First Date Etiquette

We must have missed school the day they went over how to date.  If we had only known sooner!

We are at least a little wiser now and willing to share our hard-won insights for first-daters of all ages.  We've sprinkled advice specific to ADHD throughout this post.  We believe non-ADHD people will find the information useful as well.

What A First Date Is


A first date is a chance to get to know someone to see if you want to find out more about them on a second date.

What A First Date Isn’t

  • A job interview
  • A time to tell the entire story of your life
  • Your one chance to meet the person of your dreams RIGHT NOW
  • A prelude to a hook up

Why We Do It

  • Humans are hardwired for connection
  • To appraise potential partners
  • Advantageous partners ensure the wellbeing of our genes in the future
  • To meet our needs for for intimacy, companionship, shared experience, adventure, and play

What Goes Wrong

  • Impulsive conversation
    • Interrupting
    • Over talking
    • Over sharing (over disclosing)
  • Feeling nervous and clumsy
  • Fidgeting gestures that read as insecurity or are a distraction
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Missing subtle social cues
  • Obsessing before and after the date
  • Confusing neurochemical signals for true connection
  • Becoming intense too quickly

What to do instead

Before the First Date

  • Exercise before the date to get your needs met for endorphins and neurotransmitters
  • If you experience motor impairment, plan for a first date where that’s not a problem
  • If you have sensory issues, consider that in where you plan to have your date
  • If you need to fidget to stay calm, try a textured bracelet or watch that you can spin under the table
  • Brush up on your non verbal signal vocabulary
  • Get a good night of sleep
  • Plan three things you can accomplish that day that are not date related and do those things to boost your self-esteem and neurotransmitters
  • Drive safely to and from your date - and without a radio/music if that's an added layer of distraction on the road
  • Plan to arrive early and get familiar with where you are for safety and to reduce distractions, especially if you have never been there before
  • Try to notice to as many details as you can about your surroundings before and during the date to shift of intrusive thoughts and return to the present moment

During the First Date

  • Strictly limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Ask questions about them first - so that you know you’ll get to hear from them for sure.
  • Give the other person a chance to speak.
  • Breathe
  • If they ask you a question, answer briefly and bounce the conversation back by asking, "What about you?"  This is a great way to keep a conversation balanced.  And, this will also help you if you get stumped on what to say next.
  • Ask a probing question.  For example, if they mention a school they went to, ask what city it was in.  This type of question sends the signal that you are paying attention.
  • If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to the person.  One way to do this is to notice the color of their eyes (Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane).
  • Many of us hate small talk, and some are all about profound spiritual exchanges.  First dates are neither shallow nor deep. Go for knee-deep topics and conversations.
  • Keep the date short, and allow for a few days or a week - or more - in between dates.  This helps you get any neurochemical signals out of your system as you evaluate a person for real compatibility.
  • Allow the person space and time to be excited about you, too!

After the First Date

  • Reserve judgments - even positive ones - for at least 24 - 36 hours
  • Train your attention to emotions and others talking talking talking with classes like Non-violent Communication 
  • Relieve the pressure by going on practice first dates

What can you do between dates?  Work on the other areas of your life. “You’ll find the right person when you are the right person.”

Anything we missed?  Let us know in the comments!