Dating confidence tips to get you and your date relaxed and having an unforgettable time…
Nervously early for his date, Dave had plenty of time to notice his sweating palms.
“Oh great! What if she wants to shake hands?” He briefly imagined his date’s hand slipping from his like an eel from a greased plate and started feeling a little sick as he frantically dabbed his palms with a napkin. A waiter watched with a seen-it-all blend of sympathy and disdain.
“Just be yourself!” his flatmate – a regular man of the world with more dating confidence than a roomful of James Bonds – had advised. “Blimey, it’s only a date!”
“What does ‘just be yourself’ even mean?” Dave retorted in a panicked tone, trying to cover his shaving rash with an extra-wide 1970s sports-broadcaster-style tie.
He had met Kate at a party during which he’d not been entirely lucid (thanks to some imported German beer). But, he reflected, he must have been entertaining enough; he’s secured this date, after all. Full of liquid courage, he’d finally blurted: “Would you like to meet up?”
Now he wondered: Had his speech slurred? Had she just been too polite to turn him down? Should he reassure her that he wasn’t an alcoholic? No, definitely not a good opener. Would she question why a witty and lively extrovert from the other night had morphed into a shy sack of nerves? Would he even recognize her when she arrived?
Can shyness and confident dating mix?
Dave was naturally shy and was also a great worrier (like many under-confident people): “Would she this? Will I that…?”
Dating had always made him anxious, especially if he really liked the person. “It’s like a sex and marriage interview. The whole time they’re judging you, thinking: ‘Is he good enough for me?’”
“Relax,” his flatmate had said. “Maybe Kate likes completely neurotic men!”
Dave felt uncertain about his appearance, he thought his conversation was boring, and he worried he might run out of things to say. He reminded himself that women find confident men attractive, but somehow this thought made him feel even worse. And he knew he was thinking too much. The problem was he knew (even in the midst of the other night’s alcoholic haze) that Kate was the kind of woman he could really get to like. He sat waiting…
A little nervousness is natural when we start dating someone new. It can even add a little spark, at least initially; but too much can ruin the whole thing. Sure, some people are more naturally confident than others, but confidence can be learned.
So what tried and tested methods can you use to sparkle, shine, relax, and increase your chances of making a great impression?
Tip 1. Plan to be spontaneous
Wait a minute! That seems contradictory. How can we plan spontaneity? Are you crazy, Mark?
Well, let me defend myself here:
Some people make a list of potential topics they can ‘fall back on’ if the conversation starts running out of steam faster than a half-empty iron. It’s not actually a bad idea (just don’t read from the list during the date).
What I suggest is that you write down a list of possible things you could talk about (or dare I say, ask about), then…forget it. Because you’ve thought about it, it’s now lurking about at the back of your mind. If these topics come out naturally during conversation, all well and good; if they don’t, no matter. But because you’ve planted the ideas in your mind, they’re more likely to arise ‘spontaneously’ during your date. So:
- Write down possible conversation topics before the date.
- Close your eyes and imagine seeing yourself (as if projected into a movie) looking relaxed and chatting eloquently with your date.
- Open your eyes (obviously) and forget about it. These ideas for conversation are now in your unconscious and you’ll find they naturally come to you if they’re needed during the date.
Expecting the best has been shown to be a powerful factor in social confidence. In a 2009 study:
“They told 14 of 28 men recruited for their study that the attractive woman they were going to meet was nervous and worried about how she would be perceived by them. Quite naturally when these men found that the woman was nervous and insecure it made them feel better in comparison. This had the effect of making the men much less anxious about the interaction (actually about half as nervous as judged by independent observers) and consequently much warmer.” (PsyBlog)
Tip 2. It’s (not) all about looks
Wear clothes you feel (and have been told?) suit you. It might sound obvious, but feeling well-groomed actually makes us feel better about everything. We like to think appearance shouldn’t matter, but how we dress and present ourselves inevitably sends signals to others.
Invest in a massage or other beauty treatments before the date (not just for the date, but because doing this will make you feel good).
Or you could exercise before the date. What, and arrive all sweaty? No, shower afterwards, obviously! Seriously; a gentle jog in the park, a game of basketball, or a quick visit to the gym can help dispel nerves (because you’ll be using up energy and flooding your system with ‘feel good’ chemicals, which instantly increase your confidence). And we all look better after moderate exercise; the skin glows and the eyes sparkle.
Having discussed grooming and suggested pre-dating exercise, I now want you to stop worrying too much about the way you look. Yes it’s a cliché to say looks don’t matter and that we should all focus on what’s really important; but if you go by the media, you wouldn’t think there was anything more important. For all I know, you may be drop dead gorgeous, but here’s an interesting idea:
Most women seeking a long-term male partner don’t want ‘incredibly handsome’. Why? They may feel a really handsome man is less likely to be a good long-term bet; he may be more likely to wander and direct his affections elsewhere. And men may feel a ridiculously gorgeous woman will be more aloof and harder to ‘keep’ (1). Research has also found that men prefer (at least for relationships) average girl-next-door-type women, rather than the super-beautiful (2).
So looks are important; but you don’t have to be intimidatingly beautiful. I recall one happily married 80-year-old man eyeing his wife of sixty years lovingly and saying: “She may not be the most beautiful woman in the world, but she is to me!”
Tip 3. Desperation is not a good strategy
It’s just a date. If the other person is put off by you saying ‘the wrong thing’, then they weren’t dating material for you anyway. Desperation is driven by anxiety and fear and other people pick up on it. Don’t be looking for signs of rejection or commitment – a date is just a friendly chance to have fun and maybe get to know each other a little better.
Desperately thinking: “S/he could be the one!”, expecting that it should lead to marriage or kids, is way too intense a mindset for what may lead to something or nothing.
Dating is a chance to explore possibilities. Don’t try and rush things or be too pushy. When you visit a new area, you don’t have to decide straight off whether you are going to move there. You just relax, take in the sights, take your time, and see whether it starts to feel right for you
Tip 4. Remember your date is human, too
Dave was so preoccupied by his own dating anxiety that he didn’t even stop to think that Kate might be anxious too. Taking the burden off yourself and working to help the other person relax has a two-way benefit. It helps them feel special and more at ease and diverting your focus away from yourself makes you feel more calm and confident.
Keep an ear on the language you use; words are very powerful and affect the other person. Imagine being out with someone who uses words like “anxious, depressed, bleak, tired, down, useless,” (I could go on) in every other sentence. You’d feel pretty horrible after such a date because of the subliminal effect words have on our consciousness. Even if your date was describing, say, her sister, the overwhelmingly negative effect of the words would start to impact how you feel.
Sprinkle your conversation with ‘happy words’ like “pleased, relaxed, comfortable, interesting, exciting, thrilled,” and so on – pretty soon your date will start to feel good. And this will make them feel good about you.
Tip 5. Calm yourself right down – and that’s right down
Lack of dating confidence can also be described as ‘dating anxiety’ and what’s the antidote to anxiety? Why, calm, of course. Before your date, take time to relax and breathe deeply (remember that making your out-breath a bit longer than your in-breath calms you down). You might listen to a relaxation CD or MP3 and as you do so, imagine actually being on the date and feeling super-calm (but excited enough to be engaged in the experience).
Being more relaxed and calm during your date allows you to feel more spontaneous and playful, all of which means you will have more fun and increase the likelihood you’ll be more attractive.
Tip 6. Flattery can get you everywhere
If you prepared a meal for your date or spent an hour getting ready and they don’t acknowledge this, it can feel like a slap in the face. You might offer something like: “Wow, I have to say you look great tonight…!”
…you’d be better off using sincere, specific compliments. Instead of: “That’s a nice outfit you’re wearing!” (Great, my outfit has been complimented, but I haven’t!)…
“That’s a beautiful dress you’re wearing.” – then say why it’s beautiful on them – “It really brings out the lovely colour of your eyes…”
“What a lovely kitchen; you have a great eye for design.”
Ultimately, dating should be fun and relaxed. The more open you are to having a great time, even if the chemistry isn’t there, the more you can ensure you have a positively memorable time. And if the chemistry is there…
And what happened with Dave’s date? Well, Kate arrived and straight away apologized for how drunk she’d been at the party. She then fascinated Dave so much by relating lots of funny anecdotes about the ‘crazy day’ she’d just had that he plain forgot to be nervous at all, making any thoughts of ‘dating confidence’ a complete non-issue.
As his flatmate at the time, I was relieved to hear his date had gone so well.
(1) A study at the University of Missouri found that men react negatively to ads depicting unrealistically beautiful women. What’s interesting is it wasn’t images of hot men that got the guys feeling self-conscious – it was images of hot women that had an intimidating and self-esteem-lowering effect on men.
(2) Men find the homely shape of the girl-next-door more appealing than the ‘perfect’ proportions of models and centrefolds, according to an Australian Study. Most attractive of all is Miss Average – a 5ft 4in woman with a 30in waist and 40in hips who wears a size 14. The Australian researchers asked 100 male students to rate the attractiveness of more than 200 drawings of female torsos of different sizes. They then compared the most attractive torsos with the vital statistics of eight groups of women, including models, Playboy centrefolds, and normal members of the population. Surprisingly, the real women best matched the ideal body shape, with the best fit being a British size 14, The New Scientist reported.
Mark Tyrrell is a Guest Blogger for PickTheBrain, therapist, trainer and author. He has written thousands of articles on self help and personal development, including these on dating advice.
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