Maureen Tara Nelson, a professional matchmaker, has seen it all in the decades she’s been bringing people together. We checked in with her to get some tried and true dating tips (as well as things to avoid). It turns out there are some conventions that could apply to virtually any social setting. “We all know that first impressions are critical to success in the business world. The same is true in dating,” Nelson said. “How you present yourself on your first date will either make your second date inevitable or impossible.”
1. Dress to Impress. The way you dress signals to the world what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Men are very visual and male clients are always telling me the number one thing they look for is how well put together a lady is. Not necessarily how attractive she is, but whether or not she’s polished or wearing too much makeup or dressed too revealingly. The opposite is also true—women want to see a neat, composed, collected man. It’s not about brands, it’s about looking fresh, wearing the right size and being pressed and polished.
2. Discover your date. Make it a mission to find out three great things about your date before the night is over. Don’t make it an inquisition, but ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no and listen closely. Remember that if you’re talking more than 50 percent of the time, you’re not listening.
3. Be prepared. Have a list of topics in mind to talk about ahead of time in order to get the conversation going. Instead of asking “do you like movies?” ask “what was the last good movie you saw?” and then follow up with a why. You’ll spark conversation and learn something about your date along the way.
4. Be confident and positive. It can take months to know if someone is “the one” and it takes giving 100 percent of yourself to get that in return. Everyone is nervous on a first date. Keeping the conversation positive and upbeat will relax both of you. All the feedback I receive from my clients after a first date is the same: If a person is positive and happy, it will always lead to a second date, even if there were a few bumps in the road. Just remember that over-confidence is a huge turn off.
5. Be realistic. Chemistry is a very important attribute in a successful relationship, but it’s also the hardest thing to find and keep. If you don’t see fireworks on a first date, be patient and let things develop. Is there something cute or sexy about his/her smile? Do you like how s/he moves? Focus on those good points to give chemistry a chance to develop. And remember, this door swings both ways. Do you have some extra pounds you need to lose? Do you have a list of “must haves” more than five items long? Wouldn’t you like your date to cut you some slack on those things? Being relaxed and honest is both attractive and productive.
Bonus: Don’ts. Never talk about politics or religion—the old adage is true. And don’t discuss past relationships. No one wants your baggage—or your potential comparisons.