If you wanted to play Steve Harvey and survey 100 people about a situation that makes someone nervous, a lot of people would probably answer “a first date.” It may even be the number one answer on the board — and for obvious reasons. You’re meeting someone new, trying to make a good first impression, and trying to decide if this is someone you might see in your life.
To take the jitters out of a first date, I’ve seen people pull some pretty crazy moves. Here are some tactics that may seem like a good idea but could really backfire:
Drinking Too Much
Meeting for a first date at happy hour at a favorite bar? Good idea. Slamming back shots? Bad idea. Maybe having a few too many drinks will suppress any nerves and get the conversation flowing, but there’s also a high risk of something embarrassing happening or never getting beyond surface-level conversation. There’s usually no second date when one person ends up with their head hanging in a toilet.
Inviting Friends to Make It a Group Outing
This actually happens, which is hard to believe. Instead of meeting one-on-one, a person decides it might be more fun to have a group of people meet. But here’s what happens: one person might feel left out, the potential couple doesn’t get a chance to get to know each other, and everyone feels awkward. Let’s just keep first dates where they belong: with two people.
Asking Friends to “Spy”
Meeting someone who is essentially a stranger from an app can be anxiety-provoking, but having a friend or two watch your date from across a restaurant isn’t going to help. It’s a good idea to make a first date in a public setting, but it’s unnecessary to have people too close.
Having a Friend Call to Check in Mid-Date
While telling a friend where you’re going on a first date is always smart, there’s no need for your date to be interrupted halfway through with a friend’s scheduled call. It’s always rude when someone checks their phone mid-date, which brings us to another point...
Checking Your Phone/Watch
What could be more off-putting than someone checking their phone or Apple Watch in the middle of a conversation? Almost nothing. It doesn’t make you seem popular; it makes you seem uninterested. Unless you have a true emergency, in which case you should explain to your date that you may need to take a phone call, phones should stay in your pocket or purse throughout a date.
Getting a New Look
A great haircut can be a huge confidence booster, but resist the temptation to book an appointment for a drastic change right before a first date. Not only will you look different from your profile photos, but you might not love the new look, which will only make you feel self-conscious.
Planning a Long, Romantic Dinner
A grand gesture like a candlelit dinner might sound like a good way to set the mood, but it’s just not when it comes to first dates. Keep your initial meeting short and sweet, like getting a cocktail, grabbing coffee, or going for a walk. That way, if things are going poorly, you can cut it off at a natural ending point. And if there’s a connection, you can always suggest expanding the date to dinner or another activity.
A first date should be a chance for two people to get to know each other better — without friends or distractions. Don’t let nerves tempt you to make a choice that could ruin your date before it’s even started. (And remember — the other person is probably just as nervous as you!)
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.