How to Impress Someone on a First Date

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Everyone knows the butterflies and expectations of a first date. You want to impress your partner but you don’t want to appear brash or self-important. You want to listen to what your date has to say, but you also want to have witty and thoughtful responses. First dates can seem like tightrope walking, and when you feel that much pressure it’s hard to be yourself. But there is hope. Lucky for us, studies show that more than half of what we communicate is actually non-verbal, so the content of what you say is not nearly as important as your attitude and body language. The three keys of wowing your date are the greeting, synchronizing, and establishing congruency.


The very first part of a date is where you can blow your date away and set the stage for open and engaged conversation. If you appear aloof, distant, bored, or hurried, however, your date will quickly pick up on it and keep from giving too much away. Nicholas Boothman, author of How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, has a simple formula to nail your greeting on a first date: Open, eye, beam, hi, and lean.

     Open – point your heart directly at the person and open up your chest; this signals you have nothing to hide and are accessible. Before you open, pick a useful attitude that will characterize your interactions, like: Warm, interested, curious, excited, or engaged.

·      Eye – be the first to make eye contact. Convey your attitude and intention through eye contact and connect with the other person. Notice the person’s eye color, and look into how they are feeling through their expressions.

·      Beam – beaming is also smiling. Try being the first one to smile, and to reflect your attitude through the smile.

·      Hi – say hi or hello with warmth in your voice, and infuse the greeting with the attitude you’ve built up through opening yourself, with eye contact, and your smile.

·      Lean – this is where you really indicate your interest. Whether by shaking the other person’s hand, or doing a ‘hands free handshake,’ use this lean to convey your intention of a special connection. This is also the point at which you begin to synchronize the other person.


Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Synchronizing is where you follow the physical and verbal cues of your date, or where you induce them to follow your cues. Leaning, relaxing back in your seat, tilting the head, relaxing your shoulders, and smiling are all cues which synchronize behavior. A helpful phrase that Boothman points out in his book: “I like you because I am like you.” People want to feel comfortable and familiar around others, and the more similarities you can share in body language and tone of voice, the more comfortable you will both be with each other.

 Synchronizing doesn’t mean blatantly mimicking your date, like a monkey might, but subtly harmonizing your energy with theirs. If every time they scratch their ears or touch their face and you do the same, you’ll probably scare your date off! So be subtle. If they lean a certain way, gradually shift your weight over during the course of conversation. If they angle their head, gradually find your head at a similar angle. And when you get the opportunity, make subtle gestures of your own for them to follow.

People sync naturally with others because it is a means of inviting deeper connection through the feeling of safety and comfort. Most people who are naturally affable have subconsciously picked up on these cues to delight their companions. As for the rest of us, there is absolutely no shame in learning how best to synchronize; it only indicates a great interest in establishing a meaningful connection with another human being. Practice matching your tone of voice to theirs. Practice mirroring their excitement and energy. Respond to others subtle cues in ways that create trust and comfort.


Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Boothman describes congruity in this way: “Congruity occurs when your body, tone of voice and words are all in alignment. And when your body, tone and words are communicating the same thing, you will appear sincere and congruent.”

Have you ever noticed a person’s voice crack or squeak when making a bold assertion? This is an overt example of incongruence. But the more subtle incongruences are what turn off potential partners. For instance, asking questions about your date, no matter what your tone of voice is, will always come across as disingenuous if your body is leaning away or angled from the person of interest. Your date wants you to be interested in them just like you want them to be in you, so adjust your body language and tone of voice to harmonize with your words.

If you want to impress your date while being comfortable enough to breathe, you’ll want to learn more about congruity. Boothman, who is also a behavioral researcher, says one of the most important parts of connecting with new people is congruity. Nicholas relates the importance of congruity:

 “Gestures rather than words are the true indicators of your instinctive reactions. If you want others to believe you, you must be congruent. Your spoken language and your body language must say the same thing.  If they don’t, the other person’s body will signal its discomfort to your body. In response to this communication, your body will signal to your brain by mixing up a chemical cocktail that corresponds to the discomfort that the other person is feeling. Then you’ll both be uncomfortable, and rapport will be that much harder to achieve.” 

 We can’t dictate exactly how others will react to us, but we can control how our thoughts, actions and gestures mesh with our intentions. The more congruent your tone of voice and body language are with your words, the more your date will accept what you say as true and invite you for deeper discussion.

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