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First Date Do’s and Don’ts

Updated: Jun 11

First impressions often predict whether an encounter will continue.

Whether you search for partners on dating apps, rely on friends, hang out in friendly meeting places, or hold out for that romantic, unexpected connection, your first impression of someone often predicts whether the relationship will continue.

Most people have a type they look for that can rule some people out right from the beginning. Research shows that we make those first judgments very quickly, often within minutes. Even how a person’s voice comes across, the way they move, or even a facial expression can seduce or repel.

If your initial reactions do indicate a go-ahead, your first hope, of course, is that it is reciprocal. The person on the other end has checked their pre-coded vetting boxes as well, and has, hopefully, made the same decision about you.

Through the many years I’ve been carefully monitoring the dating scene and listening to multiple people describe their experiences, I’ve created an easy list of which behaviors most often work and which ones contribute to a premature fizzle out. Though there is no perfect formula that is a “one-size-fits-all,” the feedback I’ve been given tells me that these skills are well worth noting and trying.


1. Warmth. Welcoming a person into your world just means offering a sincere and open smile, and a physical stance that portrays interest. Instead of focusing on whether or not this is “the one,” think instead of what would make that person feel comfortable, even if you already know you aren’t interested in seeing them again.

2. Curiosity. Talk to this person with a genuine interest in who they are, regardless of whether or not they are who you want them to be. Instead of vetting questions like, “Have you been dating long,” or “What are you looking for in a relationship,” tell them you’d love to know what their passions are, what moments in their lives have been meaningful, or who their heroes are.

3. Presence. The person you’re with has to feel like they are the only person in the room. Looking around at others, answering your phone, or not paying attention because you’ve already written them off, erases another person’s existence. Whatever time you’re going to spend there, make it worthwhile for both of you.

4. Rhythm. Some people, especially when nervous, talk too quickly or for too long. Monitor your own responses to the rhythm you are experiencing in the other person, and your own similar behavior. You can slow someone down by just saying something caring like, “I’m missing so much of what you’re sharing. Can you slow down a little so I can pay better attention?”

5. Enjoyment. Make it a commitment to enjoy the time you spend with that person as best as you can, even if you never intend to see them again. Everyone gets better at what they practice. Don’t practice boredom.

6. Openness. Without sharing private or too much personal information, let the person know that you’re open to answering any questions they have about you that feel appropriate for how long you’ve known each other. Learn to describe who you are and what you like about yourself or are working on changing, in an egoless way.

7. Empathic validation. If your date shares any sorrowful or frustrated experiences with you, respond with concern and support, and ask for more detail if they want to share. It’s fine for you to contrast it with your own background if better. “I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard time. I’ve had a lot of great experiences.” When you present yourself in these ways, the person on the other side will likely say things like, “You are so easy to talk to," “I had a really great time," or, “I can’t remember when I’ve opened up like this so early in a relationship.”


1. Talk rapidly or too much. Making the interaction all about you will most likely turn the other person off. Pay attention to your audience. If they yawn, look away, or go silent, you’re probably doing center stage and not making it interesting for them.

2. Look around the room. Even though there might be a lot going on that distracts you from your date, it's best to not let that be known. You can invite them to look at something or listen to something with you, but make sure they stay included.

3. Fuss with yourself. Fidgety behaviors are hard not to notice. Rearranging your clothes, messing with your hair, or any other behaviors that signal your discomfort will focus the energy between you on you. Arrive in comfort and leave in comfort with yourself.

4. Excuse your behavior or looks. Don’t ask your date to make exceptions for your being upset before you get there, for being nervous, or even for some part of the way you look. The person on the other end of you will make their own decisions about whether or not they are drawn to you. Present yourself as real as you can without the need to excuse any part.

5. Ask too-personal questions. Curiosity, genuine inquiry, and non-vetting interest shows another person that you sincerely want to know them. Personal questions that invade privacy are not okay, like, “Are you able to support yourself?” “Have you had a lot of partners?” “Are you a touch-and-go person sexually?” “Why haven’t your past relationships worked out?”

6. Complain about prior relationships. If you complain about your exes, you are telling your date that, if they want to be with you, they will have to fix all those broken pieces in you. “Everyone I’ve ever loved has used me.” That kind of sentence would be more accurately stated, “You will have to make up for all those others.”

7. State hardline political, religious, or social prejudices. Stating any hardline opinions or beliefs that are not open to inquiry or transformation tells another that you are inflexible and rigid, and they will be the one who must make all of the required adjustments to you.

8. Oversell yourself. Boasting, bragging, and self-centeredness will only fly if you can deliver the goods, and even then, these things should be discovered rather than sold. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If you act in these ways, the person on the other end of you will likely sink into silence, cut the meeting short, and ghost you.

Choose Dr. Randi Gunther a Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor who truly understands the complexities of human connection.

Reach out to Dr. Randi today and take the first step toward a brighter, more fulfilling future together.

Dr. Gunther is available by Zoom or Facetime


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