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Inflate Your Dating Confidence

Relax and have fun on your date with these 7 dating confidence tips to get you and your date having an unforgettable time

Nervous, Dave arrived early. To his horror, he noticed his palms were sweating.20

"Oh no! What if she wants to shake hands when she arrives?" He briefly envisaged his date's hand slipping from his like an eel from a greased plate, starting to feel a little sick as he desperately dabbed his palms with a napkin. A waiter looked on with a seen-it-all blend of sympathy and disdain.

"Just be yourself!" his flatmate had advised - a regular man of the world with more dating confidence than a roomful of James Bonds. "Blimey, it's only a date!"

"What does 'just be yourself' even mean?" he retorted frantically, trying to cover his shaving rash by putting on an extra-wide 1970s sports-broadcaster-style tie.

He'd met Sue at a party during which he'd been not entirely lucid (on account of some imported German beer). But, he reflected, he must have been entertaining enough to secure this date. Full of Dutch (or was that German?) courage, he finally blurted: "Would you like to meet up?"

Now he wondered: Had his speech been slurred? Had she just been polite in accepting? Would he need to reassure her that he wasn't an alcoholic? No, not a good opener. Would she wonder why a witty and lively extrovert from the other night had morphed into a shy bag of nerves? Would he even recognize her when she entered the restaurant?

How can you be a confident dater if you're shy?

Dave was naturally shy and, like many under-confident people, was also a great worrier: "Would she this? Will I that...?"

Dating had always made him nervous, especially if he really liked the person. "It's like a sex and marriage interview. The whole time they're judging you, thinking: 'Is he good enough for me?'"

"Relax," his flatmate had said. "Maybe Sue likes completely neurotic men!"

Dave felt uncertain about his looks, he thought his conversation was boring and felt he might run out of things to say. He reminded himself that women find confident men attractive. Somehow this thought made him feel even worse. And he knew he was thinking too much. The trouble was he'd known (even through the alcoholic haze) that Sue was the kind of woman he could really get to like. He sat waiting...

A little nervousness is natural when we start dating someone new and can even add a little spark, at least initially, but too much can ruin the whole thing.

Sure, some people are more naturally confident than others, but confidence can be learned.

So what tried and tested methods can we use to sparkle, shine, relax, and increase your chances of making a great impression?

1) Plan to be spontaneous

Whoa! Hold on! That seems contradictory. How can we plan spontaneity? Are you crazy, Mark? Well, let me defend myself here:

Some people make a list of potential topics of conversation they can 'fall back on' if the conversation starts running drier than burnt toast in Death Valley - and that's not actually a bad idea (please don't actually read from this list during the date).

What I want you to do is write down a possible list of things you could talk about (or dare I say: "ask about"), then...forget it. Because you've thought about it, it's now 'in there', lurking about at the back of your mind. If these ideas come out naturally during conversation, all well and good; if they don't, no matter. But because you've planted these ideas in your mind, they are more likely to arise 'spontaneously' during your date. So:

  • Write down possible topics of conversation before the date.
  • Close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine seeing yourself (as if projected into a movie) looking relaxed and eloquently chatting with your date.
  • Open your eyes (obviously) and forget about it. Now these ideas for conversation are in your subconscious and you'll find they naturally come to you if need be during the date.

Expecting the best has recently been shown to be a powerful factor in social confidence. In a 2009 study:

"They told 14 of 28 men recruited for their study that the attractive woman they were going to meet was nervous and worried about how she would be perceived by them. Quite naturally when these men found that the woman was nervous and insecure it made them feel better in comparison. This had the effect of making the men much less anxious about the interaction (actually about half as nervous as judged by independent observers) and consequently much warmer." (PsyBlog)

Use the free relaxation session later in this auticle to imagine things going really well on your date to boost your social confidence and enjoyment.

2) Let your clothes give you confidence

Wear clothes you feel (and have been told?) suit you. It sounds obvious, but feeling well spruced actually makes us feel better about everything. We might like to think appearances shouldn't matter, but how we dress and present ourselves sends inevitable signals to others. Invest in a massage or other beauty treatments before the date (not just for the date but because doing this will make you feel good anyway).

Alternatively, you could exercise before the date. What, and arrive all sweaty? No, obviously shower afterwards! Seriously; a gentle run in the park or a game of tennis or quick visit to the gym can help to dispel nerves (because you'll be using up energy and flooding your system with feel good chemicals, which instantly lift your confidence). We all look better after moderate exercise too, the skin looks glowing and the eyes sparkling.

3) Forget about looks

Having talked about grooming and suggested pre-dating exercise, I want you to stop worrying too much about the way you look. Sure it's a cliché to say looks don't matter, that we should all focus on what's really important; but judging by the media, you wouldn't think there were any more important things. You may be drop dead gorgeous for all I know, but here's an interesting idea:

Most women looking for a long-term male partner don't want 'incredibly handsome'. Why? Because they may feel a really handsome man is less likely to be a good long-term bet. He may be more likely to wander and direct his affections elsewhere. And men may feel that a ridiculously beautiful woman will be harder to 'keep' and more aloof (1). Research has also found that men prefer (at least for relationships) average women (girl-next-door types) rather than super-beautiful women (2).

So looks are important, sure; but you don't have to look intimidatingly beautiful. I recall one 80-year-old man happily married for sixty years eyeing his wife lovingly and saying: "She's not the most beautiful woman in the world, but she is to me!"

4) Erase desperation as a strategy

It's just a date. If you put the person off by saying 'the wrong thing', then they weren't dating material for you anyway. Desperation is driven by anxiety and fear and other people pick up on that. Don't be looking for signs of rejection or even commitment - it's just a friendly chance to have fun and maybe get to know each other a little better.

Desperately thinking: "This might be the one!", expecting that it should lead to marriage or kids, is way too intense a mindset for what, after all, may lead to something or nothing.

Dating is just a chance to explore possibilities. Don't try and rush things or be too pushy. When you visit a new area, you don't have to decide straight off whether you are going to move there. You just relax, take in the sights, take your time, and see whether it starts to feel right for you

5) Put your date at their ease – they're human too!

Remember Dave? He was so wrapped up in his own dating anxiety that he didn't even stop to think that Sue might be anxious too. Taking the onus off yourself and working to help the other person relax has a two-way benefit. It helps them feel special and more at ease and makes you feel more calm and confident because you have diverted your focus away from yourself.

The language you use is very powerful and affects the other person. Imagine having a date with someone if every other word they used were ones like: "anxious, depressed, bleak, tired, down, useless," I could go on. You'd feel pretty terrible after such a date because of the subliminal effect words have on our consciousness. Even if your date was describing, say, her sister, the overwhelmingly negative effect of the words would start to impact how you feel.

Sprinkle your language with 'happy words' like "pleased, relaxed, comfortable, interesting, exciting, thrilled," and so on - pretty soon your date will start to feel good and this will make them feel good about you.

6) Calm yourself right down – and that's right down

Lack of dating confidence can also be described as 'dating anxiety' and the antidote to anxiety? Why, calm, of course. Before your date, take time out to relax and breathe deeply (remember that breathing out a fraction slower than you breathe in calms you down). Listen to a relaxation CD and as you do so, imagine actually being on the date and feeling super-calm (but excited enough to be engaged in the experience).

Being more relaxed and calm during your date will allow you to feel more spontaneous, relaxed, and playful, all of which means you have more fun and increase the likelihood you'll come across as more attractive.

7) Flatter me, please

If you've prepared a meal for your date or spent an hour getting ready and they don't acknowledge this, it can feel like a slap in the face. You might offer something like: "I'm sorry, but I have to say you look great!"


...use sincere compliments that are specific. So rather than: "That's a nice shirt/dress you're wearing!" (Great, my shirt has been complimented, but I haven't!)...

How about:

"That's a beautiful dress you're wearing" - then tell them why it's beautiful on them - "because it really brings out the lovely colour of your eyes..."

"Wow, what a lovely kitchen; you must have a great eye for design."

Ultimately, dating should be fun and relaxed. The more open you are to having a great time, even if the chemistry isn't there, the more you can still ensure you have a positively memorable time. And if the chemistry is there...

So what about Dave's date? Well, Sue arrived, almost immediately apologized for how drunk she'd been at the party, and proceeded to interest Dave so much by telling him lots of funny stories about the 'crazy day' she'd just had that he plain forgot to be nervous at all, making any thoughts of 'dating confidence' a total non-issue. I, being his flatmate at the time, was relieved to hear how well his date had gone.

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  1. A study at the University of Missouri found that men react negatively to ads depicting unrealistically beautiful women. What's interesting is it wasn't images of hot men that got the guys feeling self-conscious - it was images of hot women that had an intimidating and self-esteem-lowering effect on men.
  2. Men find the homely shape of the girl-next-door more appealing than the 'perfect' proportions of models and centrefolds, according to an Australian Study. Most attractive of all is Miss Average - a 5ft 4in woman with a 30in waist and 40in hips who wears a size 14. The Australian researchers asked 100 male students to rate the attractiveness of more than 200 drawings of female torsos of different sizes. They then compared the most attractive torsos with the vital statistics of eight groups of women, including models, Playboy centrefolds, and normal members of the population. Surprisingly, the real women best matched the ideal body shape, with the best fit being a British size 14, The New Scientist reported.
Published by Mark Tyrrell - in Self Confidence