17 Expert-Approved First Date Tips to Leave a Lasting Impression

Being yourself can be easier said than done.
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
The Knot Contributor
  • Heather contributes wedding, honeymoon, travel and relationship content for The Knot and WeddingWire.
  • Heather also writes for publications including Apartment Therapy, StyleBlueprint, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles and The Everygirl.
  • She holds a degree in Art History and Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Updated Feb 16, 2024

Most people have a go-to first date routine. Try on a few outfits, eat a quick snack, maybe Google your date's name one last time. Perhaps you text your friends for their best first date tips or scroll through Instagram looking for advice from matchmakers. You're hoping to get that pre-date confidence boost that will let you be your best self on the date, and you're keeping your fingers crossed that this could go from one fun night into something more.

And no matter how many first dates you go on or how many first date pointers you store in your back pocket, it's a new adventure each and every time. From deciding whether you share a sense of humor to scoping out the chemistry, every date brings with it an opportunity for a great story, whether it's good, bad or entertaining.

But the experts have a few tips to share on how to have a good first date, including how to be yourself, how to be an excellent conversationalist (even when your date is more reserved!), and, of course, what not to do on a first date. Here are the 17 best first date tips to take with you next time you swipe right.

In this article:

The Best First Date Tips

Going into any first date, the most important thing to remember is there's a human on the other side of the table. That adds a level of unpredictability to any interaction, but you can always show up as your best self.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

You want to look your best, but your best should also be easy to wear. If you're tugging at a shirt or adjusting your skirt, you're going to be more concerned with what you look like than the person sitting next to you. "Consider wearing comfortable clothes. As they say, don't wear tight shoes to the dentist, aka don't make an uncomfortable situation more uncomfortable for no reason," says Samantha Grimes, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Choose a Fun Activity

"Pick a fun activity to engage in instead of a meal," recommends Grimes. "It will create a memory and give you things to talk about, making awkward silences less awkward." Even something as simple as a walk in a busy park can give you material to chat about.

Know Your Boundaries Ahead of Time

If you want to kiss on the first date, do it! But also know what your boundaries are before you put yourself in the situation.

"Set some policies for yourself in advance that help you decide what you feel comfortable with, such as not inviting the person home or only meeting in a public place," recommends Amy Morin, Psychotherapist and Mental Strength Coach at Mentally Stronger. She explains that this can help you make decisions you'll feel good about, even if you're attracted in the moment or feel pressured to do things you wouldn't normally do.

Go Into a First Date with Curiosity

Everyone brings something different to the (literal) table, and, if you approach a first date as an opportunity to learn something about somebody new, you'll always bring a good energy to your dates.

Have Conversation Topics at the Ready

It's inevitable that you'll encounter awkward silences at some point in your dating career, so conversation topics are always helpful to have on hand. "While you don't want to script the entire date, having a few conversation topics in mind can help keep the discussion flowing smoothly," explains Dr. Deborah Gilman, Owner and Chief Licensed Psychologist at Fox Chapel Psychological Services. She advises talking about travel, hobbies and other lighthearted topics. "To take things deeper, ask about their favorite childhood memory or the book that had the biggest impact on them."

Share Your Unique Self

The point of a date is to get to know each other, so be honest and genuine about the things that make you uniquely you. "Talk about the things you love, fun things you like to do and the positive aspects of your life," advises Morin.

Don't Be Afraid to State Opinions

While lighter topics are the typical first date fare, don't be afraid to speak up when it feels authentic. "Share your thoughts, opinions and stories without hesitation. Confident individuals are better able to handle any unexpected turns in the conversation with grace and composure," says Gilman.

Look For What's Right, Not What's Wrong

"Learn to see what you can appreciate about a person rather than what you can't," says Ronald Hoang of Ronald Hoang Marriage Counseling & Family Therapy. Everyone can find things to nitpick in someone else on a first date, but it'll be a better date if, instead, you look for the things you like about this person. You don't have to compromise on deal breakers, but it can make any interaction more enjoyable to look for the positive.

Notice Physical Cues

"Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate discomfort or disinterest in a particular topic or activity. If your date expresses discomfort or disinterest, gracefully shift gears and find something else to discuss or do," says Gilman. Just like you'd hope your date respects your boundaries, give them the same respect.

Be Flexible

Whether the restaurant isn't what you hoped or your outdoor plans got rained out, being flexible speaks volumes about you and your date as people. "Being open to spontaneous changes or adjustments to the date itinerary shows you can make the most of an experience," says Gilman.

What Not to Do On a First Date

While being authentic is key and the hope is always that the conversation will flow naturally, there are a few things you can do to help put the other person at ease.

Don't Put Too Much Pressure On It

A first date is not the be all and end all. It may go well, it may not, so don't put too much pressure on it. "This is a chance to get to know each other, not to plan your future together. Keep an open mind and focus on enjoying the experience," says Gilman.

Don't Drink Too Much

"Excessive alcohol consumption can impair judgment and lead to embarrassing or regrettable behavior. Pace yourself and know your limits," advises Gilman. Decide on a one or two drink limit, and stick to it. You can easily switch to a non-alcoholic cocktail midway through the night.

Don't Overshare

While sharing is important, there's a line that you shouldn't cross on a first date. "Avoid sharing your traumas, your problems and your stories about past relationships on a first date," explains Morin. These are topics that should come up later as you build trust.

Don't Let It Be a One-Sided Conversation

A date shouldn't be an interview, and it shouldn't consist of one person asking all the questions. Make sure it's a conversation where you're both participating. If your date isn't reciprocating, you may want to move on to the next don't…

Don't Go In Without an Exit Strategy

"While you hope for the best, it's wise to have an exit strategy just in case," explains Gilman. "Remember, you're not obligated to stay if you're uncomfortable." Go in with an easy excuse — a phone date with a friend, an errand you need to run — and you'll never feel like you're squirming in your seat wondering how you get out of there.

Don't Ignore Your Intuition

"On the date, try to notice how you feel in your body. Sensations like an elevated heart rate, flushed or hot skin, digestive discomfort or a tendency to fidget can be clues that you aren't feeling completely comfortable with the person you're seeing," says Grace DeVoll, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist at Grace DeVoll Marriage and Family Therapy Corporation. If you're not feeling it — or you are — listen to that intuition.

Don't Forget to Follow Up

If the date goes well, don't forget to follow up! A quick thank you text lets the other person know you had a good time and saves them the stress of wondering whether you two are on the same page. Reference something from the evening for bonus points with your date.

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