Best spot for a first date? Think bowling instead of restaurant

Best spot for a first date? Think bowling instead of restaurant

On the list of North American cultural conventions, first dates at restaurants ranks right up around complaining about municipal politics and non-stop Christmas music on the radio the day after Halloween.

So it may come as a surprise to some that a body language expert has just named restaurants the absolute worst place you can possibly have that first date. Well, perhaps not as bad as taking him or her to the emergency room, for instance, but that’s probably more circumstantial than voluntary.

Blake Eastman, a former poker player turned founder of the New York-based Nonverbal Group, a research organization that studies and teaches about body language, tells StyleCaster that there’s a reason restaurant dates can feel like job interviews: The setup restricts natural, expressive movement that may provide important cues to what the other person is thinking and feeling.

“Movement is a great predictor of first date success,” he says. “Dates are all about having fun and having a good time, so you'll tend to see that in good dates, people will move around a lot.”

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Being forced to sit across from a person you’ve just met, particularly a person you’re considering for a romantic relationship, may feel more "adversarial" than relaxed, Eastman adds.

Instead, he recommends a more physical activity, like bowling, to break the ice and inject a little fun into the start of the date.

Or, if dinner is really, really your thing, Eastman suggests starting first at a casual bar for a drink and following up the restaurant meal with bowling, a walk or even a concert. That way you’ve got all bases covered: A pre-emptive strike against awkward dinner conversation and a post-dinner chance to gesture your way to romance.

Don’t forget to pay attention to your own body language on the date, too. Project confidence by standing or sitting with your shoulders and head up and don’t be afraid to be animated when you speak – naturally, of course, not in a forced, awkward way.

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“It’s all about being adaptive and being really knowledgeable of what you’re giving off, and also knowledgeable of your partner. At the end of the day, the person that’s confident and mindful of their own behavior, and their date’s behavior, is going to be the best. That’s just that. That’s not a set of tips,” he says.

Interestingly, Eastman notes that while eye contact is an important way to let your date know you’re interested, maintaining constant eye contact might seem a little creepy and unnatural. As long as you don’t spend the majority of your evening staring at the wall or your feet, allow your eyes to take a break from your date’s face and find their way back when the moment feels right.

In the meantime, it can't hurt to work on your bowling technique either.