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Conquer first date nerves

Jane Murphy / 03 May 2016

It's natural to feel a little nervous and tongue-tied before a first date. So what can you do to overcome your nerves and start to relax and enjoy yourself?

Couple on a first date
Find out how to overcome your nerves before a first date.

Heading out on a first date is a nerve-wracking affair – particularly if you're meeting one another in person for the first time after meeting through an online dating website or through a friend. What will you talk about? What if it turns out you have nothing in common? What if he or she takes one look at you and runs away? (A word to the wise here: they won't!)

Still, if you're prone to shyness anyway, those first-date nerves can often seem overwhelming. Indeed, extreme shyness – otherwise known as social anxiety – is one of the most common anxiety disorders, according to the NHS. But one tactic is to stop talking about shyness and nerves, and put another label on your emotions instead.

Read our first date conversation tips

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Replace nerves with excitement

'Of course, you're feeling nervous about dating again – but at the same time, try to recognise how close nervousness is to excitement,' says confidence expert Jo Wilson. 'Wouldn't it be better to feel excited instead? Imagine your first date going as well as it possibly could and think how wonderful that would be. Remember, it's really just about chatting to someone, seeing what you have in common and whether there's any kind of spark.'

You'll also feel more empowered if you take the time to work out what you want from this experience. Don't just focus on what you need to do to impress your date. What does he need to do to win you over? 'It's important to be clear about what you want here,' Wilson insists. 'Are you looking for company? A good laugh? Passion? A long-term relationship? What's important to you about the man you're meeting, in terms of looks, interests, values and ethics? Which are essential and which are just nice-to-haves?'

Do you know when you have found 'The One'?

Make sure you're organised

Feeling a little more positive now? Good. Preparation is key here – and there are plenty more practical steps you can take in advance to ensure you're feeling as relaxed as possible when you actually meet.

Now is the perfect opportunity, for example, to stop communicating by email or text, and conquer your phone phobia. 'Speak to your date to confirm arrangements on the day you're meeting,' advises dating and relationship coach Genevieve Zawada from top London introduction agency Elect Club. 'Actually hearing someone's voice can serve as an ice-breaker and help alleviate any nerves. Then make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get ready so you don't end up rushing.'

And while we're on the subject of getting ready, a quick word on what to wear: opt for your 'confidence uniform'. You know the one? The outfit that makes you feel good about yourself as soon as you put it on, rather than something that simply looked good in the wardrobe or on somebody else. 'It's also a good idea to wear shoes that are comfortable, as well as stylish, in case you end up going for a walk,' adds Zawada.

Find out about dressing for a first date

Shift the focus from yourself

Don't attempt to conquer your pre-date nerves with alcohol: turning up tipsy is never a good idea! Likewise, try not to gulp back the wine while you size up the situation when you arrive. There's a thin line between feeling comfortable and losing control – and you certainly don't want to cross it!

Instead, a good way to stop feeling shy and self-conscious is to shift the focus away from yourself by asking about your date. But don't subject your date to a barrage of questions, and do steer away from sensitive topics, such as past relationships. After all, for the date to be a success, your date needs to feel comfortable and relaxed, too. And do make sure you listen to their answers rather than lining up the next question. Your aim here is to identify some common ground – and then the conversation will naturally flow.

Finally, do keep things in perspective. If it doesn't work out and you decide not to meet again, simply chalk it down to experience and move on. But if things look promising and you arrange a second date, and then a third, and then a fourth, who knows? Before too long, maybe you'll look back on that first meeting and laugh at how shy you once were.

Find out the five things you should never ask on a first date

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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