Are You Guilty of These First Date Mistakes?
Image: Creative Commons-Licensed; Flickr User: Sturm_SF
See these gentlemen hanging from the San Francisco cable car? It's 1955 and they're headed to their own respective first dates at places like Ernie's and Tadich Grill. They've asked us for advice, and oh, can we give it.
We're tired of dumb first-date advice like "Don't eat spinach" and "Be on time." These men are mad about being on time, and they'll have the New York steak medium-rare, hold the vegetables, thanks very much. Besides, we already wrote that dumb first-date food article (See: 6 Foods To Eat/Not Eat on First Date). Seriously, who doesn't know these things? Our Mothers know these things.
So we racked our sleep-deprived brains and shook out a few first date mistakes you may not have considered:
1. Avoid Scripted Questions In An Effort to "Make Conversation"
Often, when people are uncomfortable when talking, they pull out odd or stock questions:
- What's the maddest you've ever been?
- Even been close to death?
- If you have $1 million to spend on anything, what would it be?
- What's the most in love you've ever been?
- What are the five things you want to do before you die?
These bone-headed questions aren't bad, but they are bad in the context of a first date. If anything, they reek of "canned" and "scripted," like you've been reading a book about "1001 Things To Ask on a First Date."
2. Maintain Eye Contact When It's Your Turn to Talk
"Avoid eye contact? Not me. I'm an eye-contact kinda person!"
One of the most common things about conversation is our tendency to look at the other person when that person is talking, yet looking down when it's our turn to talk.
Think we're making this up? Just test yourself next time you talk to a friend over lunch. Chances are good that when it's your turn to speak, you'll begin by looking down.
On your first date, force yourself to look at the other person when you begin talking and maintain that eye contact. It's powerful. When someone else does it, you'll notice it immediately.
3. Don't Use Food or Drinks As Conversation Props
It's a date. You're both actors in this strange, uncomfortable theater enacted daily, millions of times a day across the world. Being actors in a play, you've got your props: namely, your wine glass, hors d'oeuvres, silverware, dinner plate, coffee mug, and other implements.
Resist the temptation to use these items as a security blanket. We didn't call them "props" for nothing (they help "prop up" your confidence!).
4. Sit Naturally, For Crying Out Loud
Think about the way you are sitting right now. Maybe you're in bed, on a sofa, at an office chair. Pay attention to your arms and legs.
Okay, so some of you might be hanging from your toes from a branch while reading this article. We'll make allowances for you. But most people will have a relaxed posture: arms out from the body, hands open, legs crossed or open. That's the way people really sit.
Yet some people on a first date adopt either a guarded or too-relaxed posture. Guarded means: arms crossed, hands clutching some security blanket like a glass or smartphone. Too-relaxed (guys, we're talking to you) means: legs splayed, arms splayed. Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy, of Ted Talk fame, suggests that creating confident body positions can actually make you confident.
5. Avoid Talking About Your Trip Here or The Weather
When meeting up with someone, it's natural to ask about the traffic, as in "Hey, Dad, was the traffic over here bad? Did you get caught in rush hour?"
And that's why we ask our parents and siblings this question: it's so brain-numbingly boring that we don't care if we're not making scintillating conversation.
Instead of prosaic topics like weather and traffic, both of which mark you as beige-boring, lead off with something a bit more provocative.
6. Don't Talk About Dates With Other People
This one is deceptive. It seems natural that you might talk about other dates you've been on.
Usually, this question begins innocently enough, then evolves into a complaint-fest. After all, how is the other person supposed to answer this? Should they lavish praise over their other dates, thus putting you in a dark light? Or should they bitch about those dates to make you feel better?
It's one of those questions that has no good outcome. Don't ask; don't answer.
If you are asked about your dating life, avoid answering in detail. Finesse the answer with something like, "Sure, it's had its ups and downs, just like any other part of life. I'd rather just hang out with you instead of talking about that other stuff."