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3 Tips for Surviving the First Date

Nothing is worse than getting home from a first date, looking at the clock and thinking, "there went three hours of my life that I'll never get back." Which leads me to a question that has been circling in my psyche:

Can first dates be devastation-proofed?

I've been on my fair share of first dates, from awkward to awful to amazing. Here are 3 tips that I think can give you a leg up on making any first date a stress-free experience.

Tip #1 - Stay in your comfort zone.

While there is always a time to challenge yourself and push your boundaries, first dates are difficult enough without adding "first time skydiving" to your plans. Whether you've met online, casually through friends or at a function where you both were the fish out of water, first dates should be casual and relaxed - more along the lines of what you would do for a lunch with your friends. Keep it simple and don't stress yourself out with planning every detail.

Tip #2 - Plan for an hour and a half - and have other plans afterward.

First dates need to have a starting point and an ending point. Movies would seem like the perfect first date opportunity, but because they don't allow you any time to talk with your date, they're an awful choice. Meet after work for a drink or coffee and tell your date right up front that you have plans and have to leave at a certain time to create a definite stopping point. If the date isn't going well, the end is near enough to keep you comfortable rather than looking at your watch. If it is going well, it maintains some mystery as you depart and keeps your date wanting more.

Tip #3 - Keep awkward silences at bay.

It can be difficult to maintain conversations with people we DO know well at times, let alone people we don't. It's much easier if you share a passion for travel or basketball because you have an instant entry point into a conversation that can last for hours, but if you're only getting one word or phrase answers, you can still craft a conversation that flows with someone it isn't really flowing with: in the 30 minutes before your date, read the Google news page - news.google.com. On the left side of the screen is "Top Stories." Pick 3 topics that interest you and read the main story about each. If the back and forth hits a lull, simply say "One thing that I saw today just as I was flipping between my email and looking for something on Google was the story about _______," and ask if they've heard the latest news. If they're an aficionado, you may learn something. If they haven't heard, you may learn some key facts about their opinions on topics that are important to you.

First dates don't have to be "something to get through." Keep the conversation light, be yourself and stay focused - and you will step forward with first date confidence.

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