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How to be Charming on a Date (or in a New Relationship) -Jen Zajac M.S., IMF

So you have a date- regardless of your gender, and if you were asked or did the asking, it’s likely you have some pre-date butterflies. We all have a desire to be perceived in our best light, and the pressure of ‘getting everything right’ on our first impression (or first few impressions) can be stressful. It’s human to want to be liked, and many often fret about saying the wrong thing or coming across the wrong way (especially if we have already established that we do indeed have an interest in the other party). The following can give you some positive pointers on making a good impression, but I want to stress the importance of being YOU. It’s natural to want to be your best self, but also being genuine scores the most points.

Think back to some of your previous dates and who you perceived to be ‘charming’. What characteristics did they have, or what did they say, to make your feel special or cause you to be interested in them? I tend to find that the most charming dates where those that showed sincere, genuine interest in getting to know their date, and gave them their full attention. It makes sense- we all want to be appreciated, and with our busy and distracted lives, we feel the most valued when someone makes a effort to give us their undivided time. Here are some pointers to make your date feel ‘charmed’:

  • Give genuine (and not just superficial) compliments: Sure, everyone likes to hear that they look nice, but a slightly deeper compliment carries more weight. Complimenting someone on their dedication, motivation, commitment to a cause, hard work, etc. is more validating on a deeper level.

  • Everyone’s favorite topic is themself: Ask questions. Ask lots of questions. It’s likely that they will reciprocate, and this shows a genuine interest in wanting to get to know the other person. Most are flattered when their date shows a desire to learn about things the other cares about.

  • No distractions: being attentive and respectful to your date means keeping outside distractions to a minimum. Turn off your cell or put it on vibrate, and if you run into someone you know, introduce your date and keep it brief. Nothing says “you’re not important” than taking a phone call or catching up with someone you run into when you are supposed to have get-to-know-you time. If you are expecting an important call, give your date a heads-up ahead of time.

  • Show that you’re listening: Besides being attentive, making eye contact, and asking your date to elaborate on particular points, showing that you are retaining the information they share is an eloquent way to non-verbally state that you care. Some of biggest ‘charmers’ I met where ones that were able to pick out a restaurant, movie, gift (maybe a bit farther down the line), or ask about some friend, situation, cause, or family member I had mentioned previously. I felt so flattered and valued that they had retained those details.

  • Be genuine: Showing your date some pieces of vulnerability at times actually elicits compassion and connection. Were you bummed when you didn’t get the job you wanted? It’s ok to state your disappointment. Were you heart-broken when you lost your dog? You don’t need to act tough the whole time. Part of being charming is being real- it’s harder to relate to a “perfect” person that has it all together.

  • Empathize: If your date just shared something that was important to them, or had an impact on their lives, be sure they feel acknowledged. You don’t need to overdo it, but bushing past something when they just disclosed an intimate piece of them self can come across as uncomfortable. If you want them to continue to share, help them feel like their disclosures are valued.

  • Reciprocate with even levels of disclosure: Is the conversation light? No need to dive in deep about personal issues. The natural way people build trust is sharing small pieces of personal information, the other responds or reciprocates, and the process continues in small circles, each sharing a level deeper. You don’t need to go down to the deepest level the first few times you meet someone- if there is interest and your relationship continues, you will naturally build trust and share more. If you feel that you have have a pattern of mistrust, past trauma, or blocks that prevent you from getting close or attached to others, you may want to seek counseling to help you work though some deeper issues and enable you to reconnect to others. For more information or to schedule an appointment, click here.

Again, always remember to be yourself. If you would like to be witty or clever, for example, but that’s not necessary who you are, a first date may not be time to first try it out. Focus instead on building a solid foundation of mutual respect and trust. New relationships are exciting and thrilling, so don’t forget to have fun!

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