You’ve been chatting online for over a week with someone who seems pretty great so far. It’s time to meet face to face. You make a plan to meet for coffee at a trendy coffee spot, put on the sweater that perfectly complements your eyes, and head out full of hope and expectations. Maybe it’s raining. Maybe the wind musses up your perfectly coiffed hair, but hey, life’s an adventure.
So you arrive at your destination and find yourself sitting with a person you’ve known only electronically. Now that you’re there, you’re just not feeling it. What’s going on? Has this date dereailed already? You wonder, “Ugh, is this a bad date?”
As my grandpa would say: “Whoa, Nelly! Let’s get off that horse and saddle up on the other side.” This was his unique way of suggesting someone reframe a situation.
Start out by reframing your judgment. Switch out the word “bad” for the word “different” or maybe “not what I expected.” Get a little distance—by getting out of the saddle, so to speak—so you can saddle up on the other side and thus see the situation from another angle.
Perhaps the different angle is like this: instead of thinking this darned date is going to be a waste of time, change your mental voice-over so that it’s telling you, “Hey, you got out of the house on a rainy Saturday, you have a truly high quality cup of coffee in front of you, and there is someone there just especially to meet you. That’s not a waste of time. Hey, we should all be so lucky on a rainy Saturday!”
Once you’ve settled in with your hands wrapped around that steaming mug, look for the best in your date. When we look for the best in people we look at them through a loving lens. It does not mean we love them, it means we soften judgment and criticism by accessing the “universal love” flow that is all around us. Smile a little and notice… an engaging smile, interesting mannerisms, the warmth or tone of his or her voice—there is something good about everyone, and we are the lucky ones when we can see it.
Next, consider what you are contributing to the situation. What’s your vibe? High, low, tight, or relaxed? Are you preoccupied? Are you distracted by unrealistic expectations, nervousness, or anticipation of a bad outcome (which is one way to ensure you have one)?
Everything we’ve talked about so far contributes to whether a date is “bad” or “good.” Your perspective on the date, on the person you are with, and on yourself and how you are showing up—all create the moment. If it’s still not feeling great, how else can you make that shift from not so good to good?
- Did you get off on the wrong foot? Did one of you show up late, or spill the first cup of coffee amidst a chaotic umbrella folding incident? No problem. If you got off on the wrong foot, ask for a start over.
- Is the location right for both of you? Is it conducive to this moment? Maybe the place is packed, loud, too cold, too hot, or just not right. No problem. You can say, “Hey let’s go to the diner down the street. I think we can talk better there.”
- Is your body language telling the wrong story? Check in with the unspoken volumes conveyed by your body. Are you open, smiling, engaged, or closed up, with legs and arms crossed and back curved as if to protect yourself? One message is “I’m interested and interesting” and the other says, “Make my day… if you can.”
- Are you conveying curiosity and interest? What can you learn about this person and yourself today? Curiosity is a very appealing trait. It opens us up and lights up our faces. And people respond when we are curious about them. If you show an interest, your date will show you his or her best self.
- Are you breathing? I mean I know you are breathing, but are you breathing well? Our breath is like a key that can unlock well-being. When we are nervous or unsure (or in pain or terror, which I hope don’t apply on your first date) we stop breathing. We actually sometimes hold our breath for periods of time, and then breathe rather shallowly. Let your breathing be even, and each breath deep enough to truly oxygenate your brain and other organs. You will feel better, I promise.
- Are you present in the moment? Your phone should be invisible. Not on the table, silenced, and off-limits. And if you spend more time watching the people around you than focusing on your date, you may seem interested in everything but him or her. Focus and “be here now.”
And finally: keep it short, end it politely and on a high note, and consider a repeat. Everyone is nervous at a first meeting so the second date will likely reveal more truth than the first.