It’s easy to imagine the person you’re about to meet is calm, cool and collected while you’re feeling anything but. Relax – chances are that you’re both feeling apprehensive and a little anxious. What’s important to remember is that it won’t last, provided you’ve got some strategies to get through it.
Feeling nervous, apprehensive or even anxious about a first date is perfectly natural. After all, we’re putting our whole selves out there to be judged. Our appearance, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses – it’s no wonder we feel vulnerable. We’ve compiled a few strategies so you can conquer first date nerves and enjoy getting to know your potential partner instead.
Strategy #1: Stop thinking about how you’re going to handle yourself and begin to think about your date.
People who have successful dates don’t necessarily have an absence of nerves; it’s more likely they’ve just learnt how to control them, and that genuine curiosity gets the better of them. According to Kashdan & Steger, highly curious people are more likely to enjoy the process of exploring new situations and to derive meaning from them. This is why it’s important to start thinking about your date in detail, rather than trying to think how you’re going to control your nerves. What do you know about them? What aspects of their life interest you the most? What would you like to explore further? You can still be nervous and successfully navigate a good, meaty conversation.
Conversation topics can really set the tone of a date as well. You can set limits and boundaries for yourself in advance in order to avoid things that make you uncomfortable or enhance feelings of nervousness. Perhaps it’s a past relationship, or a painful recent event. If you’re not ready to discuss something that you think may come up, prepare an answer that you’re happy with in advance, which brings us to strategy number two:
#2: It’s okay to set boundaries.
When you’re meeting a potential partner for the first time, there’s nothing wrong with deflecting. There’s a big difference between dishonesty and deflecting, and until you’re investing more than a few dates in each other, there’s no obligation to disclose a nasty breakup, a family fight, a medical condition, or financial troubles. Just for now, put it to one side and enjoy yourself.
You may be an incredibly interesting person full of insight and experience, but assume that’s also the case with your date.
Strategy #3: Decide you’re going to learn something from your date.
This plan will also help take the focus away from your own insecurities and prompt you to figure out a way to really get inside their head. Try to understand how they think and why they reach certain conclusions. Getting a little bit cerebral will keep the conversation flowing nicely, will show you’re interested, and will go a long way to keep the nerves at bay.
Finding a comfortable setting is important for controlling your nerves, so make sure you’re going somewhere you feel safe and relaxed.
Strategy #4: Find some common ground – geographically.
Presumably you have chosen to date each other because of shared interests or values, so bonding early over music tastes, social settings and cuisines is one way to establish common ground before you’ve even started, and also serves as an important way to present your personality. If fine dining makes you nervous at the best of times or if loud music gives you a headache, make an alternative suggestion. If all goes well, there’s plenty of time for compromise.
Part of feeling nervous arises from the idea that everything could go horribly wrong. For some, this will just be the realisation that you might lose a few precious hours from your weekend, but others view a bad date as a personal reflection of their failures.
Strategy #5: Remember your successes.
Being anxious and nervous about a first date can induce negative self-talk that exacerbates your feelings. Recognise fear for what it is – a powerful recall of our ability to fail – and fight it with memories of your successes. Look at photographs and other reminders of times you were happy, successful, relaxed and thriving. Feel that easy confidence return, and take it with you along with your curiosity, your personal boundaries, your eagerness to learn, and your general sense of comfort.