prompts for successful dating|
Mary Balfour gives some hot tips for successful dating gained from over ten years experience of running two of the country's
best known personal introduction agencies . Click on any section headings for more of Mary's personal advice.
dating what's the recipe?
out your address, home or office phone number or your e-mail till your sure you can trust the person. Mobile phones aren't usually traceable.
to meet in a public place
Always have your own transport home. Politely refuse a lift.
Never meet for longer than one-and-a-half hours on a first date. End the
date leaving lots more to discover
Ensure your answer-phone message is user friendly
Avoid leaving messages on answer-phones. Persevere till you can speak personally to your quarry.
Don't talk long on the phone and avoid very personal topics.
nervousness by owning up to it.
danger topics' of conversation on a first date
your head off or collude with your date who's doing this.
answers to tricky first date questions
to be able to judge your date's relationship potential on a first
meeting. If you could be just friends' try and see them
date when you're NOT SURE if you want to see the person again
How to end a
date when you're certain you DON'T want to meet again
date when you DO want to see them again
offer to split the bill, but accept graciously if your date
really wants to pay.
Have fun! Relax
and enjoy yourself!
dating what's the recipe?
I always await the first phone calls on a Monday morning in my personal introduction agency with excitement
and maybe a little apprehension. Some of them are bound to be
report-backs on dates. First dates, second dates, tenth dates or
no dates. Whatever, we get the low-down on what did or didn't
happen. Every time I talk with a member I learn something new
about what can go right or wrong. How some couples are still
waiting to get to the first date as they're both so busy they've
been playing telephone tag for weeks. Others who have been on
several dates with different people and they want to go on
hold' so they can catch their breath and explore whether
one of these might lead to something special. Sometimes we get
feedback from both parties one positive and one negative.
Of course we never tell members what others have confided in us
about them. This would be betraying their trust and we'd rapidly
lose our unbiased referee status.
But the call all of us at the Agency like
to hear best of one is the one where the member rings to say it
all went wonderfully and they've arranged to meet again next
week. This is what it's all about, the success stories. These are
where both parties are thoroughly into dating mode and dancing a
sort of dating duet together. They are communicating in the same
language, they both want to hear what the other has to say and
there is a buzz not love yet, but certainly good vibes.
So what's the recipe? Yes, you can organise
the lead up to the date and the date itself in such a way that
it's more likely to go well. The same two people, maybe an ideal
match, could meet up and fall for each other. But handled
differently the first steps of the relationship might lead
nowhere. There are good and bad ways of setting the scene. It's
taken me fourteen years of listening to feedback and carrying out
informal research amongst my members to learn what they are.
They're just common sense things, but you'd be surprised how few
people observe them and thus fail to do themselves justice when
they first meet an interesting person.
Of course, with cyber dating the
preparation is different I can hear you saying.
In some ways it's really old fashioned in
its approach. You flirt with the written word and you needn't go
too fast if you don't want to. Alas! This can lead cyber daters
into a false sense of security. So first of all please remember
that most of the strategies that work or fail to work with
conventional apply equally to cyber dating.
This is very important - see separate article on
this as well as the following advice.
Women: Reputable personal introduction agencies are
much more secure than the Internet as we interview all members personally and
check id. The important thing is to use your common sense and not be lulled into
a false sense of security - no matter how advanced the site nor how good
the members look, dating on the Internet simply can't compare to a personal
agency. Although the majority of people dating on the Internet or answering
classified ads in the press are OK you need to safeguard yourself against the
Men: You may know you're OK but be thoughtful and
put yourself in the woman's position. Don't suggest places to meet or things to
do that compromise your date's security.
Don't give out your address, home or office
phone number or your e-mail till your sure you can trust the
person. Mobile phones aren't usually traceable.
OK, so you've been E-mailing each other for
a couple of weeks. One of you suggests a date. Don't rush things.
Always talk to each other by phone first. And remember don't give
out a home or office phone number to anyone until you've reached
the stage when you are sure you can trust the person and want to
continue the relationship.
Always arrange to
meet in a public place.
So that neither of you feel under any
pressure I'd suggest that you always meet in a public
place and never in one of your homes. This puts you in the
driving seat. Never allow yourself to be picked up from home
either as it's sometimes difficult to avoid asking your date in
for a quick drink. The same applies to the end of the evening:
Always think about where you'd like to meet
your date before the phone call. There's nothing worse
than fumbling about for addresses of venues and ending up
agreeing to one that's miles away from where you live for lack of
ideas. You'll feel resentful.
As you're avoiding a three-hour dinner
commitment suggest a bar or a brasserie where you can both get a
snack if you're starving. Restaurants in the evening mean dinner,
so avoid these. Pubs are usually too smoky and noisy and it's
difficult to find a corner where you can talk without being
overheard. If it feels congenial for you a hotel bar is often
ideal, as there tends to be more space and quiet. If you're not
being overheard by the people on the next table you'll be much
less inhibited. A lot of my members swear by a weekend lunch date
because it can be more finite and at a time when they're more
relaxed. And then if it's going really well what about a walk in
a park afterwards?
your own transport home. Politely refuse a lift.
Always make sure you have your own means of
transport to get home. This way the there will be no awkwardness
about being offered a lift home and feeling you should invite
your date in.
for longer than one-and-a-half hours on a first date. End the
date leaving lots more to discover about each other.
I always advise that you should be clear on
the phone that you can't meet for long, say just an hour or an
hour and a half. Then if you can't wait to get away there is no
embarrassment as your date knows beforehand that you wouldn't be
staying long. You can always plead an elderly relative, or work
to catch up with before the morning. If you don't fix the
duration of the date beforehand, then it will be difficult to cut
it short if you can't wait to escape. Even if it's going very
well it's still wise not to meet for long. This way you will
still have some easy conversation left for the beginning of the
second date. Long first dates are open to all sorts of pitfalls,
and even if it's humming along all hunky-dory you can still find
you've been tempted to move on to exploring too much personal
stuff, such as why you broke up for your ex. or what you're
looking for in your future partner Some men are put off by topics
like 'being-in-touch-with-one's-feelings', being sensitive'
or being commitment-minded', etc. Lots of women will
definitely not be attracted by a man who is too forward on the
phone (or on a date, for that matter).
your answer-phone message is user friendly
Ah, but it's not so simple as just phoning
each other. You're both busy people and often out. So of course
you leave a message. Or do you?
Let me tell you about June and Sam. In
fact, June was a friend of mine to whom I'd given free
membership. She was a PR officer for a charity and Sam ran his
own publishing business. I suggested a meeting and Sam rang June
and got through to her answer-machine. He heard what he thought
was a rather flat, bored message so he hung up. He'd decided that
she was not for him. She was obviously no live wire. There was no
energy there, he proclaimed. Alas, there was nothing I could do
to persuade him to the contrary. She was attractive, great fun
with good sense of humour. I was sure they'd get on. But no, he
asserted, he could always judge someone by their voice. Being the
interfering person I am I managed to arrange it that the two of
them did eventually meet up at one of our social evenings the
At first neither of them realised who the
other was. And yes, they got on like a house on fire. An hour
later I could still see them chatting and laughing together at a
table in the corner. By this time Sam had twigged. But June never
knew she'd been rejected at first because she sounded flat and
boring. In fact she's got an interesting and warm voice in the
flesh. She just hadn't bothered to ensure her AP message was user
friendly and reflected this. They went on to date regularly and
have now been married some nine years.
So let's tackle your answer-phone. You
can't avoid using this off-putting piece of machinery altogether
so you might as well ensure that it's behaving properly and gives
a cordial welcome to callers. Many a prospective date has told me
that when they rang up their quarry and heard the AP message they
decided at once' that he or she was not their type. I
learned early on that answering machines give out lots of false
negatives (and false positives too). The sound of someone's voice
is a very potent force. When people record their AP messages
they're often in a hurry, or are disoriented by unfamiliar
technology. The result is that they don't do themselves justice.
So put yours to the test and listen to your outgoing message very
critically. Is it clear for a start, and does it sound
pleased' that the caller has rung? Does it sound friendly,
too businesslike, or a bit moody or bored? Is it interesting? Is
it soft or harsh? Were you bending over the machine when you
recorded the message giving it a throttled quality? What a lot of
fuss, I can hear you saying. But do bear in mind that the
smallest clues about you will be pounced on and all sorts of
fantasies both negative and positive - will be projected
onto them and may influence the caller for better or for worse.
Answering-machine 'no noes' include
background music, far too pretentious who do you think you
are? a radio presenter? Also I avoid having your child's
voice on the recording. Yes, I know several people who do this on
the basis that any future partner will have to accept little
Sally or Johnny and they might as well get used to the idea from
the start. The problem is there may not be a start. It's wiser
not to push the children to the front of the picture till you've
got to know one another and built up trust.
Always choose a relaxed moment to record
your message. Don't bend over. Stand or sit straight, take a deep
breath and smile, yes, smile before you start talking into the
mike. This way you will come across as open and friendly. Now I
know some of you use your home telephone number for work and you
can't come across as too informal. That's fine, but there's
nothing wrong with sounding friendly and positive for work too.
messages on answer-phones. Persevere till you can speak
personally to your quarry.
What about when you're asked to leave a
message on someone's machine? Because answering-machines can
spike potential romances I suggest to all Love and Friends
members that it's best to avoid leaving a message if you can. If
the person doesn't call back, it's difficult to phone them up
again. They might feel pursued. Persevere with your calls until
you get the man or woman themselves.. Oh, but don't forget to
dial 141 (if you're in the UK) first to ensure that your number
doesn't show up dozens of times on this caller display. They
might get the impression you are desperate! Reconcile yourself to
playing telephone tag quite a lot. Busy, popular people are often
difficult to get hold of.
long on the first phone call and avoid very personal topics
As soon as the man or woman answers in
person, say who you are and immediately check if it's a good
moment for them to talk. They may be rushing off late for an
appointment, or have the lodger or children within earshot. These
sorts of things can make for a very abrupt and one-sided
conversation with the caller thinking their potential date isn't
Finally, you're talking properly together.
Great. Keep the conversation light-hearted and above all short.
Trying to get to know one another down the phone line before
meeting is very difficult and fraught with problems. You'll
probably both feel a bit under pressure and not be wholly
yourselves. If you talk for more than five minutes you'll use up
all your small-talk which you'll wish you still had in reserve to
break the ice on the first date itself. It's very tempting to
find out all about each other at this stage to see if you will
get on together. What happens here is that one or other of you
feels interrogated and under scrutiny. It's much the best thing
to hang on till you meet because then you'll be more yourselves
and feel more spontaneous.
nervousness by owning up to it.
Even the most confident people sometimes
feel a bit apprehensive about meeting someone new. It's only
natural. Members tell me that the most effective way of
dispelling nerves is to actually admit to them. Just say
something along the lines of
I felt a bit scared on my way here to
meet you!' and your partner will thankfully admit So did I'
and you'll both laugh and any tension will be diffused.
danger topics' of conversation on a first date
These include - for example -
anything about why your previous relationship broke up, or your
wish to have children as soon as possible.
I remember Gerald who'd had an acrimonious
divorce and as a result he had only limited access to his
children. He'd thought that at last he was able to accept this
situation and felt ready to start dating again. He had a good
response to his mail-out through my agency Drawing Down the
Moon. On his first date he was asked by Kerry why he'd
joined the Agency. Such a natural question, and it seemed only
natural to respond with a brief account of his divorce, which
before two sentences were out of his mouth had wiped the friendly
smile off his face and had launched him into a lengthy account of
his fight to achieve access to his two young sons.
The smile fell from Kerry's face too and a
chill descended onto both of them. What was to have been a
light-hearted and perhaps flirtatious chat had turned into a
heavy diatribe against Gerald's ex wife. The date finished three
hours after it started and no mention was made by either of the
evening being enjoyable, nor was there any suggestion of a
So don't try any short cuts in getting to
know people. Talking about anything emotionally intimate, such as
why you broke up with the ex, is fatal. This sort of topic can
trigger unaddressed resentment which will be apparent to your
date and detract from the enjoyment both of you should be
experiencing. Of course you'll want to talk about these sort of
things at some stage if things progress, but you need to ensure
that you've reached the right stage in the relationship. This is
the point where you've got the measure of whether you're ready to
talk about emotional history and goals in life. Tackle these
subjects too early at your peril. Remember that men and women may
arrive at the propitious stage for discussing them at different
times. You need to be very aware and able to read body language
for outward signs of reticence or defensiveness.
answers to tricky first date questions
What if your date starts to interrogate you
about lots of personal details you don't feel ready to discuss
such as how many relationships you've had or whether you want
children? Try responding with Ask me that one in a week or
two' or That's dangerous territory for a first date!' or
I'll give you the answer to that when I know you better'.
Don't talk your
head off or collude with your date who's doing this.
I sometimes hear that one partner has taken
over the conversation on a first date, with the result that the
other thinks they are egotistical and boring. So monitor
carefully to check out if one of you is doing more talking than
the other. It's usually the man who does this and the woman
colludes with the situation by just listening without
interrupting even if she's bored stiff. There is well documented
research which shows that men tend to talk far more than they
realise. And they're more likely to do this in stressful
situations and it may not be a truly characteristic feature in
the normal run of their life. If you're ever in this predicament
with a man talking endlessly about his job or one of his
interests (which, of course you may not share) try and snap him
out of it with something like the following interjection:
Hey - it's half time! I'd like to tell you some of my stuff
too.' But this on it's own will not be enough. You need to back
it up with your body language but keep it light-hearted
and humorous at the same time. A light touch on the arm or wrist
as you make the request and looking at him directly in the eye
will reinforce your point. This requires some practice, but you
can rehearse it in any social setting where you are not getting
your oar in. Remember a person who talks a lot couldn't do so
unless they had an audience apparently all ears.
Don't expect to be able to judge your
date's relationship potential on a first meeting. If you could be
just friends' try and see them again.
In our experience at the Agency at least
half the couples who end up in a relationship together were
uncertain about whether there was any chemistry there at all
after the first date. Surely without chemistry' nothing can
progress in the world of romance? But it's a fact of life that
it's difficult to judge whether you could fall truly in love with
someone you've just met. Of course love-at-first-sight happens.
But this is about an animal attraction and physical lust, which
can indeed be terrifically exciting. It can have you projecting
all sorts of fantasies about the future into the situation. No
doubt it can sweep you off your feet. It is true that one can
lead to the other. But it rarely does. We find that if people
rush into a relationship they tend to skip the vital steps that
are so important in building up real intimacy and one of them
pulls back before long.
The best way to judge the success of a
first date is not to try and tell whether you could spend the
rest of your life with the person. Or even to try and judge
whether you could have an affair with them. Just consider whether
would you enjoy another hour or two's conversation with them. And
could they be a friend? This way you'll set the Dating Domino
Effect in motion and you can get to know several men as friends
and see how things develop. And the chances are that one of these
could turn into something special, or could lead to another
introduction (maybe a friend of theirs) which is the one
for you. Always go for volume and meet as many men as possible.
When you meet the right person you'll be giving out good messages
and be more likely to judge the situation. If you've only been on
a few dates previously you'll be much less able to tell. You
won't feel so relaxed about the routine and you won't be so
spontaneous and flirty.
Providing you're clear with your date about
seeing others, it's fine to continue to explore a friendship. The
more time you take to get to know one another before the
chemistry ignites (and not just the sexual tinder) the more
powerful and enduring will be the ensuing relationship.
Finishing a date when you're not sure if
you want to see the person again
So if you think there's any mileage at all
for a friendship (rather than a love affair) do leave the
possibility of a further date open. You can simply use the old
standby again: why doesn't one of us give the other a ring
in a week or two' and you can see how you feel. As long as you're
not implying any form of exclusivity it's fine and fun to see
lots of people. In fact, it takes the pressure off your partner
to know that you're not expecting anything too significant at
this early stage. People are perpetually concerned that they'll
be thought to be leading a someone on' and then getting
lumbered with all sorts of expectations. Rather than run the risk
of this they'll sometimes play it too cool and not ring at all.
So make sure you leave your options open. Then you can initiate a
further meeting yourself.
How to end a date when you're certain you
DON'T want to meet again
If you have this feeling of certainty don't
chicken out by saying your date could give you a ring sometime
when you know you'll give them the brush-off. It causes
resentment. Be sensitive to your date's feelings but be clear.
Thank them for taking the trouble to meet you and say you've
enjoyed talking with them but you don't feel you want to take it
any further. You'll find your own form of words. It may sound a
bit brutal but it's a lot kinder than saying you'll ring when you
won't. Agency members say they much prefer this more honest
approach because they know where they stand.
Finishing a date when you DO want to see
You've really enjoyed yourself. A couple of
drinks. Some small-talk to break the ice and then chatting in a
relaxed way about each other. Good vibes. Maybe a bit of a spark.
The clock is ticking on and it's time to part while you've still
got lots more to discover about one another. Traditionally the
man would say at the end of such a date That was great.
Most enjoyable. I'll give you a ring sometime.' Then he may or
may not get back to you. If he doesn't and you'd really like to
see him again you feel reluctant to call as you're supposed to be
waiting for him to take the initiative. The problem lies in a
basic difference we notice between men and women. For a woman it
is the most natural and easy thing in the world to pick up a
phone and call someone. For a man it usually isn't. The fact that
he's said he'll call you and he doesn't get round to it right
away makes him feel guilty and this is another reason for his
inaction, in spite of the fact he might really like to see you.
At the Agency we suggest that women should
be the first to round off the first date by saying something like
I enjoyed that. Shall we give each other a call in a week
or two?' This way the initiative is evenly balanced, and the man
won't feel pursued if you, the woman, ring him and suggest
another (low key) date. We find that men love to be rung and
invited out by a woman as long as she isn't presuming that the
relationship is more serious than it is. If you do appear to
presume this they might run a mile!
Always offer to split the bill, but accept
graciously if your date really wants to pay.
We always recommend that both people offer
to share the bill. However, I think that if the man really wants
to pay (and let's face it, it's usually the man) let him. It's a
bit of old-fashioned courtesy and should never be treated as if
it were a put-down. If you're a woman and this happens to you
when you know there's going to be another meeting, you can always
say My turn next time'.
Have fun - relax and enjoy yourself!
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