chemicals accidentally flow right, sometimes they simply do not. What they shouldn't feel like, is hard work. If you're finding the gears are grinding during this first encounter with somebody, maybe she's giving you stunted replies and she's not letting you past a very guarded defense, then you should be able to fall back on some material or 'conversation stimulators'.
Here are some upstream ideas on how to prevent falling into those pitfalls on a first date. Let’s have a look at what those pitfalls might be.
1 Conversation is thin on the ground and tough to initiate.
2 She's not what you imagined and you can tell immediately there’s no mutual attraction and there will be no second date.
3 You've left the restaurant and are out of ideas.
I'd say this is the biggest anxiety that men will have on a first date. Especially if you've been exchanging good dialogue on the phone or texting beforehand, it heightens expectation that you and your date are somehow simpatico, meant for each other. In reality, it's a lot easier to get along virtually as you have time to digest answers, think about questions, even delete initial drafts you deem too risqué. In the flesh you don't have the luxury of these filters and there is nothing to hide behind. What topics are you most likely to cover on a first date?
This theory has been kicking around for many years and gentlemen, this is something you should have down to a fine art by now. It's basically a resume of your life/career, up to this very minute. Don't reel it off like a fact sheet, but do keep it tight like a good highlights package. Don't dwell on past relationships or ex-girlfriends and certainly don't bad mouth any. It's not a good look, it will only make you look embittered and not ready to move on.
TALK ABOUT THE DAY
I really think you should employ this one. Mention something about your day, or something funny that happened to you on the way to the date. Don't worry if you have to massage some of the facts or make it slightly apocryphal. Something light and off the cuff will give a breezy start to the date and set the tone. It's called being disarming. A great example; I recently saw Adam Carolla, a stand-up comic and an awesome podcaster, deliver a statement at the House Oversight Committee hearing on “Challenges to Freedom of Speech on College Campuses." Before addressing the room of delegates on a very sensitive and divisive subject, he holds up a notepad next to him and asks the Speaker ‘How much would I get for this notepad on eBay.’ Improvise a little, start with something funny and make it your own.
WHAT ABOUT WORK?
This for some of you gentlemen could be a real conversation cul-de-sac. You might not have a great job. You're very dispassionate about your job and it's not the sort of job that can branch off into other great areas of conversation. On the flip side she might also have a job in a field of industry that you have very little knowledge on. Let’s look at these individually.
The best piece of advice I can give is to accentuate all the positives and the perks that your job brings. Even if the job is horribly monotonous you can say things like - 'I know the job doesn't sound too glamorous, and in truth it's not, but it opens up so many other doors for me. I've compiled a great rolodex of contacts within this field and have met so many interesting people. It's allowed me access to such and such, and I've met ... (fill in the blank) importantly I’m climbing the ladder and learning a great deal.’
If you can give the affectation that you're on the way up or looking to achieve more that your lot in life, it will bring a positive energy to the date which she can latch on to. Alternatively, if you love the job, all the better. But be careful not to hijack the conversation and talk endlessly about your work or your next big project.
AND HER WORK?
This is where a bit of due diligence is required. I'm sure you might have conversed a little before the date and have covered most of these bases, but the number one question that gets asked more frequently than not, is 'what do you do?' If she has given you the broad strokes of her job, then do your research and find out what's current within her industry. You might know somebody that is in a similar line of work, give them a call and find out what the hot button topics are. Again, she might not want to talk about work at all, so be prepared to switch gears swiftly.
There'll be no second date
It could be very evident from the get-go that there is no mutual attraction. If so, treat your date with the same respect that you would do any other. To use a boxing analogy, think of this as a light sparring session. When you finally meet someone on a date later down the road that you feel more emotionally connected to, you'll lean on these 'conditioning' dates to ensure you're not floundering. You're not ring rusty. Your muscle memory will kick in and you'll have more in the tank than you would do if you completely shut off during the date.
Dinner's over now what?
This is a more common dilemma than you might think. You've agreed to a designated restaurant or bar for the initial rendezvous, but neither of you have committed beyond that in case the date has gone so horribly wrong that you'll need to fabricate an exit strategy. "Oh the babysitter has just called, I need to go," or "Oh I have a deadline to meet, I need to get back now." I'm sure you might be familiar with some of these.
A nice upstream idea, would be to plan a route from one venue to the next. If you've got a restaurant planned, look for a quirky place within walking distance. Between those venues learn something about the street or a building that has certain relevance. In London for example there are 900 buildings with blue plaques on the outside. Each plaque indicates that someone of relevance lived in that building at some point or other; from John Lennon to Ava Gardner.
I hope some of these words have helped you out. Remember to have fun, remember to smile and don't put too much pressure on yourself.