Early communication plays an important role in relationships (Bosson, Johnson, Niederhoffer, & Swann, 2006). During the first date, not only are we getting to know the other person, but we are trying to get a sense of whether or not we would be well-matched. We also attempt to read our date’s cues, both verbal and non-verbal, which may indicate whether or not he or she is interested in us. This is also a time in which we assess our own feelings.
There is a lot more to a first date than exchanging facts about our personal lives. Rather, it’s a time in which we may plant the seeds for a long-lasting and meaningful relationship. As a result, it’s important to examine what the research shows about early communication and the implications it has for own our dating lives.
What The Research Says
McFarland, Jurafksy, and Rawlings (2013) have analyzed the conversations potential partners have. They note that ritual synchronization is a big component, which involves coordinating dialogue between the individuals. For example, when both people focus on the same individual (like if you both talk about a funny event that happened to one of you), a greater connection is made. If both people continue to talk about themselves, they are not aligning their conversation. For example, if they both continue to use the pronoun “I”, they forgo creating a joint experience.
Another way to create a connection on the date is through interpersonal and situational alignments (McFarland et al., 2013). For example, when we mimic another person’s laughter after a joke, we are joining in on their experience. This isn’t necessarily something that we are aware of; instead, it occurs naturally and on a subconscious level. It is very common when we are interested in connecting with the person we are out with.
What This Means for You
We often look for an indication that our date is interested, and will send out our own message. While some of these messages may be explicit, such as the suggestion to go on a second date or extend the evening with another activity, we may not always be this clear.
If you are interested in your partner, make sure to spend time focusing on her during the course of the conversation. If she is telling a story, ask follow up questions to help share in your partner’s experience. Avoid asking close-ended questions in which each person takes turns answering, as this allows little room for expansion.
In addition, you can create a positive joint experience by aligning with the other person by expressing sympathy or appreciation. Asking questions that redirect the conversation or interrupting your date in the middle of what he is saying creates a negative experience and may potentially shut the other person down. Therefore, it is important to listen to what your date is saying and validate his/her feelings.
First dates that leave both partners feeling as if they have created a joint understanding and a mutual experience often lead to a better connection. Both individuals will leave the situation with a deeper knowledge of their potential partner and the belief that they have clicked. These situations are much more likely to lead to the highly coveted second date.
You may also be interested in 5 Ways To Calm First Date Jitters
Bosson, Jennifer K., Johnson, A., Niederhoffer, K. & Swann, W. (2006). Interpersonal chemistry through negativity: Bonding by sharing negative attitudes about others. Personal Relationships, 13,135-50.
McFarland, D. A., Jurafsky D., & Rawlings, C. (2013). Making the connection: Social bonding in courtship situations. American Journal of Sociology, 118(6), 1596-1649.