Here’s the deal: First dates can be absolutely nerve-wracking. All that anticipation, excitement and expectation is enough to drive anyone to the verge of hysteria (and then some). But there’s no need to get too stressed, here are eight tips to make your first date less awkward.

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Pick the right activity

Instead of just going out for a coffee or a meal, choose something that you can do together. If you’re both sporty, do something active together, or even something less intensive like bowling. If you’re not, go for a walk or even play tourist for a day. Doing an activity on the first date will make you both more relaxed and also less awkward as you’ll be busy doing something, instead of thinking of what to say next. It also lowers the chances of uncomfortable silences, compared to during a meal.

Have a pre-date ritual

Psych yourself up for your date. Whether it’s going to the gym for a workout to get your adrenaline flowing (just remember to shower after okay?) or ringing your BFF for a pep talk, do something that will raise your spirits and put you in a good mood. Do what it takes to calm yourself so that you’re prepared for a comfortable, fun time.

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Dress comfortably

You might want to look nice and sexy for him but keep your outfit comfy because you don’t want to be walking at a snail’s pace in those high heels or tight skirt or, worse still, suffering from blisters thanks to your very pretty but painful new shoes. When you feel comfortable, it’ll make the time you spend with your date relaxed too. It will also give you the confidence to deal with awkward pauses – think “I can handle this!” and you’ll survive the date unscathed.

Leave the past behind

You’ve just met the guy, don’t blurt out everything about your past, be it about your crappy ex-boyfriend or how you have issues trusting men, for example. It’s good to discuss your life story once you’re comfortable with a man but a first date is not the time or place to delve into the past. Keep the conversation casual so you don’t scare him off with your emotional verbal diarrhoea.

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Be prepared

If you know enough about him to know what his hobbies and interests are, do some research beforehand so that you can engage him in conversation during your date. Don’t make him do all the work, you should do your part too, to ensure that you have an easy time together. Ask him questions (don’t get too personal yet though) and genuinely try to get to know him so that you can see if there’s a connection. Also, put your phone away and give him your full attention.

Don’t bring up touchy subjects

A first date isn’t the time to discuss your thoughts on the current political climate or why the death penalty should be abolished. Steer clear of controversial topics as that has a tendency of making things awkward, even with people you know, let alone someone you’ve just met. You don’t want to get into a heated debate or fall out over your differing opinions about a world leader, for example, so keep it lighthearted and chat about everyday stuff that won’t feel like you’re walking in a minefield.

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Keep it casual – and short

Long, drawn-out dates have a higher chance of getting awkward so try to keep your first date to under an hour to avoid this happening. And go somewhere with an informal atmosphere (don’t pick a posh restaurant, for example) so that it’s easier to end the date if it’s not working out and would also be full of distractions should there be a lull in the conversation.

Have fun

Put on your best smile and try to laugh as much as you can. Don’t fake it though, if you’re genuinely not having a good time, feel free to walk away. But, otherwise, relax and enjoy the date. Just be yourself and don’t take it so seriously.