Another Valentine’s Day without a Valentine has come and gone and you are now ready to find the one. You have signed up for online dating, asked your friends and family to hook you up, flirted with eligible singles and you finally have a date scheduled with a person of interest. There’s only one problem: you don’t know what to do on a first date to make a good impression. You tend to get nervous on first dates and leave feeling disappointed. You dread the experience. If any of this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone.
Many people worry about the dreaded first date. Dating is a universal stressor. This is because rejection comes with the territory. Fear of being rejected or even the fear of having to reject someone can be overwhelming. Mix in unpleasant past experiences and questionable self-esteem and you have a recipe for dating distress!
So, how should one approach a first date? In my book, Seeking Soulmate: Ditch the Dating Game and Find Real Connection I suggest using an effective method called TailDATING. Most of us know what tailgating is. Tailgating is the pre-party before the big game. Whether you decide to do it in the stadium parking lot or on a friend’s couch, the premise remains the same. You and your friends and/or family gather together to get pumped about the game. You talk about how great your team is, engage in fun rivalries and fuel yourself for the fun ahead of you. TailDATING is the pre-party before the date.
Dating is about connecting with someone new. But to make a genuine connection you have to be authentic. It is difficult to be authentic if you are being guided by the negative voices in your head or if you are busy trying to convince your date that you are the total package. TailDating is a great way to reconnect with yourself and remind yourself of who you are, what your interests are, what makes you a good catch and what is important to you. This pre-dating ritual can help you to be more present, engaged and in tune with yourself on your date. Here are the steps:
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1. Engage in a Mindful Activity
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is happening in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. For example, you know that you are worried your date will not like you but instead of calling yourself a loser for having that thought, you simply note it and remind yourself that it is normal to be worried before a first date. Engaging in a mindful activity helps you to practice being aware a little ahead of time, which makes it possible to be more aware and present on your date. When that same thought resurfaces up on your date you can recognize it for what it is instead of letting the thought take over and control your behavior or feelings. Taking a shower, having a nice cup of tea or a breathing exercise are all wonderful examples of mindful activities that can help you to tune into your senses and allow you to start your date from a more balanced and aware place.
2. Set An Intention
What behaviors do you want to be more aware of? What might get in the way of you making that connection? It can be very helpful to know what you would (and would not) like to achieve on your date before you get there. Thinking about behaviors that can prevent you from connecting with your date, allows you to come up with a strategy to use when your nerves start to kick in. For example, if I know that I tend to mindlessly drink on a first date and that things can get a little sloppy, I might set an intention of a having maximum of two drinks. Similarly, thinking of what we want to do can also be helpful. For example, if I want my date to know that I am interested in getting to know them, I can set an intention of asking thoughtful questions and listening more instead of talking his or her ear off. This awareness can help you to be your best self.
3. Remove The Pressure
It’s just a date! Yes, it is awkward but it is awkward for everyone. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to be perfect, make the best impression or make this person like you, take a step back and change your perspective a bit. A first date is simply a chance to see if you have anything in common with a new person. It may result in a love connection, a friendship, another opportunity or it might just be another experience. He or she could be the sibling, coworker or best friend of your future life partner. You never know. Have fun and be open to the possibilities.
4. Take it Seriously
You wouldn’t show up for a job interview unprepared, poorly dressed and late. The same should be true for a date. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying a date is the same as a job interview but I am saying that you should take it just as seriously as one. Your date has agreed to put himself or herself in an awkward position because he or she thought you were worth the chance. Show that you respect your date’s time and that you care enough to put some effort into your experience together. It matters.
Make TailDating a regular pre-dating ritual and you will find that dating is no longer the stressful, anxiety-inducing chore it once was. Invest a little time in yourself before you go out to maximize your chances of making a genuine connection with real lasting power. To learn more about TailDating and more mindful dating strategies, check out Seeking Soulmate: Ditch the Dating Game and Find Real Connection. Happy Dating!