Confidence is one of the most appealing traits in a prospective date: both men and women rate it very highly, according to researchers at Arizona State University.
Even so, it's often difficult to feel confident – or even pretend to feel confident – when you're on a first date, especially if you're dipping your toes in the dating pool for the first time in a while. So we asked the experts for their best morale-boosting advice...
Find love online with Saga Dating and save 25% when you subscribe today
1. Don't forget to breathe!
'Calm your mind by focusing on your breathing,' says yoga teacher and life coach Smita Joshi. 'Deepen your inhalation and exhale slowly and smoothly. Draw the breath a little deeper into the body each time you inhale, relaxing your belly, to allow the exhalation to become even slower and longer. This will also clear space for your date to be at ease in your presence.'
2. Look your date in the eye
'While you don't want to stare him down, you do want to demonstrate your interest,' says executive coach and body language expert Elizabeth Kuhnke. 'Wandering eyes are a giveaway when it comes to showing your nerves, too.'
Find out how to choose the best location for a first date
3. Focus on the other person
'Remember, your date may be feeling as nervous as you are,' Kuhnke reminds us. 'Get him speaking about himself. An interested person is perceived as interesting – plus the more you learn about him, the more equipped you'll be to decide if you want to build a relationship or let this one go. Ask questions, without interrogating, and avoid interrupting or “one-upping” with stories of your own.'
4. Clench your buttocks
Yes, really – but only if your nerves are visibly kicking in. Communications coach Robin Kermode explains: 'Squeezing your buttocks or upper thighs together is a quick trick to prevent yourself from physically shaking. It also removes any tension that's sitting in the chest or throat area, so the conversation can flow more freely.'
5. Open up
'If your arms and legs are tightly crossed, you immediately look and feel uncomfortable and aloof,' says Kermode. 'So sit facing your date, with your chest squarely open. This will instantly make you appear warm and approachable.'
6. Do your groundwork
'If your confidence is really low before your date, it can help to write down a list of all your successes and achievements,' says dating entrepreneur Saskia Nelson. 'Remind yourself what's great about you – even if you haven't been feeling at the top of your game recently. This will get you in the right mindset to go on your date with your head held high.'
7. Be inventive
'Meeting for a coffee or glass of wine might seem like a good idea, but it can easily lead to poor body language and flat conversation,' warns Susie Lane, matchmaker at Mutual Attraction. 'Instead, consider doing something fun together where there's less pressure to come up with topics to discuss. A game of mini-golf or a walk around your local farmers' market naturally provides plenty to chat about and is much less formal, so will help you to relax.'
8. Never trust the back of a chair
'You can easily end up leaning too far back, which tightens the throat and restricts the voice,' explains Kermode. 'Instead, lean slightly forward in your seat. You'll look and feel more dynamic and engaged.'
9. Act 'as if'
'If you're feeling shy, nervous or uncomfortable, pretend to be the person you want to be,' suggests Kuhnke. 'Think of a time when you felt confident, for example. What physical sensations did you experience? How did your voice sound? The more you recall, the more you'll be able to recreate the feelings and sensations that will inform your behaviour. You don't have to feel confident to act confident – but as others respond respond positively to you, your confidence levels will rise.'
10. Treat it as a learning experience
'If you get on well... great,' says confidence expert Jo Wilson. 'But if you realise this person's not for you, make your excuses and leave, then think about what you can take away from the experience. Have you discovered anything new you need to add to your list of essential requirements for your next relationship?'