Do: Be on time. Don’t let your date start to wonder if she’s been stood up or get the impression that you don’t value her time or the date itself.
Don’t: Google your date. Okay, so this “rule” is an almost-impossible one to follow in the era of Facebook, but do your best. If you do cyber-stalk your date ahead of time, don’t assume you know anything real about her before you meet up. Be intentional about getting to know the real-world version of your date, not the social-media variety.
Do: Pay attention. It’s simple: when your date is talking, listen. Engage in the conversation by asking follow-up questions and showing a real interest in him. If your date mentions he loves pour-over coffee, remember that detail when planning where to meet next time.
Don’t: Pick a fight. While the rule of avoiding topics like politics and religion isn’t one that’s set in stone — you might share a faith or political views and find those conversations to be encouraging and important — be careful to avoid hot topics that will evolve into a heated debate. Focus on getting to know one another, not on hashing out your differences.
Do: Be yourself. It’s cliché-sounding but true: It’s better to be rejected for who you are than accepted for someone you’re not. (Even worse is being rejected for being inauthentic.) Let your date get to know the real you, not a phony version you hope she’ll like.
Don’t: Babble on and on about your ex. Everyone has a backstory. You don’t know to share the nitty-gritty on Date #1, nor do you want to focus the conversation on an ex: you’ll give the impression that you haven’t moved on.
Do: Dress for success. First impressions count, so make sure your shirt is clean and your breath is fresh.
Don’t: Be a mooch. If you initiated the date, plan to pay for it. If you said yes to the date, offer to split the tab. Never expect the other person to cover for you. If/when he insists, show gratitude — and maybe offer to buy him a drink later.
Do: Be safe. Let a friend know where you’re going and with whom. Agree to meet your date at a public, neutral location, with the two of you arriving and leaving separately.
Don’t: Text. Put your phone on silent. Keep it in your pocket or purse. And in the rare occasion that you must use it during the evening — the babysitter might be checking in, for example — explain this to your date so that she doesn’t feel awkward or alienated by the one-sided conversation going on at the table.
Do: Mind your manners. The simple things can speak volumes about character. Say please and thank you. Treat the waiter with respect. Hold the door open. And don’t chew with your mouth open.
Don’t: Assume anything. Don’t assume that the night will end with a kiss, that the date will definitely lead to a second, or that she won’t like you because you look nothing like her ex. Every person is unique, so every first date will be, too.
Do: Be open and positive. Don’t worry about whether or not your date fits your typical “type” or not. Go in with an open mind and give your date a real chance.
Don’t: Make it all about you. It’s easy to sound narcissistic when you’re nervous. Make sure you pause from sharing stories about your life to ask your date questions about himself. What does he do for fun? What is he most passionate about? Make it your mission to get to know your date rather than to tell your date everything he “needs” to know about you. (If all goes well, you’ll have more opportunities to share on future dates.)
Do: Know what you’re looking for. Before you go on a date, have an idea of what you’re looking for in a relationship. It will help you better discern if you might have a future with the person you’re with — and will help direct the conversation. (If you know that faith is really important to you, you’ll be more likely to bring up your own when talking about what makes you tick.)
Don’t: Complain. If you can’t put forth a pleasant disposition on the first date, you likely won’t get a second. Don’t whine ad nauseam about the traffic, your boss or the slow dinner service. No one wants to date a Negative Nelly.
Do: Manage expectations. It’s just a date, not an arranged marriage. It doesn’t have to lead anywhere, nor is the relationship doomed before it begins because you don’t sense that “spark.” Allow the date to simply be an opportunity to meet someone new.
Don’t: Hold your date hostage. Let the date end. If it’s a good one, you’ll have another. It’s better to part ways on a high note than to drag out the night until things get awkward.
Do: Have fun.
Don’t: Sweat it. It’s just a date, simply an opportunity to get to know someone better. There’s nothing to fear. (Besides, your date is likely just as nervous as you are. Take a deep breath and relax.)