Does the thought of going on a first date make you kinda nervous? Does your memory of the last one make you cringe with embarrassment? Maybe you don’t know what to do on a first date? Maybe you lack first date ideas? If so, you’re not alone. Few people find dating simple and straightforward, even (and perhaps especially) in the age of Tinder and Match.com.
The good news is that, with the right strategy, you can avoid some of the more common pitfalls and anxieties. Going on a date will be something to look forward to rather than dread.
Blue ocean strategy is a strategic framework for creating an uncontested market space and making the competition irrelevant. But apart from its application in business, it can be just as easily applied to personal lives. One of the tools we utilized to come up with first date tips here is called the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create (ERRC) grid, developed by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, the authors of a global bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy. Creating value is as much about eliminating and reducing what the prospective customers (in this case, your date!) don’t value, as it is about raising and creating what they might find worthwhile.
Approach first dates like a blue ocean strategist and stand apart from your competition.
We had some fun and applied the ERRC grid to first dates. Here’s what we came up for first date advice. See if you agree.
First Date Tips
Follow these tips and having a great first date will be more than just a dream. You’ll stand out from the crowd of me-too dates. These work as first date tips for men and women alike.
1. Don’t overcomplicate things
The first date with someone you know little or nothing about is full of uncertainty. Don’t make things more complicated by trying to arrange the perfect romantic dinner, or planning a whole day out. Instead, keep things short and simple. A cup of coffee in a central location will make it clear fast if your date is someone you would like to spend more time with. And if things go well, the coffee could turn into a lunch or dinner, adding some spontaneity into the mix.
2. Don’t stress unnecessarily
A bit of anxiety is natural on a first date – in fact, it’s half the fun. But you’ll want to eliminate the kind of stress that will make you flustered and your date uncomfortable. Remember, the more relaxed you feel, the more comfortable your date will be around you. One simple trick is to sit at a right angle to your date rather than face them directly. This takes the pressure off trying to fill every pause in the conversation, and you can both do a bit of people-watching instead.
3. Cut down the texting, and meet in person
The conversation might have started on an app or a website, but it shouldn’t stay there for too long. Texting can certainly give you a sense of another person, but to really get to know each other, you need more than messages on a screen: facial expressions, body language and tone of voice are just as important. So don’t waste time on a virtual relationship – go out there and meet the real person behind the words.
4. Prepare some first date topics
You might ask, how to prepare for a first date?
You wouldn’t go for a job interview without preparing in advance, so why should a first date be any different? Think about some good first date questions you could ask, and some interesting answers to the questions that may come your way. Don’t treat the first date like an actual interview, though, or you’ll set alarm bells ringing.
What to talk about on a first date?
Here are some example first date topics and conversation starters that will help get you on the right track:
- Admit you’re nervous! Honesty will get you a long way.
- Favorite food. Everyone can talk about food and there’s always a story to tell or interesting questions to ask about memorable dishes, things you like to cook, etc.
- Favorite movies. Like food, everyone has preferences, favorite genres, actors, etc. This is a great topic to quickly establish if you have the same taste in entertainment.
For some more great first date topics and questions, see this article.
Remember that good first date questions are just as important as answers. In fact, your focus should be less on what to talk about on a first date and more on listening well and making the other person comfortable. To that end, avoid sensitive topics related to sex or money. Asking how much the other person earns or why their last relationship ended are not good questions to ask on a first date.
5. Boost your confidence
People love to be around confident people. And body language is a powerful signal that will tell your date a lot about you. One way to boost your confidence is to do a bit of ‘power posing’ in advance. This means standing for a few minutes in an assertive posture, hands on hips (think of a superhero), so as to trick the brain into feeling more confident. Just don’t do it on the date itself, or you’ll look ridiculous.
6. Up your listening game
We all love to talk about ourselves – but don’t assume your date finds you as interesting as you do. In fact, making it all about you sends the wrong signals. On the other hand, you can’t just switch off and leave all the talking to your date – that’s also a recipe for failure. The trick is to listen intelligently and respond appropriately, such as when we summarize a point and ask a follow-up question, e.g., “So, you spend three months in Argentina, how was that?”
7. Create a strong first impression
First impressions count. It only takes a few seconds for someone to form an opinion about you based on your appearance and demeanor. A great way to make a positive first impression is to smile. Smiling is one of the habits of likable people, a sign of happiness and a trainable skill. By smiling more, not only will you start feeling better, you will also project some of that positivity onto those around you. It’s all about those good vibes!
Also, take some time to dress well, but stay true to your usual style, and dress appropriately for the occasion. You wouldn’t turn up to a cafe in a tuxedo, but neither should you turn up to a cocktail party in shorts and t-shirt.
8. Be true to yourself
Dating in the 21st century can feel like a competition, and perhaps it has always been that way. But too often we measure our worth against those we perceive to be ‘winning’, with the result that we try to imitate and improve on what others are doing instead of finding our own way.
But dating shouldn’t be about winners and losers. It’s about finding someone you connect with and care about; someone who makes you happy and who you can make happy in return. This is only possible when you stay true to yourself and let your authenticity shine through.
9. Complete your successful first date with the right follow-up
What to do after the first date?
So you felt a connection, the conversation flowed and you had lots of things in common. Terrific. Now what? A successful first date is only as good as the follow-up, and this means arranging another meeting. You could do this right away, but it’s probably better not to put someone on the spot.
What to say after first date?
Why not send a message soon after just to say what a great time you had, and suggest a time and place to meet again. Don’t expect an immediate response, and don’t be impatient or else you’ll seem desperate. Remember, if you went into your first date with a smile, a bit of confidence, and a willingness to listen, then you’ve probably already set yourself apart from the competition.
Perhaps the most important thing, though, is to remember that success in dating, as in life, doesn’t come handed to you on a plate. If your first date didn’t work out, don’t let it get you down, but learn from the experience, get creative, and draw up a new strategy. Remember, there’s plenty more fish in the sea. In fact, there’s a whole blue ocean out there.
With this strategic first date advice in mind, going on a date will be a breeze!
The Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create (ERRC) Grid is just one of the many blue ocean tools that you can use in your business or life to stand out from the crowd.
To learn about the other tools and the fundamentals of blue ocean strategy, consider taking the Blue Ocean Strategy Online Course (see below).
Also, check out the other resources below.