First dates can make anyone feel nervous, especially if you've been out of the dating game for a while. If you could use a little more confidence, here are nine tips and tricks to try...
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1. Take some deep breaths
When we get nervous, our heart rate and breathing both increase. Try taking some slow, deep breaths before you meet your date. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time (you don't want to arrive late and feeling stressed) and take the opportunity to relax by walking around the block. If nerves make it hard for you to talk, try striking up a conversation with staff in a coffee shop. Making small talk will help to get you "warmed up" to meet your date.
2. Make eye contact
When you're feeling shy, it can be hard to make eye contact. Do your best to look at your date as they speak. Frequently looking away can be taken as a sign that you're not interested – so keep your attention on your date. If you're meeting in a pub or café, sit with your back to the door, bar, or counter. That way you're less likely to get distracted.
3. Watch your body language
Some people have a tendency to wrap their arms around their body when nervous, as it can feel reassuring – but try not to. 'Closed' body language – folding your arms or crossing your legs – can make you appear unapproachable.
Instead, sit facing your date, with both feet on the floor and your chest open. When your date is speaking, lean forward slightly in your seat to show that you're interested and paying attention.
4. Actively listen
Listen to what your date says. It sounds obvious advice, but when we're nervous it can be hard to pay attention. Instead of listening to the story you're date is telling, you may find yourself wondering what to say next, if they like you, whether you should order more drinks, if you wore the right outfit, etc.
Focusing 100% of your attention on your date (imagine someone is going to test you afterwards) can be a surprisingly good way to control your nerves. Part of active listening means asking questions related to what the person has said - not the question you pre-prepared in your head before you left the house!
Paying full attention to your date not only helps to ease your own jitters, it will make the person sat opposite you feel good about themselves.
5. Clench your muscles
If you're so nervous it's making your hand or voice shake, try clenching and releasing your muscles. Squeezing your thighs together and clenching your legs is a good way release tension and can help to prevent you from physically shaking.
6. Give yourself a pep talk
If your confidence is low – maybe you've had some bad dates recently or you're feeling a bit down – try reminding yourself of what you have to offer. Make a list of all your good qualities and what you can bring to a relationship, and also list every compliment anyone has even given you. Read this over before you meet your date and remind yourself that you have a lot to give.
7. Go somewhere interesting
Making conversation with a stranger can be tricky at the best of times. Instead of meeting in a coffee shop, arrange to go somewhere that you know the other person will enjoy. For example, if you both like art, visit a gallery together. If you like gardening, is there an open gardens near you? Or if you're both foodie types, what about going to a local farmers' market? The conversation will come more naturally if you're surrounded by things of mutual interest.
8. Get a mini makeover
Both men and women alike have insecurities about the way they look. If you're feeling down on yourself because you need to lose weight or have wrinkles, invest in yourself. Buy a new outfit, get your hair and nails done, buy some new makeup (go to a department store and ask someone on the beauty counter for advice). When you feel good in yourself inside, it will shine through on the outside.
9. Keep a sense of humour
Finally – and perhaps most importantly, keep a sense of humour! Everyone gets nervous, and you're date is likely to feel just as self-conscious as you. Making fun of yourself and your nerves can be one of the best ways to break the ice. You don't have to be a comedian – just smile and try to see the funny side.