Written by: Carlee Linden | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: August 19th, 2020
A good first date may lead to a second date, third date, and potentially a long-lasting relationship.
A bad first date will end up being told at Christmas work parties, family events, and your quirky traits will be the fuel for countless jokes.
A successful date doesn't always mean you’ll click right away and spend the rest of your life together. Sometimes it just means both parties involved simply had a positive and pleasant experience.
While you can’t — and shouldn’t try to — force chemistry, there are a few things you can do to make your dates more successful. Even if at the end of the date you aren’t magically in love, your date will appreciate the time you spent planning out a thoughtful and considerate date. Try to remember these three concepts when planning a first date:
- Location is key
- Activities should be low-pressure but engaging
- Focus on the journey of the conversation, not the destination
Location is key
The location sets the tone for the entire date. First dates are more likely to be successful with a neutral location, whereas later dates can be chosen based on specific activities that you and your date will enjoy. First dates should be focused on getting to know your date and figuring out if there is a connection. Picking somewhere neutral is a great way to remove the pressure of dressing fancy or purchasing an expensive meal. The ideal location should allow face-to-face conversation, ample background noise, and be memorable.
Consider taking your date to one of the following locations:
- Novelty coffee shop: Preferably chose a coffee shop that you haven’t been to before or a novelty shop. This will allow both people to step out of their comfort zone and create a conversation topic.
- Concert in the park: Sit far enough away that you and your date will be able to chat, but not so far you can’t hear the music. This will provide plenty of background noise to neutralize awkward silences.
- Mom and pop diner: Much like the coffee shop, a mom and pop diner allows both people to sit across from each other and talk. These unique shops have more character and history behind the business than big chain restaurants, which can be another conversation starter.
- Museum: A museum is full of potential conversation topics. While discussing art and theories can be interesting to some, however, that isn’t everyone's cup of tea. Ask your date what kind of museum they would be interested in visiting. There are plenty of planetariums, natural history, or sports museums to choose from.
Avoid the following locations:
- Movie theaters: Movies are a relatively easy and straightforward date idea. However, they don't allow for much conversation, and they can come across as a lazy and last minute date idea. Save this idea for when you know your date a little better.
- Friend’s house: Although this might seem like a relaxed environment, inviting someone you just met to a friend’s house for an activity or just a hang out can be incredibly nerve-wracking. Most of the time you’ll end up telling stories that happened between you and your friends, making your date feel like the odd man out.
Activities should be low-pressure but engaging
Planning a first, second or third date can be tricky. The activity should be engaging, allow a discussion, but still be considerate of your date. So don’t plan a six-hour long date when you know your date has to work early in the morning. Also, consider how long the activity will take. It is recommended that the first few dates should be around an hour. That way, if it’s not going well you didn’t spend too much of your time on something that was never going to be. However, if the date is going well, you can add on dessert or a short activity to make it last a little longer.
Here are a few easygoing date ideas:
- Cooking class: A cooking class is a simple enough activity that you can still talk while working but not have to worry about staring at each other when an awkward silence comes along. Plus you can discuss the experience over your freshly cooked meal.
- Glass blowing: Most people appreciate art, but very few have actually had the chance to make it themselves. Glassblowing is a unique date idea that allows both parties to express their artistic side. Maybe your date will create a simple vase for flowers, or create an avant-garde candy dish. At the end of the date, you’ll have a new topic of discussion and a new piece of art to display in your home.
- Pottery class: You don’t have to be Grayson Perry to try out a pottery class. Like glass blowing, pottery is something most people haven’t tried. However, unlike glass blowing, pottery can get messy, so make sure your date isn’t wearing a favorite $200 pair of jeans.
- Paint and sip: Enjoy your night out with a glass or two of wine and a creative outlet. For most people, first dates cause stress and anxiety. Fortunately, both painting and wine are a great way to reduce stress. Show off your artistic, sensitive side or laugh as your date tries to guess what your painting is supposed to be.
- Sample foods at a food festival: Try going to an annual food festival. You might find out that both you and your date hate cooked broccoli but love fried onions. It will also give you an insight into how adventurous your date is.
- Visit the beach: Whether you walk along the pier, dip your toes in, or jump in, if you live near a beach use it to your advantage.
- Take a wine tasting tour: Some wine shops and bars offer wine tasting events. This is a calm environment where it’s easy to keep a conversation going. Even if the date is a bust, you got to spend the evening tasting delicious wine.
- Visit a farmers market: There should be plenty of conversation starters at the farmers market. Plus, you can get a little shopping in while you’re there.
Avoid these ideas for the first few dates:
- Ice skating/rollerblading: Until you know whether your date is comfortable or not gliding around in a freezing cold arena or happy to skate around a sweltering indoor rink, maybe skip this idea. Most of the time, it ends up with one person scooching along the sidelines while the other is spends time doing laps, alone.
- Trampoline park: This was a great first date idea when you were in high school. As you get older, the idea of jumping and bouncing for hours at a time seems less appealing.
- Check out a neighborhood you’ve never been to: This idea sounds exciting and has potential to be interesting. However, if you end up getting lost and not being able to find where you parked the car, your date might not appreciate spending the night wandering around.
Focus on the journey of the conversation, not the destination
A common problem for many daters is creating a natural conversation. More often than not we are so focused on finding out whether or not this person is the one that we forget that they’re just another human being. We treat first dates as marriage interviews. We often feel the need to evaluate, judge, and conclude whether this person is right for us all within the first few minutes of the date. If they don’t fit the bill, then we eliminate them from the line-up.
The point of the first few dates is to talk to the person and get to know them. Maybe they don’t watch all the same shows as you do and they don’t love running half marathons, but you both enjoy going out to dinner or the weekend. Even if the date is less-than-ideal or there is just no chemistry at all, you are under no obligation to agree to another date. Politely decline and if they get upset, know you dodged a bullet.
If keeping a conversation is something you struggle with, try asking questions that need explanation or context. It’s a great way to get your date talking and you can get some ideas for the next conversation topic. If the conversation has died down, keep some of these suggestions in your repertoire:
- What are some hobbies you have?
- Are you an indoor or outdoor person? What do you like to do?
- What was the last movie you saw in theaters? Did you like it?
- What books are you reading?
- Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world? Why?
- Where have you traveled?
- Are you more of an early bird or night owl?
- What show could you re-watch over and over?
- What kind of music are you into?
- Where would you like to live?
- What is your favorite city?
- What chores do you like doing? Which are the worst?
- What’s something you’re interested in that you’d like to know more about?
- Are you a team player or do you prefer to work alone?
- What were you like in high school?
- What does your ideal morning look like?
- What’s something that’s expensive but totally worth it?
- How/when did you meet your best friend?
- What do you like to do in the summer?
- Besides home and work, where do you spend most of your time?
Avoid questions that can be responded with a yes or no answer, come across as shallow, or put your date in an uncomfortable situation. Some topics that will come up naturally over time, but some will have to wait until the other person is comfortable enough to bring them up. Whatever the case, steer clear of these types of questions:
- Why are you still single?
- How many people have you dated/been with?
- What happened with your ex?
- How much (money) do you make?
- How much did you pay for your car/house?
- What (race) are you?
- What would you wear if we went to the beach/club/etc.?
- What insecurities do you have?
- Are you going on dates with anybody else?
- Do you see us together in the future?
- How soon do you want to get married?
It seems that just about everyone agrees: dating — especially nowadays — is hard. The plethora of dating apps has given men and women so many choices that it’s easy to become addicted to finding greener pastures.
He’s too short.
She’s not skinny enough.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with dating apps or sites. As a matter of fact, they’ve been helping people all over the world find love. The issue is how much effort we’re putting into our dates. We’ve become accustomed to a minimal effort style, and it’s not doing us any favors.
A good date doesn’t need to have two “perfect” people who are meant to be. You can still have a good time with engaging activities and a pleasant conversation. Even if you’re not a perfect match, taking the time to plan a composed and considerable evening will leave a good impression on your date.
The truth is, no one is perfect. And it takes time, patience, and work to make a relationship last. It’s time that we go back to attempting to make a good first impression. It’s time we show each other respect. It’s time to stop treating first dates like a job interview. It’s time that we go back to giving people a chance before determining that there is something better just a swipe away.