First Date 101: It’s all About R.A.C.

Welcome to our very first ‘First Date 101’ article. We regularly encounter those men who struggle on first dates. If that describes you, check back for more “First Date 101” articles. We’ve got a bunch of them coming this way soon.

Whether you met online, at a bar, or simply out while running your errands, most romantic relationships involve a first date. In the past, first dates were more straightforward: you probably knew a good deal about your potential partner before taking them out on that first date. Today, the dating world revolves around apps and the internet which means you’re unlikely to know much, if anything, about your date before you meet them in person for the first time.

Armed with little to no knowledge about your interest, how are you supposed to plan a good first date? Fortunately, many good first date ideas don’t require background research on your date. They also don’t require elaborate planning or exciting activities. The reality is, planning a first date is very easy. Once you know what you should be trying to accomplish.

The Goal of a First Date is R.A.C.

Many people plan poor first dates because they don’t know what the goal of a first date is. The goal of a first date is to build R.A.C: rapport, attraction, and comfort. You want to build a rapport because you want something to talk about, and a way to enjoy each others’ company mentally. You want to build attraction, because we prefer to date those we are attracted to. And last but not least, you wan’t to build comfort, because we don’t want to date those we aren’t comfortable around.

If you’ve decided to go out, there’s a good chance there already is some rapport, attraction, and comfort. However, unless you’ve already spent a good deal of time together, the most you’re really going to have made any progress on is attraction. That leaves ‘R’ and ‘C’. Even ‘A’ is rarely strong before there’s even a first date. You’ll need to build more R.A.C. But how?

Rapport Building Considerations

Building Rapport means having effective communication. It follows that whatever date you choose, communication should be able to flow freely. You want a venue that is conducive to talking, a seating arrangement that is conducive to communication (both verbal and non-verbal), and either an activity that encourages communication, or at the very least, one that does not actively impede communication (such as movies or concerts).

It’s not hard to find such venues. Any bar or restaurant that isn’t too loud and where you can sit within physical reach of your date is sufficient from a rapport perspective. Granted, the venue is only a small part of rapport building–we’ll delve much deeper into communication in later series–but it is imperative that you not handicap yourself before the date even starts by planning a date that does not allow rapport building.

First Dates to Build Attraction

First Date Seating Example
SIde by side seating, along with ‘L’ seating, is generally ideal.

You are not a slave to your appearance or first impression: Attraction can be built! Building attraction requires more than just looking your best: attraction is not only physical. Intellectual stimulation is attractive. Being successful is attractive. Being interesting is attractive. Being funny is attractive. From this perspective, building attraction goes hand in hand with building rapport: you can use rapport to build attraction.

However, not all venues and date ideas suitable for rapport building are suitable for attraction building. Consider one of the most common (and in our opinion, faulty) first dates: coffee. Meeting at a coffee shop in the afternoon is a perfectly good date for talking and building rapport. It’s probably not too bad when it comes to building comfort either. However, it’s an absolutely terrible venue for building attraction!

The bright lights and completely platonic setting of an afternoon coffee date is the antithesis of romantic. People meet over coffee to discuss a job opportunity or to catch up with their parents, not to turn a virtual stranger into a lover.

Venues suitable for building attraction should have romantic elements such as dim lights or candle light, nice decor and comfortable, snug seating suitable for physical touch. Another tip to maximize attraction is to always plan dates in the evening. These suggestions work because we have been conditioned to associate physical touch, dim lighting, and the evening with love and romance pretty much our entire lives. Work within the framework of our social conditioning, not against it.

First Dates for Comfort

Comfort building is one of the most difficult things to accomplish on a first date. Not only that, your own comfort level is also extremely important. The best ways to build comfort, other than making your date feel safe and secure around you, is to make your date feel like they’ve known you longer than they have.

One way to do this is to quite literally extend the date: this means planning a first date that can be easily extended if both parties are having a good time. More time together is more time to get comfortable with each other. Another way is to once again lean on rapport building: the more you know about each other, the more comfortable you’ll be. Physical touch can be used to gauge comfort and adjust accordingly, so dates that provide opportunity for physical touch are crucial.

In addition to getting your date more comfortable with you, a severely underrated aspect of first date planning is your own comfort. This is likely the number one reason why over the top first dates do not work: you aren’t comfortable. Stick to the types of dates you have the most experience with, at the venues you frequent the most. Not only will you be more comfortable in your element, you also have a ‘control’: invariant data that will allow you to better understand how changes you’re making on dates are impacting your success. More on that later.

Know the Goals

First dates can be nerve racking, even under ideal conditions. It takes a lot of thought, practice, and expertise to have consistently successful first dates, whatever success means to you. However, at least now, you know what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s the first step.

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