If you’re taking the time to go on a date, it’s probably safe to say you’re hoping to make a good impression. You probably wash your hair, put on a nice outfit, and offer a handshake when your date walks into the room. But there’s a lot more that people pick up on when you go on a date, from certain aspects of your physical appearance to your body language to your communication style. To learn exactly what they’re paying attention to, we consulted therapists and relationship experts. Read on to get their take on the first things someone notices when you go on a date.
“Depending on the research, the time frame of finding someone physically attractive takes between .7 and 3 seconds upon first impression,” according to Jack Hazan, LMHC, founder of Modern Therapy Group. And one of the things they might notice right away is your teeth.
Why is your date checking out your pearly whites? It’s pretty simple: “When we usually meet someone for the first time, we smile,” says Lee Phillips, LCSW, certified sex and couples therapist.
Flashing a toothy grin exudes confidence and shows your date you’re happy to be there. It also can also speak to grooming and hygiene, which, as Hazan notes, can be an indicator of your lifestyle.
No, your date is (hopefully) not judging you based on whether your sweater is designer or thrifted. Rather, they are noticing the care you took to get ready for the meet-up.
“Depending on the activity, it can vary. But typically, if someone is dressed right for the occasion, it’s a good indicator that they’re on the same page as you,” says Hazan. For example, if you wear gym clothes to a five-star restaurant or a three-piece suit to play mini-golf, you might be sending confusing signals.
But as Elizabeth Mateer, LMHCA, director of Divergent Wellbeing, notes, you should still dress like you.
“A first date provides a unique opportunity to show who you are through how you dress. Are you a more casual person? Wear your favorite hoodie and jeans to the date,” she suggests. “Are you always on the latest trends? Let your personality shine through with your outfit choice.”
While it’s normal to be a bit nervous on a date, certain actions can give off very specific vibes. Your date may not be consciously cataloging your body language, but they’ll pick up on your energy.
“Crossed arms may send a signal that you are closed or uncomfortable. Poor eye contact is often a red flag for mistrust, and slouching in a seat can mean so many things; none of which are great on a first date,” explains Shawn LaRe’ Brinkley, LMFT, founder of Living Loved Pathways to Holistic Healing.
Body language can also signal to your date whether or not you find them attractive. Positioning your own body toward them is a good sign, notes Hazan, as is sustaining eye contact.
Whether you have a deep belly laugh or a quiet giggle is not necessarily what your date will take note of, but rather, if you laugh.
“A good sense of humor is an indicator that you can be light and easy, that you don’t take yourself or life too seriously,” shares Brinkley. “Appropriate joking can be a turn-on in a dating situation and spark curiosity for one to want to know more.”
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No one wants to be talked at during a date, but saying nothing is not much better. “Do you interrupt when your date is speaking? Are you a good listener? Can you hold your own in a discussion? Do you speak with kindness or are you sharp and cutting?” asks Brinkley.
Likewise, dating and relationship coach Lisa Van Loo notes that your date will pick up on whether you’re genuinely interested in them. “Focus on the conversation—whether they are asking you questions, getting to know you, or hogging the time talking about themselves,” she explains. “If someone is interested in you, they will show it.”
You’ve probably heard that old piece of advice to pay attention to how a date treats a server at a restaurant, and, as it turns out, experts feel that it very much still applies.
“Your date may be watching how you treat people such as the waitstaff, the hostess, the Uber driver,” says Brinkley. “Misbehavior can be a turn-off and indicate that you may be self-centered, rude, or that you just plain have bad manners.”
And never underestimate the importance of a simple “please” and “thank you.”