First dates are exciting! Okay, if we’re being real today, they are equal parts terrifying. One of the biggest concerns and fears that people have leading into a first date is how they’re going to impress their date.
If that’s you and you’re freaking out, take a breath—you’re not alone. And then go ahead and take another deep breath because we’re going to walk you through everything you need to do to get ready, how to put your mind at ease, and how to set yourself up for first date success.
Impressing vs. Best Foot Forward
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE ARTICLE. Sorry for the all caps yelling, we love you, we promise. This is just some really important stuff. The difference between impressing a first date and trying to put your best foot forward is the key to a successful first date and to putting your mind at ease.
Here’s the truth bomb. First dates are NOT about trying to impress the other person.
Wait, what? Yes, first dates have nothing to do with impressing the person you are going out with. The entire purpose of a first date is to see if you and the other person have any compatibility worth exploring on a second date.
You might be jealous of the people who seem to always have great first dates. And while that might look great on the surface, they are doing themselves a disservice. Because we’d all agree that you are not compatible with everybody. In fact, you’re probably not compatible with most people (none of us are). When these first date rock stars get good at impressing first dates and putting on great shows, they end up inevitably going on second and third dates with people who they aren’t compatible with.
In other words, they waste time and take away from opportunities to meet people who they are truly compatible with.
A first date that doesn’t go great is actually just as much of a success as a first date where you hit it off. When you find out quickly that you’re not compatible with someone, you save time, money, emotional headaches, and your sanity.
The Caveats You Can’t Miss
Okay, we just realized that this entire article is important to answering your question, so stay with us. Just because a first date isn’t about impressing the other person doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put forth effort and showcase the best side of you.
Think of it this way. If you go on a date with someone who you are compatible with but you show up with your worst foot forward, you’re not getting that second date. That means that you still need to put forth a lot of effort and do a few certain things (which we’re going to cover) to give the date the best chance of success.
Putting YOUR best foot forward is awesome. Putting some fake persona of first-date wizardry forward is not awesome. It might get you a second date, but that could just be wasting your time. Focus on being the best you possible, and you’ll have great success.
How to “Impress” Your First Date
We put impress in quotes because we just wanted to make sure you understood that isn’t our goal here. Instead, this section is about how to put your best foot forward when going on a first date.
And before we get started, if you want the ultimate treasure trove of first date information, make sure you check out our free and dedicated first date resources section.
And now, without further ado, our list of the ways to rock that first date.
- Dress appropriately – Depending on what you’re going to do, dress like you put some effort into it. You don’t have to show up in a suit or a ball gown, but at least look like you put some effort into your outfit.
- Iron your clothes – It’s not just about wearing clothes on a first date that show you have a little style, but it’s also about making sure those clothes look good. Get rid of stains, iron out wrinkles, and give yourself several once overs in the mirror before you leave.
- Have a plan – If you’re the one who asked them out or is in charge of planning the date, actually have a plan. Know where you’re going to go, what might be needed for that, and any other pertinent details for the first date.
- Convery the key details – If there are things that are important for your date to know, let them know! For example, if you’re planning on going bowling, make sure they know to bring socks. If you’re going to a fancy dinner where men have to wear a coat, pass that information on. If you’re going on a hike where it gets cold because of elevation, share that. Not only does that make for a better first date, but it also demonstrates you care about their well being which is a big win.
- Have a backup plan – You don’t need to intricately plan out multiple first dates, but you should have at least a general idea of something else you can do if things don’t go to plan. For example, if you’re going to a comedy show and it’s cancelled when you get there, what else is there to do in the area? Is there a coffee shop close by you could go to?
- Make reservations – One of the best ways to make sure your first date plans work out is to make reservations. Just because the restaurant is usually empty when you go doesn’t mean that it’s going to be on your big night. Be proactive and lock in your spot. Not only does this make for a great date, but it demonstrates your ability to plan and have foresight.
- Iron out logistics – More ironing? Yes, but this is a different kind. Make sure to bluntly figure out logistics beforehand. Are you picking them up? Should you pick them up on a first date? Have you factored in traffic and travel time? The more prepared you can be, the better.
- Be on time – For the love of everything, please, please, please be on time for your first date. The number one way NOT to impress a first date is to be late. The best advice we can give you is to plan to be there at a minimum 15 minutes early. This gives you a little buffer in case something goes wrong like traffic, car troubles, issues finding parking, getting lost, etc.
- If you’re going to be late… – If you realize that something is going to make you late, reach out immediately to let your date know. It’s not ideal, but if can certainly make things way better. Things happen and people know that. But if you don’t say anything and just roll in late, it’s not a good look.
- Be rested – Sometimes dating can be tough to work into a busy schedule, and we totally get that. However, do everything you can to be as rested as possible for your first date. This will help you to be more engaged, a better listener, a better conversationalist, and a better date!
- Leave work at the office – It’s totally okay if you had a tough day before going on your date. However, you may want to do your best to try and keep that negative stuff compartmentalized away from your date. If you’re in a committed relationship with someone, that’s stuff that you can share and they can help you deal with. However, you’re about to go on a first date with someone who doesn’t know much about you. They might incorrectly assume that you are just a negative person when that’s not the case. If you can, keep it at the office. If not, reschedule the date.
- Greet them with confidence – The first few seconds of the date can set the tone for the entire date. If you miss the mark, you’re going to be playing from behind on the entire first date. Should you hug? Should you smile? Should you shake hands? Should you high five? Should you introduce yourself? These are all great questions, and we don’t quite have enough space here to answer them. Luckily, we have a full guide on how to greet a first date you can check out right now. The link will open in a new tab, so you can check it out and then come back for the rest of our how to impress a first date list.
- Chivalry is awesome – While there are some people who aren’t fans of chivalrous gender norms, we’re going to put this out there because a lot of people are. If you feel differently, that’s totally okay—you do you, boo. Men, doing things like opening the door for your date, pulling out their chair, walking on the street side of the road, etc. will earn you infinite brownie points and help you look like a boss. And just because we know some people are thinking it, this does not include ordering for her at the restaurant.
- Offer to pay – The debate on who should pay on the first date is a big one. Regardless of what you think is best, at least be prepared to offer to pay (and be able to do so if your offer is selected). The guide we linked breaks down exactly how we feel on the topic and should prepare you for that moment of the first date. However, you’ll find that in every scenario we cover, you should be at least making a genuine offer to pay.
- Listen – First date conversations are sometimes the toughest part for people. Whether it’s shyness, lack of dating experience, or they’re just not big talkers, it can be tough to showcase that best side of you. The best advice we can give you is to listen. A common reaction people have when they’re nervous is to go full motormouth and talk, talk, and talk. Additionally, people think talking about themselves and what makes them so great is the key to a great first date. Newsflash it’s not. Listening is your best friend.
- Be you – Don’t forget the true purpose of the first date. It’s not to impress, it’s to explore compatibility. The best way to do this is to be you. Don’t say things just it’s because you think it’s what they want to hear. Be you, and you’ll have infinitely more dating success than any of those first date wizards we mentioned.
- Don’t get drunk – Yes, alcohol can work as a social lubricant and it can go a long way to help limit some of the awkwardness of a first date. However, there’s a big difference between having a drink or two and having too many. Make sure that if you’re going to have a few drinks on a first date that you keep yourself under control. Additionally, if you’re considering having a few drinks before a date to get relaxes, we’re going to advise against that. It might seem like a good idea but it really only leads to trouble and fewer drinks you can have on the date and still keep it together. Read: The Guide to Grabbing Drinks on a Date
- Be respectful of their requests – This is a catch all, but it’s a big one. Whatever your date requests of you, honor it. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say, but if they make a request for you not to do something—listen. For example, if they ask you not to cuss, that’s something you should oblige them on. Even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, it might be a big deal to them. If the request is something you’re not comfortable with, you always have the option to leave the date.
- Have fun – When people are smiling and having a good time, it’s contagious. What this means for a first date is that if you’re having fun and staying positive, your date is much more likely to start feeling the same way!
The Bottom Line
First dates are a soup full of emotions, and that’s okay! It’s possible you’re about to meet the love of your life, and it’s possible you might have a bit of an awkward night for a bit. With the uncertainty of what’s to come, these emotions are completely acceptable, and you’re certainly not alone.
Remember this—the purpose of the date is to see if you and this person have any potential compatibility. It’s a successful date if you figure out the answer to that question, whether it is a yes or a no. Stop worrying about how to impress a first date and focus on being the best you. That’s the single greatest piece of first date advice you’ll ever get.