You’ve found a promising prospect. You’ve chatted online a bit. You’ve decided to take the plunge and meet in person. You’ve settled on a nice little coffee shop downtown. Now what are you going to do when you get there?
Everyone wants to make a great first impression, whether you’re applying for a job, meeting a client, or meeting a hopeful dating partner, because a bad first impression is hard to recover from. While it’s a good idea to be dressed neatly, to be clean, to be on time, and to be friendly, the most important advice, often overlooked in the dating world, is to be yourself.
If you’ve ventured into online dating because you want to meet a casual partner for temporary fun, then it doesn’t hurt to lay on the charm and your best pickup lines. But if you’re looking for a partner, someone to spend time with, laugh with, and maybe love, you’re only wasting your time and the other person’s time by presenting a slick and charming, but false, front. So what on earth do you talk about with someone you’ve never met?
Presumably you’ve already gotten to know each other’s basic statistics through online messages. If not, it doesn’t hurt to spend some time on the fundamentals: profession, education, hobbies, kids. If you find something there that you have in common, run with it. The goal of a first date is really to find out if there is a possibility of a second and third date. You don’t have to be concerned with getting to know the person’s deep thoughts, motivations, morals, and hangups. That takes time and that’s what an ongoing relationship is for.
If silence falls, media can always be a reliable fallback. Ask about movies, bands, websites or books your date enjoys, and see if there is some common ground there. Even if your date hated your favorite movie, a discussion of your conflicting passions can ignite sparks and lively conversation.
Keep the subjects of your conversation broad and varied. What you’re looking for is a “hit,” a common interest or hobby that you might potentially share with your date on your next meeting. Do you both enjoy games? Suggest a chess or Scrabble match in the park next weekend, or an online throw-down of the latest 3-D reality game. Is your date outdoorsy? An easy hike to a picnic ground near town is a perfect second date.
How do you spend your free time? How does your date spend her or his free time? Even if you both spend most evenings watching television and being bored, you might spend your next boring evening on the couch watching “American Idol” with your date by your side, rooting for the same star or playfully arguing over the next train wreck to be sent home.
Try to ask questions more than you tell stories. Think about the person you are about to meet. What was it about the dating profile, questions that person answered, or something in an email that made you want to know more? Showing an interest in those things will really count when you’re in an intimate, in-person talk.
Conversely, if during your conversation your date doesn’t ask anything about you, but instead prattles on endlessly about himself or herself, you might ask yourself what you would get out of such a one-sided relationship. You’re both there to get to know each other. Strive for balance. Plan your next date on what your date would enjoy, but what you would enjoy too. That’s a plan for dating success.