First Dates: Just Be Yourself?

Three ways you should be yourself on a first date – and five ways you shouldn’t

If you’re feeling nervous before a first date, someone (usually your best friend or your mother) is bound to say to you, “Just be yourself!” You can understand why they say it – they love you, so why wouldn’t your date like you just as you are too? But sometimes being yourself is not the way to go if you want a second date. 

Three ways you should be yourself…

1. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not

This is what most people mean when they say “be yourself” – because there is essentially nothing wrong with you. You are absolutely good enough for your date or for anyone else. If you’re shy, it’s OK to be shy. If you’re chatty, it’s OK to chat. If you like pop and chick lit, don’t pretend to like opera and Russian poets just because your date seems more high-brow than you. 

2. Don’t put on airs and graces

Be natural and friendly.  You don’t need to pretend to be better than anyone else. Even the royals don’t get away with that. The more natural and friendly they are, the more people like them. It’s the same for you.

3. Don’t lie

There’s no point in lying about anything. If your first date turns into a relationship, you’ll be found out, and it’s not the best way to build trust for the future. You don’t have to disclose anything you don’t want to early on. It’s not the time to talk about heavy stuff going on in your life now or a past you’re ashamed of, but if you get asked a direct question, give an honest answer or evade the issue for now. Don’t tell a bare-faced lie.

…and five ways you shouldn’t

1. Make an effort

Don’t turn up in your everyday clothes as if you were going to the supermarket or slumming round the house. It’s lazy and disrespectful not to take the trouble to look good for your date. If they turn up looking like they haven’t bothered to brush their hair or clean their teeth, are you going to want a second date?  I thought not.  Choose clothes that are comfortable and suit your personality, but make an effort to look good for the occasion. 

2. Tailor your conversation

Don’t rabbit endlessly on about the things that interest you, even if you’re passionate about them, without finding out if your date is interested too. You might like talking about soap operas or the Battle of Britain, you might not be able to live without your china collection, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great relationship just because your date isn’t into the same things, unless it’s an absolute deal-breaker. Vive la difference! If my husband had gone on about football on our first date as much as I now know he likes it, I don’t think we’d have got as far as a second date, never mind so many anniversaries that I lose count! Vary your chat.

3. Keep it light

You may have had a bad day, a bad week or even a bad year, but don’t bring your sense of injustice or rage with you to the coffee bar or restaurant, if you don’t want to be thought of ever after as the miserable one or the angry one and not see your date for dust. It’s not the time to talk about your bitter divorce or your money worries, even if they take up a huge chunk of your current head space. And save the lectures on global warming or the lack of affordable housing for another day, unless you sense that your date is equally fervent about such issues.  

4. Be polite

You’re not going for a job interview, and you don’t need to treat the date like that, but everyone appreciates good manners. If you normally don’t bother about simple etiquette (the kind that boils down to consideration for others, as opposed to the correct forms of address for a bishop) or you curse like a sailor, it’s time to up your game a bit. There are many first dates that don’t turn into second dates because of uncouth behaviour that could easily be corrected or toned down. 

5. Flirt!

If you want a first date to turn into a second, it’s no good playing it cool even if that’s the way you normally are. Showing a little enthusiasm can go a long way. Very few people are so bursting with confidence that they won’t warm to you more if you show that you like them. You don’t even have to say anything to show that you find your date attractive. Try a little eye contact, smiling, teasing and being interested. It can work wonders.

Ana is the author of Feel Good Naked: 35 Secrets of Irresistible Body Confidence, You Are Beautiful! 53 Easy Ways to Love Your Imperfect Self, and 182 Best Places to Meet Men. All of her books are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle format. You can also read more from Ana on dating, love and relationships on her blog at

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