9923415175_ca73449910First dates seem to be more prevalent than ever. It’s easy to meet people online, where there are seemingly hundreds of matching services, and it’s possible to have first dates every night of the week, and then some.

First dates are the most important dates of all. The first impression is the most crucial one, and what you say and do during this first meeting, whether it’s for coffee or steak and eggs, will determine whether this date leads to others or falls flat on its smile. Often one errant action or comment can send the other person packing.

Here, then, are a few tips on what not to do or say on a first date.

1. Don’t go on about yourself. Talk about yourself if you are asked specific questions, but only answer those specific questions. Don’t start babbling or gurgling or boasting endlessly. Nothing can turn off a date more than if you are only interested in yourself or talk nervously or nonstop. Talk sparingly, and be interested in what your date has to say. Make it a primary point to have a two-way conversation!

2. Don’t try too hard. A date is not a job interview. Don’t try too hard to impress the other person, because this may only convey your insecurity. Just say, in as few words as possible, who you are and what you are interested in. You are both in this together, and you are each evaluating the other. Maybe one out of twenty initial dates leads to a second date. If you click you click, if you don’t, you don’t. Your life doesn’t depend on the success of this date.

3. Don’t think ahead or behind. Don’t think about whether you will kiss at the end of the date, whether your mother will raise her left eyebrow, whether your father will grind his teeth, or whether down the line some catastrophe will await. Don’t dwell on regrets or resentments about past situations. Live each first date (and all subsequent dates) moment by moment. Don’t expect anything or dread anything. Take a “wait-and-see” attitude.

4. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Plan the date so that it can succeed. Make sure there is a mutual agreement about where to meet, when to meet, and who will pay for the first date. That last item is important. If you would like the first meeting to be “Dutch treat,” then make that clear in your conversation before the date. Don’t be shy talking about such money matters. By agreeing on them before the date, you prevent awkwardness during the date. Most important, be on time and stick to the plans.

5. Don’t use the date as a therapy session. Don’t spend the date complaining about your job, your mother, your pet snake, or past dating disasters. You may get your date’s sympathy, but you won’t get respect or love. By using your date as a therapist, you are revealing your insecurity and your inability to handle the situations in your life. If you have a need to complain or rant, you should probably see a professional.

6. Don’t put on your best face. Don’t put on a happy face. Don’t put on a smart face. Don’t put on a clown face. Be yourself. If you are thinking about how you are coming off, you are not being yourself. If you are trying to be upbeat, you are not being yourself. If you are trying to be nonchalant, you are not being yourself. If you are trying to show how discerning or assertive you are, you are not being yourself. If you are trying not to say the wrong thing, you will say the wrong thing. Be, without trying to be.

7. Don’t gobble your food. Don’t gobble down your food in the first few minutes, don’t order too many drinks, don’t snort, and don’t have pieces of broccoli hanging from the side of your mouth. Good manners say a lot about a person’s breeding and social skills. It’s not so much about knowing what fork to use for the salad or what spoon to use for the soup, but rather being a graceful and considerate date who knows the basics of etiquette. Coming across with grace instead of gross is important.

These are the main things to avoid doing on first dates. There are probably others that I didn’t think of, but these will suffice. Starting out on a good foot, whether it is the left or right foot, will usually keep your foot out of your mouth.