First dates…one part exciting and four parts terrifying. If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you might be leaning even more towards the terrifying part. First dates make a lot of people nervous, and we understand why.
You’re putting yourself and your feelings out there and trusting that someone you barely know isn’t going to step all over them. The fear of this happening can make a lot of people nervous on a first date.
In this guide, we want to tackle this head-on. We are going to show you exactly how not to be nervous on a first date. We’ll show you the things you need to do and the mindsets you need to adopt to ensure that you walk into that first date with your head high and confidence exuding from you. Once you finish this guide, gone are the days of sweaty palms, sweat-drenched shirts, and shaky hands.
Read: What NOT to Do On a First Date
Understand Some Nervousness is Okay
Before we go any further, we want to make sure that something here is clear. It is okay and completely natural to be nervous before and during a first date. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone, and really taking a chance. But, what we are specifically talking about here is nervousness that is debilitating. Nervousness on a first date that causes you to not be yourself, stumble over your words, and just really not put your best foot forward.
That’s the first date nervousness we’re going to be tackling today. Just make sure you remember, everyone is going to be a little bit nervous, and that is totally okay. Even your friend that always seems to crush it on first dates gets a little nervous (even if they say they don’t).
Now that we have that point clear, let’s get into the actual tips for how not to be nervous on a first date.
Stop Getting Too Emotionally Involved Too Early
It’s fun to daydream about what a first date is going to be like. Often, the first date is with someone you’ve never met before, or you barely know. When you barely know someone, it’s easy for your mind to fill in the holes with what you want them to be. Basically, your mind does a great job of building up this person you don’t even know as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Now, we’re not saying that isn’t going to be the case. Your upcoming first date could be with the most amazing man or woman you’ve ever met, and we think that’s awesome! But, letting that optimism creep into unreal expectations can cause you to be much more nervous on a first date than you need to be.
Don’t let yourself fall in love with a person you’ve never even met or spent much time with. The more special and the more important that you make them in your mind, the more nervous you are going to be. It’s okay to be excited, but keep it from running out of control. This will take some proactivity from you, but it will be well worth it.
Be Prepared for Your First Date
First dates can be nerve-wracking because of all of the uncertainty. Something super important that you can do to lessen the nervousness on a first date is by cutting down on as many of the unknown variable as possible. In other words, the more prepared you are for your date and what might happen, the less you need to worry about.
If you know what you’re wearing, where you’re going, what happens if the place is terrible, what to do if the date is awful, and you have a plan for everything you can, then you’re going to be less nervous. You don’t need to spend hours mapping out the date and every little thing that could happen, but you should have a general idea of how things are going to go and what you’re going to do if they don’t go according to plan (for the worse or for the better).
To help you with this, we’ve put together a ton of resources over in our first date guides section. While everything over there is awesome and we highly recommend you read it, there are two things we really want you to look at. First is our first date mistakes guide. This guide outlines all of the major first date mistakes that you need to plan to avoid.
Second is our first date checklist. This checklist and guide will make sure that you don’t forget anything at all while getting prepared for your first date. That way, you can relax and let the nerves calm before you head out.
Prior preparation prevents poor performance. #preachit
Understand the Real Purpose of a First Date
One of the biggest reasons people get nervous on first dates is that they don’t really understand the true purpose of a first date. They think that it is a performance. They think the entire point of a first date is to put on the best show you can and work as hard as possible to impress the person you’re with. When you do this, the measure of success for the date becomes how much fun the other person has.
While you should always put your best foot forward, this is all terribly, terribly wrong. You see, the purpose of a first date is not to impress the other person. The measure of success on a first date is not how much fun they had or even scoring a second date.
The real purpose of a first date is to figure out if you have any compatibility or spark with the person you are going out with. Sure, you should always try and make it an enjoyable time, but you’re really just looking to see if the two of you are compatible and if it’s worth seeing each other again.
When you do this, a few things happen. First, the chance for failure is 100% eliminated. The measure of a successful first date is now learning whether there is compatibility or not. If there is compatibility and you figured that out, the date was a success! If there was zero compatibility and you figured that out, the date was a success! Yes, you heard that correctly. A date where you aren’t going to see the person again is actually a success.
Notice now that there is zero chance for failure. This should lead to the second cause of treating first dates properly which is that the nervousness will fade. If you aren’t acting like a performer on stage and you’re just trying to look for compatibility, you’re going to be less nervous. When you know that you can’t fail no matter how well the date goes by other people’s incorrect standards, the nervousness goes away.
Take the time to really understand why you are going on a date. Realize that a “bad date” where you are not compatible is not a bad date at all. You successfully crossed another person off the list of potential suitors, and that’s just one step closer to finding the right person.
Power Poses and Science
We’re going to throw something that might seem a little weird at you now, but it’s really awesome. Amy Cuddy, a renowned psychologist, gave a Ted Talk on the use of power poses to change the chemistry in our brains to handle nervous situations and uncertainty much better.
Basically, she said that there were certain poses (power poses) that you could stand in for a minute or two before heading into a nervous situation and it would release certain chemicals in your brain to help you handle nervous situations better! These poses are “superhero” type poses and are easy to do pretty much anywhere.
What does this have to do with a first date? Well, we recommend checking out her Ted Talk we linked above and using these poses in your dating life. Before you step out of the car or walk into the bar to meet your first date, strike a pose and get your brain chemistry working on your side! It might seem kind of crazy, but she breaks down all the science of it in her Ted Talk linked above.
Practice Makes Perfect
The last tip we have for how not to be nervous on a first date is to get out there and go on more first dates. Literally everything in life gets easier and is less nerve-wracking the more that you do it. This is true for first dates. If you haven’t been on a first date in years, it’s probably going to make you super nervous.
But, if you go on that one and it doesn’t work out, how difficult is the next one going to be on your nerves? Probably a bit easier because you know a little more what to expect and you’ve got some experience under your belt.
Get out there and go on some first dates. With what you’ve learned here, you literally have a 0% chance of failure thanks to recalibrating your measure of success. First dates are always going to give you those butterflies in your stomach, but that’s just your body getting excited about the potential that could come out of your next first date.
Written By: Jason Lee
Jason Lee is a journalist and data analyst with a passion for studying online dating, relationships, personal growth, healthcare, and finance. In 2008, Jason earned a Bachelors of Science from the University of Florida, where he studied business and finance and taught interpersonal communication.
His work has been featured in the likes of The USA Today, MSN, The Motley Fool, Net Health, and The Simple Dollar. As a business owner, relationship strategist, dating coach, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base with the rest of the world.