Believe it or not, single people on the dating scene all wonder the same thing: “What are people thinking of me when I meet them for the first time?” Although we would love to believe that people don’t judge us on our outward appearance, it’s simply not true. We’re hard-wired to make quick judgments about the people we meet. Here’s a good example – take a look at this picture and answer these questions:

Featured Image

It can be hard to tell what someone does or who they are by seeing them at first, but we can control our visual impressions by making strategic choices.

Who is this man?
What does he do for a living?
What does he like to do in his spare time?
What kind of car does he drive?
Where does he live?

Can you see the answers in your mind?

Yes you can, and so can everyone else – even if we’ve been trained ‘not to judge a book by its cover’, we can’t help making these kinds of assessments. Naturally, relationships are built on learning more about the complete person, but often these first impressions linger with us and make more of an impact than we think.

In dating, as in other human interaction, it’s still important to be aware of what messages might be conveyed whether we are meeting someone for the first time or fortieth. Here are four common pitfalls that can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines when it comes to making a first impression.

Number One: Showing up late

Vancouver is a relaxed city, but how many times will you use the ‘traffic was brutal’ excuse to get out of showing up on time? Showing up on time shows that you respect the person you’re meeting, that you respect the time they’ve agreed to share with you and that you respect yourself enough to meet your commitments. If you need to set your watch a little fast, set your alarm early or train yourself out of the “I can do just one more task before I leave” mentality, do it. Show up when you say you will.

Number Two: Wearing the wrong thing

In contemporary society, with its relaxed dress codes, it can be tricky to figure out what to wear for the first important date. Consider the venue, the personality of the person you’ll be meeting and the activity you’ll be undertaking during the time you’re sharing. Choose clothing you’re already comfortable in; many people purchase something new for a date but end up feeling uncomfortable because the item in question doesn’t perform as expected. There is nothing worse than having to fidget with your clothes when you’re trying to make a good first impression. Wear something that fits, something that covers the bits that you want covered and lets you sit, stand, walk and move comfortably. Make sure it’s clean, in good repair and flattering for you. If you’re not sure about how your clothing is working for you, it’s a good time to consult a professional. While your friends might have a ‘good eye’, they may not be sufficiently objective to give you a clear understanding of what types of clothing are right for you.

Number Three: Performing the “Terrible Toos” (Talking too much, being too aggressive and getting too personal too soon!)

Both men and women have found themselves performing one or more of the ‘toos’ on a date, usually when they’re nervous. Luckily, there are some simple strategies for handling the situation when it arises. Talking too much is usually a sign of nerves or insecurity. If you find yourself monopolizing the conversation, try acknowledging your mistake and then opening up the conversation for your date. Ask a question, listen carefully to the answer and then engage in dialogue. Your date will appreciate the opening and will enjoy your interest. Aggression can take many forms in the dating world; from body language to heated discussions. To keep on the safe side, remember to give your date a little space (an arm’s length is usually considered acceptable in North American culture) and avoid hot topics such as religion and politics in conversation, at least until you know the person a little better. In addition, it’s considered polite to keep conversation a little less personal at first. Asking someone for their entire past dating history on a first date might seem like a good idea at the time, but could open a serious can of worms and potentially wreck the chance of a second meeting. Even if you’re naturally open, remember that you don’t have to tell this person everything about you right away. Keep a little back for the second and third conversations to improve your chances of getting them. Remember that most of the ‘terrible toos’ arise from nervous energy, so if this happens to you, get some exercise before your date and run the energy out. If this still doesn’t work, consult a dating coach for help.

Number Four: Trying to be someone else

You might as well show up as you, since everyone else is taken. Think about who you are internally and decide how you can bring your external appearance in line with your true self. If you’re trying to suppress your natural self, it will come out at inopportune times and make you look really uncomfortable. This kind of discomfort is never a good thing when meeting new people so the more you can be yourself the easier social interaction will become. You can spend more time thinking about the people you’re with than worrying about maintaining the front you’ve set up.

Whether you’re new to the dating scene, experienced in serial dating, looking to play the field or settle down, spend some time working on your image (appearance, behaviour and communication) before your next date and you will successfully avoid these pitfalls, see improved results and have more fun dating, guaranteed.