Find Common Ground
Hold your horses! “Don’t get too personal too quickly,” says Lisa Marks, a Los Angeles-based celebrity journalist. In her line of work, this leads interviewees to withdraw from conversation. The same thing happens when getting to know a woman. “Establish a commonality – not with her, but with her friends or relatives,” says Marks. “Try: ‘Your friend just broke up? Mine, too! How is she?’” She’ll feel more comfortable if it’s not her you’re cross-examining.
Pre-meet. Do some (non-creepy) research. Google her company or interests, rather than pore over her holiday snaps on Facebook. Start with questions based on what you found. “She can relax simply because she has plenty to say.”
Tip: One hour in, use cheekier, more personal questions. Say: “You can refuse to answer, but our mutual friend said to ask…” This gives her the chance to opt out.
Focus On Your Speech
“When under pressure, you’ll often be planning your next comment while the other person is talking,” says Iain Bundred, political strategist and former advisor to the UK government. Politicians do this when speaking to angry journalists, but it’s something we all do on nervous first dates. Focus on what you’re talking about – this will help you appear calm, thoughtful and unhurried in her company. “When she’s talking, an oddly effective gesture is to touch your chin while nodding; you will seem more engaged,” says Bundred. “But to agree with every word in order to be liked appears insincere. Oppose, but not in a way that belittles her opinions. Try: ‘I hear you, but maybe you’d agree that…’”
Tip: Stick to short sentences and make your point early. This way, she doesn’t have to work at listening to you, which gives her the impression you’re easy to get along with.
Appeal To Her Instincts
To impress a loin-clothed woman of the past, all it took was a “resource display” – showing off the food or shelter you had to offer. She won’t admit it, or may not even realise it, but this instinct still lingers. “Take her for tapas, where the emphasis is on sharing,” says anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher. A warning: Neanderthal tactics work only on instant gratification. It must be food to eat together or a blanket you pull over both of you while watching a movie. “If she takes something away to enjoy alone, such as a lavish gift, she feels pressure to reciprocate – which won’t register well.”
Centuries of nurturing behaviour mean women instinctively evaluate by touch. “She must always touch you first to feel comfortable,” says Fisher. “But then, you should counter-touch immediately, on the same area of her body. If you don’t, it triggers feelings of rejection.”
Tip: “She’ll also notice a ‘non-reciprocal’ touch with other men,” Fisher says. “Placing your hand on a guy’s back and tugging him to move him out of the way gains you a higher status in her eyes.” But keep your hands to his upper back, of course! Go any lower and she’ll think you’re batting for the other team.
Know When She’s Becoming Bored
Admittedly, if your date starts to heckle you, then you may be past the point of help. But learn how to tell when your act is bombing and you can disarm her with a simple trick, like a comedian on stage. Excessive blinking is the giveaway: Research from the University of Western Ontario in Canada revealed that when the mind wanders, we close our eyelids more frequently to prevent information entering the brain.
Here’s a rescue plan from stand-up comedian Russell Kane: “If you can see she’s losing interest, mention it,” he says. “Point out exactly what’s going wrong and how it makes you feel. Audiences warm to confident vulnerability. “If someone in the front row looks
unimpressed, I vocalise their thoughts: ‘Oh no! Not funny. Did he have to swear?’ They’ll generally relax and laugh – and it’ll win them back. People hate hiding their discomfort.”
Tip: When telling a story, try to make it physical. (No, we don’t mean touching her!) Move your arms or walk around your “stage”. This visual information helps her to engage with what you’re saying.
Be Humble, Win Her Trust
We’re assuming you’re after a second date, not her bank details, so try this technique used by former con artist turned magician Matt The Knife: “If you want someone to like you, get them to like themselves. They’ll associate feeling self-assured with being with you.” He explains further: “It’s the same with trust. Don’t try to win theirs; let them think they’ve won yours. Reveal a weakness that also displays a strength.” To say “I own my own company” sounds arrogant. Instead, try: “I’m doing okay these days – but only after sleeping on friends’ floors while I secured funding.” This tells her you have money, but that you’re humble, with a strong circle of friends. It signals you’re letting her in – something she’ll reciprocate.
Tip: “Shift your use of ‘I’ to ‘we’ and from ‘me’ to ‘us’,” suggests Matt. This subtly brings her into your fold and manufactures closeness between the two of you.