How to Make Someone Feel Special on a First Date

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Fine Art of Small Talk" by Debra Fine. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Want to know how to make someone feel special on a date? How should you act on a first date?

Many people go on a first date with high expectations and hopes of making a deep connection with someone. However, establishing a deep connection with someone will take time. In the beginning, it’s best to let go of expectations and just focus on one another.

Here are some tips for going on a first date.

Making Them Feel Special

In The Fine Art of Small Talk, Debra Fine offers a few tips about how to conduct yourself during the date. First, she recommends, be patient: A lifelong connection won’t be formed in a single date. As before, your goal is to connect, learn about each other, and enjoy the time you share together, not to immediately figure out whether you want to spend the rest of your life with this person.

(Shortform note: While Fine is correct to suggest that you won’t know if someone is truly “right” for you on the first date, you will eventually need to answer this question. Fine doesn’t explain how to tell if someone’s right for you or not, so here’s what dating coaches and counselors suggest you look for in a partner: First, a good partner supports you without trying to change you. They encourage you to pursue your passions and dreams, and they treat you the same in public as they do in private. Further, a good partner listens and responds to you—they’re happy when you’re happy, and they comfort you when you’re sad. They don’t dismiss, ignore, or gloss over your emotions. Finally, a good partner fits into your life while still having boundaries—they’re comfortable telling you “no” or letting you know when you’ve hurt their feelings.)

With the goal of connection in mind, if you want to know how to make someone feel special, let go of your plans and expectations and just focus on your partner. During a date, it’s natural to feel anxious, nervous, and uncomfortable—to worry about how you’re being perceived, whether you’re doing the right things, and so on. But you’re not dating yourself: You’re dating them. Listen to their stories, dig deeper into what they tell you, and only share your own experiences in moderation. In doing so, you create an opportunity for the other person to feel listened to, attractive, and interesting.

(Shortform note: In contrast to Fine’s advice, matchmaking team Kelleher International argues that you can’t focus entirely on your partner forever. A relationship requires balance, they explain, so ensure you’re communicating your own needs and desires with your partner. Give them a chance to listen to you, take care of you, and put you first, too—you deserve their attention and accommodation as much as they deserve yours.)

How to Make Someone Feel Special on a First Date

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Fine Art of Small Talk summary:

  • Why we need small talk and why we shouldn't avoid it
  • How to appear confident and engaging in any context
  • How to break the ice with strangers and keep the conversation going

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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