Often awkwardness is linked to low self-esteem, insecurities, shyness, lack of dating experience or feeling social pressure to be liked and understood. The vulnerable nature of dating can also make rejection feel even more brutal.

There’s no denying that first dates can be awkward. Knowing that you are both coming on the date to evaluate your level of attraction and potential interest in each other as partners can lead to pressure and stress, which then in turn may create awkwardness. The more pressure you put on the date, the more tense and awkward it may become.

You can date more mindfully by shifting your focus to connecting in the moment instead of fixating on what your date thinks of you. By focusing on enjoying the interaction, being open, and building a bond with your date, you can do your part to take the pressure off.

Awkwardness on dates will become less of an issue if you are willing to work on your confidence, get dating practice, and utilize the six strategies below. Again, not all dates will go well (and this is okay!), but there is a lot you can do to better handle any awkwardness that is interfering with your dating life.

Here are six practical strategies to better eliminate and handle awkwardness in dating:

Have a true desire to get to know your date. Set an intention to connect with your date through friendliness, understanding, listening, and asking questions with curiosity (not as a judgmental interviewer or interrogator). If there are any pauses, know they are natural and you can recover by doing your best to keep the conversation going, summarizing and validating what your date is saying, and showing interest.

Allow yourself to relax as much as possible while owning that first dates can be awkward (and let’s face it, many will be), so giving yourself a hard time or calling yourself weird is only going to make dating feel more intimidating. Accept that dating can be awkward territory, but you can survive the worst-case scenarios of liking someone who doesn’t like you back, or not seeing the person again. Take good care of yourself before, during, and after all dates and be kind to yourself through the natural awkward moments of dating.

Plan an activity date. Activity dates give you something external to focus on and bond over. Dating is generally less awkward when you are not completely focused on each other or have the pressure of keeping a conversation going when you are sitting with someone for dinner, drinks or coffee.

It is just an opportunity to see if you have enough in common to go on a second date, and continue on the path of getting to know each other. Take the pressure off by approaching the date with a carefree attitude. When your mind takes you too far into the future or becomes preoccupied with being liked, get back into the moment and remind yourself it is only a first date.

You can date more mindfully by shifting your focus to connecting in the moment instead of fixating on what your date thinks of you. Awkwardness on dates will become less of an issue if you are willing to work on your confidence, get dating practice, and utilize the six strategies below. Dating is generally less awkward when you are not completely focused on each other or have the pressure of keeping a conversation going when you are sitting with someone for dinner, drinks or coffee. Allow yourself to relax as much as possible while owning that first dates can be awkward (and let’s face it, many will be), so giving yourself a hard time or calling yourself weird is only going to make dating feel more intimidating. Take good care of yourself before, during, and after all dates and be kind to yourself through the natural awkward moments of dating.

It can be challenging to continue a conversation filled with superficial small talk, plus it’s not a good sign if a date feels like an interview or obligation. Boredom may lead and crush any interest to awkward pauses. Bonus: you are likely to be more attractive to your date if you sound excited about what you are talking about and the life you are living.

While you can’t control every aspect of the interaction (and potential awkward silences), you can laugh off any odd moments, and use the above skills to make the date fun and comfortable for the other person. By plowing through any awkwardness and continuing to put yourself out there, you will build confidence that makes any potential awkwardness more tolerable and easier to smile and laugh through.

Avoid potentially awkward topics and remember your date is still a stranger. This is why it is important to avoid topics such as finances, past relationships and ex’s, and sex in early dating conversations. Look for common ground while avoiding asking questions that are too personal for a first date.

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