How to make a good impression on a first date
Respecting boundaries, communicating clearly and keeping consent in mind are important things that will help you to make a good impression on a first date.
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Getting ready for a first date can be both exciting and daunting. When you are preparing to meet your date for the first time, you might be anxious about what they will think of you, what you will talk about and what to wear. Having some anxiety before a first date is completely normal. It’s likely that the person you are meeting is feeling the same way.
Planning an exciting activity and dressing up for the occasion can be nice. However, the most important thing that you can do to make a good impression is to respect the other person.
Share the decision-making
Being respectful of the person you plan to meet starts well before your date even begins. When it comes to deciding what to do and where to go on your first date, it’s important to offer the other person the opportunity to share the decision-making. Ask them if there is anywhere in particular that they would prefer to go. They might offer to leave the decision up to you, and if so, that’s ok. However, it is always important to give the other person the chance to weigh in on what the first date will look like. Otherwise, you might risk planning a date that is neither comfortable nor enjoyable for them.
Even if the person you’re dating does leave the decision to you, be mindful of what is appropriate and comfortable for your first meeting. For example, if the person you are dating does not enjoy drinking or loud environments, a bar might not be the best place to meet.
Say: “I want to make sure that we choose something that we will both enjoy. Do you have any preferences? If not, I can share some of my ideas with you and you can pick your favourite.”
Arrive without expectations
Before leaving for your date, you’ll probably be gathering up all of the essentials such as your phone, wallet and keys. No matter where you’re going and the items you bring, there’s one thing that you should leave behind when going on any first date: your expectations.
Regardless of how much you like the other person or how much time and money you put into planning your date, the person you are meeting does not owe you anything, nor do you owe them anything. Your idea of what a first date involves might look different to theirs and you need to honour that. If they decide that they would like to go home earlier than you had planned, it’s important to respect that. If they tell you that they do not want to meet again, that is their choice. A first date is simply an opportunity to get to know each other and nothing more.
Do: Approach the experience with an open mind.
Respect their boundaries
The limits of what does and doesn’t happen on the first (and every) date can only be decided by the two people who are meeting. You may have shared personal conversations and intimate moments during previous first dates, but that does not mean that you should expect the same on this one. This is true, regardless of whether you’re having a first date with a stranger, a friend of a friend or somebody that you’ve known for years.
There may be topics that you enjoy talking about, such as relationship history, family life and personal beliefs. However, these topics may be uncomfortable or triggering for the other person. If a conversation comes up and they express their wish to change the subject, avoid asking questions and simply move on to something else.
Before initiating any form of physical interaction, you must always get consent from the other person. This is the case for kissing and touching, as well as for sex. Consent can be expressed both verbally and physically – so it can be with words, as well as actions and body language. However, as everyone can interpret body language differently, it is best to always ask for clear verbal consent too. Remember, consent must always be enthusiastic, conscious and voluntary.
It’s also a good idea to consider your own boundaries. Even if you really like somebody, there may be limits as to what you want to talk about and do with them, and that’s okay. Boundaries set the guidelines for how you wish to be treated, and this is a good thing to communicate in the early stages of getting to know someone. It’s important to stay true to yourself and be honest about who you are and what you are comfortable with.
Respect their boundaries and say: “We can talk about something else if you prefer.”
Honour your boundaries and say things like: “I’m not comfortable with this conversation. Can we talk about something else?” and “I want to take things slowly, as I’m really enjoying getting to know you.”
Always keep consent in mind
If you and the other person decide to have sex, it’s important to maintain communication around consent and boundaries during your time together. Consent is not just a one-time discussion. It is about making sure your partner is comfortable at all times.
Remember that both you and the other person have the right to change your minds at any time. Neither of you has to continue with something if you are not comfortable with it. If the other person does not want to continue to have sex, or if they’re not comfortable doing certain things, you must respect their boundaries and stop. Be supportive but don’t guilt or pressure them into explaining their feelings to you if they would prefer not to.
Do: If you both to decide to have sex, continue to check in with the other person to make sure they are comfortable. Say things like ‘are you comfortable?’, ‘is this ok?’, ‘are you sure about this?’, ‘do you want to go further?’
Mind your alcohol intake
When you’re just getting to know somebody, you might feel that a few drinks will help you to relax, feel more confident and get the conversation going. It is certainly possible to enjoy some alcohol in a healthy and safe way during your first date. However, too much alcohol might lead you to do and say things that you would not do or say if you were sober. With that in mind, it is a good idea to watch your alcohol intake during your date.
It’s important to know your own limits when it comes to alcohol. Similarly, be mindful that the person you are dating has their own preferences and limits too. It’s likely that they will drink at a different pace to you, so don’t pressure them into keeping up.
If the other person gets drunk during the date, their inhibitions may be lowered and they might do things they would not do when sober. This is not something for you or anyone to take advantage of. You must remember that drinking can make it harder to make clear decisions and to give consent. If a person is completely intoxicated due to alcohol or other substances, they are not able to give consent. Any sexual activity with someone who doesn’t know what is going on is sexual assault.
Of course, there are plenty of things you can do on a first date that doesn’t involve alcohol. In fact, meeting one another while sober might help you get to know each other better.
Do: Drink water between alcoholic drinks and make sure you eat something before drinking alcohol.
Communication is key
When it comes to any relationship, no matter how new, good communication is always key. You can work on your communication skills before the first date even begins. Agreeing upon a clear place and time to meet is one of the first steps you’ll need to take before going on your date. If you are running late on the day or need to change plans, you should communicate this to your date clearly as soon as you can.
Being a good communicator doesn’t mean that you have to keep the conversation going. You might have first date nerves and struggle to find things to talk about. That is completely normal. Try not to feel like you have to fill in any silences. Even people who know each other well don’t talk all of the time.
Remember, communication isn’t just about what people have to say. It also involves being a good listener. You can make a good impression on a first date by listening to and showing interest in what the other person has to say.
Say: “I will meet you at the front door of the cafe at 3pm. I’m coming from work but, if I am running late, I will text you.”
The date is over and it’s time to go your separate ways, but avoid rushing home in a hurry. You can make a good impression on a first date by being considerate of the other person’s safety on their journey home. That doesn’t mean that you need to walk or drive them to their door. However, if you have not been drinking and both of you are comfortable with it, this could be an option. When the person you are dating is travelling home by bus or train, you could offer to wait with them until it arrives. They might say no and if this is the case, respect their wishes.
Say: “I would be more than happy to wait with you until your bus arrives, but completely understand if you would prefer to wait on your own.”
If the date went well and you feel it’s appropriate, it’s always good to check in with the other person within a few days of meeting. You might want to meet them again and there’s no harm in letting them know that. Yet, no matter how kind and interesting you were on the first date, it’s always possible that the other person won’t be keen on a second one. This can be very disappointing, particularly if you thought you had a shared positive experience. Try not to take this personally. We cannot be compatible with everyone. It’s important to respect one another’s feelings and if that means not seeing one another again, that’s ok. Learn from the experience and move on.
Similarly, it’s ok if you don’t want to see the other person again and you don’t need to tell them all of your reasons why this is the case. However, it is important to be clear, kind and respectful when letting them know that you are not interested in a second date.
Say: “I really enjoyed getting to know you yesterday, and would love to meet again if that is something that interests you too.” or “I really enjoyed getting to know you and you seem like a great person. However, I just didn’t feel a connection between us so I will have to say no to a second date.”
By arriving without expectations, respecting everyone’s boundaries, maintaining open communication and always keeping consent in mind, it is likely that both of you will have an enjoyable first date.