Let's be honest here: it takes a long time to get to know someone well. But first, you have to want to get to know them. And that's why the choices you make both before and during a first date are so important. This could be the beginning of something very special. Or it could be a complete waste of time. Impress your date from the outset, of course, and you'll increase the likelihood of it being a success.
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In fact, you can form a meaningful bond within just four minutes of meeting, according to a study at Stanford University. Researchers analysed the conversation of couples during nearly 1,000 speed-dating encounters to find out why some of them felt connected after these brief meetings and others didn't.
Find out about the common dating mistakes to avoid
Choose your words carefully
Their findings? It's not just down to physical attraction: words really matter. Women in particular reported 'clicking' with men who used appreciative or sympathetic language. And perhaps more surprisingly, nobody seemed to mind being interrupted – as long as the interruption was used to indicate understanding and engagement, rather than an attempt to change the subject.
Firing off a lot of questions tended to receive a negative response, however. You may feel you're displaying a healthy interest in your date by asking him about his family, career and favourite breakfast cereal. But it can seem more like an interrogation. So try to tone down your inner Jeremy Paxman and allow the conversation to flow. Interestingly, successful dates were often associated with women being the focal point of the conversation.
Find out about the five things you should never ask on a first date
Let's talk about you...
So which topics should you avoid on a first date? 'Never talk about an ex-partner,' warns dating and relationship coach Genevieve Zawada from top London introduction agency Elect Club. 'Don't talk about work too much either. It's fine to say what you do for a job, but dwell on the subject for too long and you run the risk of turning the date into a business meeting or interview. Instead, talk about things that make you happy – great holidays, your family or your proudest achievements.'
It's generally accepted that you should steer clear of potentially controversial topics such as religion or politics on a first date. But if they're a big part of who you are – maybe you're a church-goer or active member of a political party, for example – why hide it? While it's probably not a good idea to deliver a sermon or launch into an impassioned speech about local government cuts while you're waiting for your desserts to arrive, there's really no harm in talking about your main interests. In fact, it's to be encouraged.
Read our first date conversation tips
Be on your best behaviour
It's not just words that matter, though. Manners go a long way, too. 'Remember to make eye contact when you first meet,' Zawada advises. 'Shake hands or give your date a light peck on the cheek. Don't yawn or check your watch during the date. If you're really that tired or bored, make a polite excuse and go home! And put your mobile phone away. If you have to check for urgent messages, do so in the bathroom.'
Of course, presentation is also key – which brings us on to the age-old quandary of what to wear. 'Always find out where you're going and check out the dress code beforehand,' suggests Zawada. 'While it's important to look your best, do try to keep things simple. Choose an outfit that suits your shape and sense of style. And if you're going on a date straight from work, get changed first. You won't feel comfortable if you go on a date in the same clothes you've been wearing all day.'
A final tip from Zawada? 'Don't be tempted to overdo your make-up. In a recent survey of Elect Club members, more than 90 per cent of men said they prefer a more natural look – so keep things fresh and light.'
Ultimately, it's important to be yourself. Remember, your aim is to convey the best version of yourself – not pretend to be someone you're not. Be relaxed and friendly and just see where it leads. And if things don't work out? At least you know you gave it your best shot.
Find out how to dress for a first date
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