What Not to Do on a First Date: Essential Tips to Avoid Common Pitfalls

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” – Will Rogers

By: Andrijana Ikonic

We’ve all had an awkward moment or two on a first date. You’re trying to impress, but instead, you catch yourself talking nonstop or, even worse, freezing up and not knowing what to say next. 

I promise, there’s hope for you yet!

Even if it’s been a long time since you ruled the dating scene, follow these tips for what not to do on a first date and set the stage for a promising new relationship.

Key Takeaways

  • A first date is all about getting to know each other, having fun, and building a connection. It’s your chance to see if there’s potential for a future together.
  • The best thing you can do on a first date is simply be yourself. Strive to be genuine, authentic, and confident.
  • A first date should be a positive experience for both parties. So, try to avoid negative topics or uncomfortable situations and focus on light-hearted conversations.
  • Ask your date open-ended questions and show genuine interest in their hobbies and goals. This will allow you to connect over shared interests and build a meaningful connection.

What Not to Do on a First Date

First dates are no walk in the park (well, unless your first date is a literal walk in the park, I suppose). Sometimes, it feels like you’re navigating a minefield (not a good idea for a first date), where one wrong move can turn the night into a full-on disaster.

Well, you’re about to find out once and for all what you should avoid doing or talking about on a first date. 

It won’t be long before you’re a dating scene expert, with all your embarrassing moments firmly in the past.

Here’s what not to do on a first date.

Overshare personal information

While it’s okay to be open and honest in relationships, there’s a fine line between honesty and oversharing.

You don’t want to overshare details too soon in a relationship. It can make things awkward and overwhelming for your date.

Instead, keep some mystery and let the conversation flow naturally.

Avoid talking about heavy topics and intimate details, like past relationship traumas, financial struggles, or family issues.

This can be particularly challenging if you recently got out of a long-term relationship, since it might feel natural to discuss your past experiences. 

But just think about how it would make you feel if your date started talking all of a sudden about, for example, how their ex cheated on them and shattered their trust in humanity. 

Not exactly first-date material, right?

Trust me, there will be plenty of time to reveal your quirks and oddities — just not all at once!

For now, it might be better to focus on lighter, more positive stories and build up to the deeper stuff as you get to know each other better.

You can talk about your favorite restaurants, funny pet stories, or interesting travel adventures. These kinds of topics keep the mood light and enjoyable.

Remember, a first date is all about having fun, not unloading your emotional baggage.

Be rude to service staff

Another mood killer on a first date is for sure being rude — to anyone, but especially service workers. For most people, this is a deal breaker, so you want to ensure you’re polite and respectful to everyone you encounter during your date.

How you treat others says a lot about you.

According to Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, “Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality.”[1] You don’t want your actions to imply that you perceive others as inferior.

Your behavior reveals important aspects of your character and values, and your date is likely paying attention to how you interact with waitstaff, strangers, or even how you deal with small mishaps.

For instance, some examples of rude behavior you should avoid are snapping fingers at the server, speaking condescendingly about them, or failing to say “please” and “thank you.” These actions make you come across as arrogant, which is not the first impression you want to make on a first date.

Instead, be kind and appreciative. Show that you value others’ time and effort, regardless of their job or position. 

It’s important to treat everyone with kindness and respect in every aspect of life, not just on dates. A positive attitude will attract positive experiences.

Constantly check your phone

Here’s one problem for the modern age of dating: the constant urge to check your phone.

I mean, it’s not just on dates — this kills the mood even when you’re grabbing coffee with your friends.

Nobody likes to spend time with someone who’s constantly checking their phone or scrolling through social media. It makes them feel unimportant or uninteresting.

In a 2021 article published in the journal Heliyon, researchers Garrido et al. argue, “The excessive use of smartphones while accompanied by other people has negative social consequences for users. So much so that this . . . behavior has given rise to a new concept known as ‘phubbing.’”

They go on to describe phubbing as being “to the detriment of the satisfaction of relationships and feelings of personal well-being.”[2]

The fact that this phenomenon even has its own portmanteau speaks volumes about the severity of the issue and its significance within our zeitgeist.

Do yourself a favor and put your phone on mute or turn off your notifications for the duration of your date.

Show that you’re fully present and genuinely interested in getting to know them. 

Talk excessively about your ex

Even if you just got out of a serious relationship or recently finalized your divorce, bringing up the topic of your ex on a first date is a big no-no.

It’s normal to feel hurt or betrayed after a bad breakup, but talking excessively about it can be a major turnoff and ruin your date.

You’ll likely come across as a heartbroken soul with unresolved issues or emotional baggage, which isn’t exactly sexy or appealing at the beginning of a relationship. They might lose interest in getting to know you better if all they hear about is your past drama.

But if the topic of past relationships does come up, you don’t have to ignore it completely, or even worse, lie to your date. Instead, keep it casual and mature.

Acknowledge it briefly and then change the subject.

Focus on what you’ve learned from those relationships. Show appreciation for the past and, most importantly, respect for your ex-partner.

If you’re mature about your previous relationships, your date will think much more of you, and you’ll leave a better impression.

Shift the focus back to the present moment as soon as you can to show your date that you’re eager about new life experiences.

Be excited about getting to know them instead of appearing stuck in the past. 

Get too drunk

You may be tempted to indulge in liquid courage on a first date, especially if you’re nervous, but be careful not to overdo it. Excessive drinking is not a good look and may lead to embarrassing behavior.

Sure, it can make you feel more relaxed, but it often comes at a price.

You risk behaving inappropriately, talking excessively about inappropriate topics, or worse, making a fool of yourself.

Remember that it’s not just about you. You’re not alone on your date but with another person, so be mindful of their comfort levels when it comes to alcohol.

Drinking responsibly is not just classy; it shows you care about leaving a good impression.

So, know your limits, enjoy a drink or two, but keep a clear head so you can both have a good time.

Bring up controversial topics

Another thing you definitely want to avoid is stirring the pot with controversial topics. 

Sure, you want to know the other person as much as possible, and yes, their political and religious views play a big role in this, but trust me, it’s better to save it for later.

Bringing up controversial topics like politics, religion, or any divisive social issues can create an awkward atmosphere. 

When you still don’t know each other that well, this kind of discussion can easily create tension or even lead to arguments.

For now, steer clear of these topics until you have a better understanding of each other’s backgrounds and personalities. It’ll be easier to handle the heavier topics when you’ve built a stronger connection.

The first date is not the most ideal time for heavy debates. Instead, it’s about sharing some laughs, finding common ground, and building a positive connection.

Talk only about yourself

Now, here’s an important tip: Don’t make the date all about you.

Nothing kills the vibe faster than one person talking too much about themselves. You’re both there to get to know each other. 

So, while your date wants to know you better, it shouldn’t be a monologue. If the conversation is all about your goals, your dreams, your hobbies, then there probably won’t be a second date. 

Talking only about yourself can make the other person feel unheard, unimportant, and just plain bored. 

Instead, try to express interest in them by asking questions and actively listening to them. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Be present and show genuine interest in your date’s perspective.

Worrying too much about what you’re going to say and how you’ll come across may cause you to talk too much about yourself. It’s important to leave all those worries outside and focus on the present moment with the person you like.

You want to aim for a balanced conversation where both of you have a chance to share your stories, make each other laugh, and connect.

Lie or misrepresent yourself

Whatever you do, don’t lie on your first date. There’s no going back after that. Your relationship probably won’t stand any chance if you pretend to be someone you’re not or otherwise misrepresent yourself.

If there’s anything we can learn from couples like Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big and their long on-and-off relationship history, it’s that small lies and deceit can snowball and create a mess, to say the least.

Brian Duffy, a mental health counselor with the Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network, explains why small lies are never just that. He says, “Small lies that are successful (no consequences, no victims) give the person the courage and the confidence to move ahead with somewhat bigger lies.”[3]

You definitely don’t want to start things out like that and create a false foundation for a potential relationship.

Indeed, a relationship built on lies can never truly be close. 

Researchers DePaulo and Kashy report in Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes,

Lying is, by definition, an inauthentic communication; as such, it cannot serve the need for genuine relatedness. When people lie about who they really are and how they really feel, they cannot elicit understanding or validation of the person they really believe themselves to be. They also cannot easily serve as targets of secure attachment because people who lie especially often to promote their own needs are unlikely to be trusted to be responsive to other people’s needs.[4]

Give your new relationship the best possible chance by being honest from the get-go. There’s no better feeling than laying it all out there and letting someone appreciate you for exactly who you are.

What to Do on a First Date

By now you must be thinking, “Wow, so many rules about what not to do on a first date!” 

But don’t stress. If you think about it, these rules are good for you. 

They’re your guide for learning to date like a pro, actually having a good time, and, most importantly, finding the Chandler to your Monica.

Let’s flip the script and talk about what you should actually do. 

Ask open-ended questions

When you agree to go on a date with someone, what’s the immediate objective? 

All long-term goals aside, you want to get to know them and see if you’re a good match. 

This is why you want to ask questions. Not just any yes or no stuff that’ll turn this into an awkward snooze-fest, but real, open-ended questions that will get the conversation going.

Dig deep, find out what makes them tick, and develop true intimacy.

Here are some questions that are sure to spark an interesting conversion:

  • If you could do one thing every day for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
  • What does retirement look like to you?
  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
  • If you could go back to one period in your life, what would it be?
  • What does your ideal weekend look like?
  • What’s the most adventurous thing you’d like to try?

Remember to pay close attention to their answers. Don’t just ask questions for the sake of it. 

Get them talking about what makes their heart race. That’s how you’ll really get to know if this could be something worth exploring further.

Share funny or embarrassing stories

“Birds of a feather laugh together,” or so say authors Hahn and Campbell in their eponymous article published in Europe’s Journal of Psychology.

They argue that humor is important in both attracting others and choosing a mate. This could be because being funny shows that you’re agreeable and sociable, traits that are key for having a satisfying relationship, resolving conflicts, and staying committed.[5]

So, on your first date, get those laughs going! Share your funny or embarrassing stories. It’ll hopefully encourage them to share theirs, too.

Laughter can really set the tone and make the date a success!

Just avoid coming across like Michael Scott, who somehow always manages to take things too far.

It’s all about finding the right balance between humor and tact.

Keep your stories lighthearted and not too self-deprecating. Share a funny mishap from a recent vacation where you accidentally ordered a dish you couldn’t pronounce and made the French waiter bring out enough food to feed a family of four!

As always, keep the evening flowing naturally and be mindful of your date’s reactions to ensure everyone has a good time.

Discuss hobbies and interests

One of the best topics to talk about on a first date? Hobbies and interests, of course!

Even if the conversation doesn’t naturally steer towards hobbies, don’t be shy — ask your date about their passions.

Chatting about hobbies can help you find common ground and build a connection much faster. You can learn a lot about a person from what they do in their free time. And who knows, you might discover something totally new and exciting!

And hey, it’s not just about the here and now. Talking about hobbies can give you ideas for future dates or activities together.

For example, if you both enjoy hiking, why not go on a hike together for your second date?

It’s a great way to connect over shared hobbies but also subtly plant the idea of a second date in their head without coming across as needy or desperate. Plus, it shows you’re already thinking about seeing them again — score!

Talk about goals and aspirations

First dates are a good time to discuss life goals and aspirations, as they can paint a good picture of a person’s values, motivations, and long-term compatibility.

It’s such a beautiful thing to be surrounded by motivated people with clear goals for their lives. I’m sure you’ve always wanted to meet that kind of person and date them. Well, it all starts with you. Be the person you want to attract.

If you want to naturally draw in people who are on the same wavelength, you should strive to be passionate about your dreams and dedicated to your goals.

Tell your date all about that position in your company you’ve been eyeing and working hard to land. And while you’re at it, use this chance to dig into your date’s aspirations.

Show them your utmost support — give them a sneak peek of what their life could look like with a cheerleader like you by their side. Keep this topic positive and focus on your ambitions instead of your past setbacks.

The first date is all about setting the stage for a potential relationship where you both thrive, dream big, and achieve great things together. Isn’t that the modern fairy tale everyone wants?

Ask about their family and upbringing

Another intriguing topic to talk about on a first date is family and upbringing. It’s a nice segue into a person’s personality and core values.

You can ask them about their hometown, their family, and any traditions they hold dear. 

This is the kind of topic where there’s potential for some good laughs. You can share funny stories from childhood and giggle over shared embarrassing experiences.But — and this is a big but — be mindful not to cross personal boundaries and pry into sensitive or traumatic experiences.

There’s no reason to get into deep topics so early on. Those are the conversations you save for later when you start to build more trust and intimacy.

For now, focus on hilarious Thanksgiving stories and bright, upbeat memories!

Compliment your date genuinely

Compliments are a kind of verbal intimacy, and they’re very valuable for building romantic and intimate relationships.[6]

So, never underestimate the power of a genuine compliment, especially on a first date.

Sprinkle in some sincere praise as the night goes by. 

Focus on nonphysical attributes, such as their sense of humor, intelligence, or kindness. These specific and genuine compliments have the power to charm anyone and make their day better, but most importantly, they can turn a good date into an unforgettable one.

Exchanging compliments works best when they come from the heart. Be specific and honest with your compliments, and avoid excessive flattery, which can come across as manipulative. 

It’s all about catching the right moment and praising something unique about them, maybe a witty remark or a smart comment.

Offering heartfelt words will make your date feel appreciated and create a stronger connection between you.

Ask for their opinion or advice

Asking your date for their opinion or advice is one of the best moves you can pull off on a first date.

It’s a very subtle way of saying, “I respect you, I think you’re smart, and I want to hear your thoughts.” Talk about leaving a powerful first impression!

For instance, you can ask them about a tough work decision you’re dealing with or a personal situation you’re having trouble getting out of.

Everyone wants to feel valued, and let’s be frank: There’s no better feeling than knowing someone trusts your judgment and values your perspective. 

It could be a savvy way to start a beautiful romance because, after this, they’ll want to see you again!

So, ask away, be open to feedback, and show gratitude for your date’s support. The evening will fly by after this, and you’ll both leave feeling more connected.

Read the signs

Pay attention to your date. Read their body language and vibe. 

This can help you direct the conversation, know when the evening should end, or interpret signs that they’re into you.

Conclusion

Now that you know what to do and what not to do on a first date, you’re all set!

You want to ask open-ended questions and actively listen to get to know them better. Talk about fun things like hobbies, funny childhood stories, and life goals.

Throw in a few compliments and some flirty looks, and you’ll be well on your way to securing that second date.

Bring your best mood, be yourself, and most importantly, enjoy the moment.

Here’s to finding the Ross to your Rachel!

FAQ Section

What makes a first date awkward?

Several factors can make a first date awkward, such as nervousness, shyness, or lack of chemistry. Setting unrealistic expectations or having mismatched interests can also make a first date awkward.

How long should a first date last?

In general, a first date should last around one to two hours, but there’s no strict rule. The ideal length of a first date depends solely on the individuals and their connection.

How does a good first date end?

A good first date typically ends on a positive note, with both parties feeling fulfilled and excited to see each other again. Ideally, if they had a great time, they would express gratitude and appreciation for each other’s company and ensure the other person feels valued.

References

1. Wake Forest University. (2010, August 3). What you say about others says a lot about you, research shows. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100802165441.htm

2. Garrido, E. C., Issa, T., Esteban, P. G., & Delgado, S. C. (2021). A descriptive literature review of phubbing behaviors. Heliyon, 7(5). https://www.cell.com/heliyon/pdf/S2405-8440(21)01140-3.pdf

3. Duffy, B. (2019, February 27). How little lies can lead to big trouble. Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network. https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/addiction/article/how-little-lies-can-lead-big-trouble 

4. DePaulo, B. M., & Kashy, D. A. (1998). Everyday lies in close and casual relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(1), 63–79. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.74.1.63

5. Hahn, C. M., Campbella, L. J. (2016). Birds of a feather laugh together: An investigation of humour style similarity in married couples. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 12(3), 406–419. https://doi.org/10.5964%2Fejop.v12i3.1115 

6. Doohan, E. A. M., & Manusov, V. (2004). The communication of compliments in romantic relationships: An investigation of relational satisfaction and sex differences and similarities in compliment behavior. Western Journal of Communication, 68(2), 170–194. https://doi.org/10.1080/10570310409374795