So you’ve got a date with the perfect person for you! What will make them enjoy the date, find it meaningful and satisfying and want to see you again? One study shows that people are looking for trustworthiness, kindness, friendliness, sociability, intelligence and confidence. Another includes warmth, good listening skills, sensitivity, maturity, and an easy-going nature. What, you have all of these already, do I hear you say?! OK, but let’s look at how you make sure they come through on a date.

Creating warmth and trust

Warmth, trust and friendliness start with a smile. Ask a friend to keep checking your facial expression throughout a conversation to see if you are smiling enough. Nodding, leaning forward and eye contact all help too. It’s all about giving them your full attention and making them feel like they’re the most important and interesting person to you right now.

At the beginning of a date, you can put them at their ease and make them feel good by giving a specific compliment, such as “I like your jacket” or “I like the way your earrings match your top” or “That colour looks really good on you”. This is much better received than a general compliment like “Wow, you look great!” (If you’re feeling a little anxious, focusing on them can help with that, too.)

Trust will grow if your date sees that you have friends and family that you are on good terms with, so take any opportunities to refer to recent social events. This will also show you are sociable and confident.

Listening well

Many people complain their partners don’t seem to be listening. So when we are looking for a new relationship, we are especially looking out for this. Even if we feel we are listening, we may not be showing it in an obvious enough way. If you are willing to adapt a little, this could make a big difference to how your attentiveness is perceived and how interested you are in them. Here are a couple of examples.

You can mirror or paraphrase back to them what they’ve said to show you’ve been listening. For example, if they say “I really love my job, I have a great boss and I really believe in what I’m doing”, you could say “Oh wow, so you’re one of the few people who love getting up in the morning to go to work?” or “That’s great that you have a good boss – what do you like about them?”

Don’t go straight for a question – first acknowledge what they has said. There is a big difference between these two conversations:

Conversation 1

“I just got a new job!”

“What is it?”

Conversation 2

“I just got a new job!”

“Wow, that’s brilliant! What is it?”

Needless to say, the second one is better.

Nodding, smiling, eye contact and saying “Mmmm” and “OK” and “Right” are good ways to show you’re paying attention and to help the conversation along. Often, we don’t do these as often as we need to.

Showing that you have understood what they’ve said or asking for clarification is essential too. We often make assumptions or draw conclusions without listening to the language used. You can do this by asking questions like “So what you’re saying is you feel frustrated about your sister?” or “So are you saying you would like to move house?” Then listen carefully to the answer. You may find you have misinterpreted what they meant, and it’s not frustration at all but sadness; or that they just want to have a good moan about their neighbours.

This kind of intelligence where we are sensitive to what is being said – emotional intelligence – is more important than academic intelligence, both for dating and actually in all kinds of relationships.

Being easy-going

If you find you disagree on something, don’t argue like you might with a friend at the pub: instead, show respect and ask questions to find out more about why they hold that belief. An early date is not the time to have a disagreement. This is a good opportunity to show you are mature and easy-going. Keep smiling and stay relaxed.

Showing empathy

Showing empathy is really important for building that connection. For example, if they tell you their dog has died, you can say “Oh, I’m so sorry about your dog. How are you feeling about that?” Use a warm, gentle tone of voice. Be sensitive to when they want to move onto another topic and when they want to say more about it.

Satisfying and meaningful dates involve a level of depth in the conversation, where both people show who they really are, what’s important to them and even reveal some vulnerability. Once one person opens up, the other person will do the same.

Getting the conversation down to a deeper level

The best conversations are an equal partnership between two people. Foundational to this is listening more than you talk. You can practise this by getting a friend to time you. You’ll probably be surprised at long you talk for: aim for no longer than about 20-30 seconds when answering a question, and then ask the same question back.

You can also practise follow-up questions to develop a topic of conversation further. For example, if they ask you “If you could go anywhere to live, where would it be?” you can follow that up with questions like “Are you more of a city or a country person?” and “If you had to spend a whole week inside or outside, which would you pick?” Use any topic of conversation that is started as a vehicle for finding out more about each other’s values, dreams and lifestyles. It’s worth planning a date in advance with your favourite questions. (Sign up to my mailing list to get a free set of good dating questions, or there are plenty available online that you can search for.)

Ultimately, on a date we are asking ourselves: “What would it be like to be in a relationship with this person?” and “Does this person bring out the best in me?” Providing some evidence that you are trustworthy, kind, friendly, sociable, intelligent, confident, warm, a good listener, sensitive, mature, and easy-going is a good start. All of the skills described above need practice and we can really benefit from coaching to get honest feedback on what we might be missing, to hone the skills and get them just right.

Listen to my demonstration videos for creating a connection when you meet someone new here:

Main photo by cottonbro studio.