First Dates — Mistakes to Avoid

by | Oct 21, 2010 | Uncategorized | 5 comments

I just read an article in Newsweek Magazine ( about first-date errors. An expert who runs a matchmaking service said to avoid these errors:

1. Mentioning past romantic partners or anyone else of romantic interest to you.
2. Discussing religion or politics.
3. Describing your present or past problems.
4. Becoming drunk.
5. Talking dirty.

The psychology of these recommendations applies equally to job interviews! One way to think about first dates is that you want to convey a good and true image and you want to avoid disagreements. You also want to be interesting. In psychology terms, you want the other person to be reinforced (and not punished) by your presence. Dale Carnegie wrote long ago that the best companion is one who listens attentively. Looking and acting happy would also seem to fit the bill.

But let’s not forget about first-date errors. What errors have you seen? Committed?

John Malouff,
Associate Professor of Psychology


  1. Worst date error: Inviting The Parents!

    Yes, it happened to me.
    My fiance and I originally met through business. Our first date was casual and with friends. After 2 months of flirting, we’d realised we were both going to the same pub one night to watch the Bledisloe Cup with friends, and agreed to meet for a drink. My brother and his girlfriend were coming (which was fine, we get along like great friends). The only problem was that my brother (not realising the fragility of the situation) – invited our parents! By the time I found out, Mum was dressed and ready, Dad had donned his All-Blacks Jersey; they were as excited as little kids to be ‘hitting the town’ with their grown up children. What could I say?
    I rang my ‘date’ to warn him away, suggesting we have a drink another time. He just laughed. God love him, he ditched his friends and sat with my family the entire night. And yes, the night consisted of many ‘dad jokes’ – and he was the only person in the whole pub going for NZ – in a rather audible fashion. Embarrassing!

  2. Oh, I forgot to add…. my ‘date’s’ boss also turned up, joined the family, and started instigating ’rounds’. He stayed with us for the second half – with lots of backslapping and gregarious winking – saying how great it was “to finally see you guys having a drink together!”

  3. Hi Jade. If a first date goes wrong in some way, the way a person responds can be predictive of future behaviour in trying circumstances. One cognitive-psychological way to look at first dates is that each person provides a sample of behaviour that tends to predict future behaviour under similar circumstances. It is this expectation about future behaviour that determines whether there is a second date. A more emotion-based view is that we get a feeling about a person and that feeling, which is based on both conscious and unconscious reactions, determines what we do in the future.

  4. My husband must be a glutton for punishment as on our first date took place at a formal dining night in the Artillery SGTs Mess. If you have never been to one, you should know two things:

    1. It is anticipated you will be on your very best behaviour.
    2. Your wine glass is constantly topped up so you kind of lose track of how much you have had to drink.

    Needless to say, I was a little sloshed as discussion turned from Buddhism to Marx…

    Mind you, I like to break the rules and just being inside a military establishment rekindled a rebellious spirit!

  5. Hi JA. Your comment reminds me that I once suggested to a couple in marriage counseling that they date. The woman responded, “Do you mean date other people?” I told her no, I meant for them to date each other. The unknown is part of the excitement of dating, and couples sometimes lose that excitement after a long time together.

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