Getting a first date on the calendar is a great accomplishment. Whether you met on a dating app, in class, or at Starbucks, you’ve successfully charmed the person you’re interested in into agreeing to go out with you, and that’s a victory in itself. You should be proud of that. You’ve successfully gotten over the first hurtle—now you have to look ahead to what comes next.
What can you do to make sure that your first dates turn into second dates? A lot of things, actually.
Here are 7 of the best first date tips for men:
1. Dress to impress.
They may be comfortable, but wrinkled shirts and ratty jeans are just not an attractive look. No one wants a date who looks like he just rolled out of bed. I know we’re all told growing up that you can’t judge a book by its cover and it’s what’s inside that truly counts, but appearances do count for something. Especially on a first date. You’re meeting each other for the first time, and the expectation is that you want to impress each other—so put on a clean shirt and run a comb through your hair.
When you show up to a first date looking your best, you’re indicating that you care about that person’s opinion and want them to like you. Plus, if you can get your date to notice your best physical features, that’s always going to be a win for you.
2. Be on time (or 15 minutes early).
The whole point of a first date is to make a good impression. So show up on time. Not only is it good manners, it’s good dating strategy. You don’t want your dates waiting around for you and wishing they hadn’t agreed to go out with you in the first place. Arriving 15 minutes early can help you avoid any hard feelings and ensure the first date starts on a good note.
Going to a date early can also make you appear well-prepared and thoughtful. If you’re meeting at a movie theater, you can get in line and get tickets. If you’re meeting for a coffee date, you can scout out the area and pick a quiet place to sit. Wherever you go, you should get there early enough to make the necessary arrangements to help everything run smoothly once your date arrives (hopefully on time).
3. Ask good questions and listen to your date’s answers.
You definitely don’t want to usurp the conversation on a first date, so it’s important to ask good questions to get the ball rolling. From “Are you close with your family?” to “Ever get a tattoo?” these questions can help you start a conversation and establish common interests or values. Listen closely to what your date says because that’s going to tell you a lot about that person. By asking follow-up questions and showing you’re paying attention, you can quickly get in your love interest’s good graces.
4. Don’t be shy about giving a compliment.
Compliments aren’t cheesy, and they do work. Sometimes a person has put a lot of thought and effort into what he or she wears on a first date, and it’s nice to have a date recognize that.
The compliment will go over even better if you make it specific. As in, “I really like that necklace you have on” or “Your nail polish is a pretty color.” Noticing those details is more flattering than giving out a generic line.
5. Decide who’s paying before the check arrives.
No one likes to be put on the spot, so don’t wait until the last minute to discuss how to split the bill. It’s better to get that conversation out of the way early. That way, you both know what to expect and don’t have to dance around the issue (or feel guilty for ordering a steak).
Personally, I like it when a guy states upfront what he prefers to do about paying for a date. Let’s get rid of the guessing games! We’re all adults, right? If you’re planning to pay for your date, you can include that in your invitation: “Hey, do you want to get dinner sometime? My treat!” Or you can wait until you’re there in person and say, “Drinks are on me” or “By the way, would you mind splitting the check?” You can skip a lot of unnecessary uncertainty and anxiety by being straightforward about your paying preferences and asking for your date’s input at the outset of your date.
6. Read the signals to decide if you should kiss or hug at the end of the night.
You can often tell by a person’s body language if the date is going well. If your date is leaning toward you and making eye contact, that’s a good sign. If they’re looking at the clock and don’t seem to be listening to what you’re saying, that’s a bad sign. Picking up on these cues can help you determine if you should go for a kiss, a hug, or just a polite goodbye when the night is over.
Of course, even if the date goes well, not everyone feels comfortable kissing on a first date, so you’ll probably have to play it by ear. The 2005 movie “Hitch” offered a good rule of thumb for guys wondering whether to go for a kiss—look for fiddling keys. A date who lingers outside in a parking lot or on a driveway is most likely waiting to be kissed. Not sure you’re reading it right? Then just ask! There’s nothing wrong with getting your date’s consent before you swoop in for a kiss.
7. Follow up after the date. (You don’t have to wait three days.)
Last of all, if you had a good time on your first date, then you should be proactive about getting in touch and setting up a second date. And, no, you don’t have to wait that standard three days. In fact, because of the prevalence of dating apps, you may lose your shot with someone if you take three days to send a follow-up message. Who knows how many other guys your date has swiped on while you played hard to get?
Go ahead and send a quick text saying you had a good time and ask when you can meet up for date number two. Otherwise you may not see that person again.
If you want to impress a date, be responsive, be enthusiastic, and—I know it’s incredibly corny—be yourself. Genuine people make excellent dates because, especially in the age of swiping and ghosting, it’s a relief to take a break from all the game playing and just have a good conversation with someone special.