How to Avoid a First-Date Disaster? We Asked The Experts

There are few things more nerve wracking than a first date. In fact, some people dread that first encounter so much that the entire evening becomes about mere survival, rather than getting to know another person. There may be no way to completely eliminate the first date jitters, but preparing for the experience can go a long way in putting you at ease.

Try out these eight steps for a first date you will both be more likely to enjoy.

Keep it Easy

First dates do not lend themselves to long, involved processes. What if you decide a couple of hours into the date that you are just not clicking? Or what if one of the activities doesn’t go as planned? Keep first dates relatively short, light and fun for the best results. Limit them to one or maybe two activities; dinner and a movie, or a sporting event and coffee. When the pressure is off, you will both be more likely to relax and be yourselves.

Location, Location

Again, simple is better. Forget the fancy restaurant or black-tie event for a first date. These galas produce enough stress without worrying what you and your date will talk about or whether you will like each other. Stick with casual restaurants and low-key, fun events like a sporting event, movie, comedy club or even a bowling alley. Make it an evening where you will both be immersed in an activity, so there won’t be pressure to maintain long, drawn-out conversations or remember which fork to use at dinner.

Dressing to Impress

Make sure you know where you are going on your first date so you can both dress appropriately. A woman should be careful not to dress too sexy on a first encounter or she might give her date the wrong idea. A man needs to take care to wear something reasonably nice, so his date knows he cared enough to doll himself up a bit for her.

One Last Look

It is always a good idea to take one last look in the mirror before heading out the door for a first date. Major faux pas like food in your teeth, a skirt tucked in your pantyhose or a fly that is down may linger in your date’s memory far longer than your sparkling conversation and sharp wit. Make sure you are presentable before you leave the house and when you exit a restroom to spare yourself unnecessary embarrassment.

Be on Time

Fashionably late is not impressive for a first date. A date left waiting for your arrival may be steaming by the time the date begins. Show your date the respect to be on time for your meeting, and the rest of the night is sure to go more smoothly.

Be Positive

Nobody likes negativity, especially the date sitting across the table from you. Forget the complaints about your job, or the bellyaches about the service in a restaurant. Be particularly careful not to complain about former flames – a big no-no on a first date. Focus on the positives, particularly when it comes to your date. Say something nice about her hair or his sense of humor. Don’t resort to insincere flattery; one well-placed, truthful compliment will make all the difference.


Finding something to talk about on a first date is one of the biggest challenges. Prepare for this step by catching up on current news events to bring up during conversation lulls. And if you can’t think of anything else to say, ask your date questions. Everyone likes to talk about their own interests and activities.

Active Listening

Active listening is the best kind for almost any situation, particularly first dates. Active listening involves more than simply hearing the words that are said. It means listening carefully to the meaning behind the words, asking clarifying questions and paraphrasing information back to ensure it was heard correctly. There is no greater compliment than showing your date you are really listening to his words.

A first date is enough to send many into a serious panic attack, but there are ways to make the experience a little easier. If you follow these tips carefully, you can get through that first date in high style.

The Starbucks Strategy

For a first date, think Vanilla Bean Frappuccino , advises Michelle Zelig Pourau, a master relationship coach based in Victoria, Australia . “Do not commit to a first date that is more than just a coffee. Keep it short. That way, you are not stuck if there is no chemistry.” Pourau discourages going to the movies on a first date, as you won’t have an opportunity to talk. “Coffee is relaxing, not stressful and can go for as short or as long as you wish,” she says.

Frank Thompson, host of the hit TV show “Blind Date,” has been watching couples make it – or break it – on televised dates since 1999, when his show first debuted. He has since authored “The ‘Blind Date’ Guide to Dating,” and he has a few tips that can help thwart first-date disasters:

  • Remember to smile.
  • It never hurts for a man to bring flowers or candy.
  • If you choose to go out for dinner, sharing an appetizer is romantic – but don’t order anything incredibly messy. There’s nothing worse than melted cheese dribbling down your chin. (And does he really need to remind you not to lick your fingers?)
  • Whether you choose a coffeehouse, a cozy little café or a five-star restaurant, your date really isn’t about the food. Concentrate on the interaction between you and your date.

Dr. Tessina, on the other hand, is a strong supporter of double-dating or group events.

“Instead of doing the ‘Hollywood Dating’ thing – where you go out for dinner or a movie, he spends a lot of money, and you are very uncomfortable – try doing something more fun,” she says. “Get together with a group of friends and go to the beach, a movie, a picnic or a sporting event. If you go with friends, you’ll both be more relaxed, you’ll get to know each other a little, and there will be less pressure. Set up your first date to do something that won’t force the two of you to be alone together when you don’t even know each other.”

Hopes, Dreams…and a Blast of Reality

The fear of getting rejected is universal when it comes to first dates. Keep your expectations realistic, and you won’t turn into a frazzled zombie on the Big Night.

“Don’t put undue stress on yourself by thinking, ‘This has to be the one!’ ” Pourau says. “Focus on enjoying the experience, and all nerves should go. Think about really hearing what the person is saying, as opposed to thinking of your next response and/or question.”

If making small talk proves challenging, remind yourself to relax.

“Make it easy for your date to talk to you,” Dr. Tessina adds. “When he talks to you, be interested in what he’s saying. Ask questions to keep the conversation going. But work toward creating a combination of both fun and quiet moments so your date can see two different sides of you.”

Above all, learn to trust yourself so that you give a first date an opportunity to blossom into something more.

“ When we come from a place of being confident and self-loving, we are able to give, receive and be in a positive, loving relationship,” explains Hazel Palache, a relationship coach based in Sherman Oaks, California . “I teach clients to drop pretences and insecurities and learn to come from an authentic place so that a positive relationship can be created with care, honesty, loyalty and open, healthy communication, if these things are in place, it creates a safe haven for each person to be able to give and receive in the most positive, loving way. Love is not ‘just a feeling.’ It’s much, much more.”

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