Life Advice



Erika Ettin: How to have a great first date

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

While a lot of the advice I give revolves around how to get the first date, even more important is how to nail that first date. First dates — even on Zoom (or maybe especially on Zoom) — can be nerve-wracking, whether you’re a seasoned dater or not. Let’s take a look at some tips for the all-important first date, in whatever form it takes:

What not to do on a first date:

1. Have your phone out or text (Whether in person or on screen, it’s rude.)

2. Talk about your ex, positively or negatively

3. Be late without notice (True for in person or a call.)

4. Be rude to a server… or anyone

5. Drink too much

6. Talk about work the entire time

7. Have bad hygiene (Again, true for in person or a call.)

8. Talk about yourself too much

9. Be fake or some false version of yourself

10. Flip the “off” switch if no attraction

The last point always gets some questions. Sometimes we walk into a date, or log into a video chat, and know within a matter of minutes that there is no attraction whatsoever. I’m a big believer that attraction can grow, but in order to grow, there at least has to be a little seedling to start.

If there’s not, many people will just turn off, or no longer stay present on the date. Yes, they are present physically, but no longer mentally… and it shows. This means that you’re not only wasting your time but your date’s as well since you’ve both set aside the time.

Rather than deciding that this date is a failure at the get-go, instead, reframe your mind. Could this person teach you something? Could he or she be a business contact? When you frame things as, “What can I learn from this interaction?” then it’s a more pleasant experience for both of you.

What to do on a first date:

1. Confirm one day before the date (via text is A-OK)


2. Arrive on time

3. Wear clothes to match the venue (And if the “venue” is home, then at least look presentable on top.)

4. Smile and remain positive

5. Ask questions

6. Have a two-sided conversation

One additional point about confirming a day before the date. Use the confident “Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow” vs. “Are we still on?” If someone is inclined to cancel, it won’t matter how you ask, so you might as well show your self-confidence.

What to talk about:

There are no right or wrong questions to ask on a date, but the ones that do better require more than a simple one-word answer. For example, “What made you passionate about medicine?” is more interesting than the standard “What do you do?”

Some other ideas:

1. How was your day? (Often overlooked, but a great conversation starter.)

2. What do you like to do on weekends?

3. What made you decide to move to this area, and how do you like it?

All of these questions are things the other person already knows about him or herself, so it doesn’t require too much introspection. Then you can delve deeper.

Notice, I didn’t recommend, “How is COVID treating you?” Or “How are you doing with the quarantine?” A first date should be a respite, not another banal conversation about the sad state of the world.

Remember that, in dating, there’s no perfect science … far from it. But using these pointers will at least get you on the right track … and potentially a second date!


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