When it comes to online dating, the first date is where things actually get “real”.
Up until that point, you’re dealing in the virtual world, looking at photos, reading profiles, and exchanging messages with near-anonymous people. It’s all rather comfortable.
But a date is a date – and moreover, it’s with someone you’ve never met before. Someone who you only know from what is likely to have been a relatively brief exchange of messages. So what should you expect, and how should you act?
Planning a Good First Date
There is really only one thing you need to get right when considering a first date, and that is the location.
Your first date needs to be somewhere relatively quiet, where you can chat. A coffee shop or bar are two perfect examples. For those who feel the temptation to go to the movies or somewhere similar, so that you don’t actually have to talk, let me tell you something – you’re going to have to talk to your date at some stage. If you can’t hold a conversation for an hour or two, then you know it’s not going to work.
As for the length of the date, an hour or two usually does the trick. You can of course extend the date if you want (I once went for drinks at a bar on a first date that ended up lasting 5 hours), but you don’t want to put yourself in a position whereby you’re stuck with someone you don’t click with for an entire night.
Preparing for a First Date
It should go without saying that in preparing for a date, you should be washed and well-dressed. That’s a given.
When it comes to preparing for a first date, I am talking about preparing for the person that you are going to meet. Given that there is every chance you will be speaking with more than one person at the same time (you should be), and may even be dating more than one person at a time, you will want to make sure that you don’t get your wires crossed. The last thing you want to do is get your matches mixed up.
So shortly before leaving for your date, read through your match’s profile again, and any messages that you exchanged. Remind yourself of any key nuggets of information, such as what they do for a living. And most importantly, make a mental note of anything that they told you specifically.
The Interview Stage
In my experience, any “online first date” tends to start out a little bit like an interview. The sooner you get out of that “interview stage”, the better a date is going.
Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking “stock” questions to kick a conversation off, such as:
- What do you do for a living?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
Of course, you will want to adjust these questions if you already know the basic answers:
- So tell me about the life of a lawyer!
- How often do you go horse riding?
Seriously – if you take a quick peek at their profile, there’s probably a minimum of 15 different questions you can ask, so don’t sweat it. The key is to get them talking, then pick up on what they are saying and develop the conversation from there.
For instance, if your date tells you that she works as a construction lawyer, you could ask her what the specific challenges are in that field, and so on. If you work along these lines and your date is capable of holding a conversation, you won’t run out of things to say in a hurry.
There will be first dates when you immediately know that the guy or girl is not for you (I personally experienced this just a couple of weeks ago). It can be all too easy under such circumstances to treat the whole exercise like a complete waste of time, but it really isn’t.
If nothing else, a date ensures that you keep your skills sharp. And even if you don’t have a spark with your date, they are probably still a perfectly pleasant and interesting person to get to know over a drink or two. It won’t do you any harm.
Brick Wall Syndrome
Of course, there is the occasional disaster date, where starting a conversation is like trying to draw blood from a stone. Unfortunately, there is no real way to combat this – you can’t force someone to speak. You’ll just have to grit your teeth and bear it.
If nothing else, it is a good test of your conversational skills – you’ll never be challenged more than by someone who answers your questions with a word or two.
Creative Commons image courtesy of Instant Vantage