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Hump Day: How to Make It Through a First Date

Dating isn't your forte? No problem. Thinking of it as networking, something most young professionals are probably already quite comfortable with. Maya Chendke breaks down the strategy and offers a few choice activities to facilitate that first meeting

If you have even a sliver of romantic inclination, chances are you’ve gone on a date. Chances are you’ve been set up, or introduced, or asked that new girl at work if she wants to “grab food.” You have had to interact with someone with whom you don’t have established rapport, while simultaneously sizing each other up

Masquerade it as you may, but this is dating.

As I was grabbing lunch with a girlfriend today, we started to discuss exactly what mechanisms occur during a date (and how to best cope). I’ve spent so much time heads-down building my young professional life; I sometimes forget how to interact with the opposite sex if they’re not my accountant or lawyer or platonic bffs. So, yeah, I get nervous! I can give a talk about self-publishing and network the heck out of a room…but having to present myself in a succinct, charming package to a prospect can get a little overwhelming.

There are horror stories of my dating past (which I’ll share for your humor benefit in my column). But the bottom-line question I’m thinking of these days is: what do you do when you actually commit to meeting someone in person, and have to interact with them in a semi-flattering way? Regardless of the source of how the “date” occurs, you have to sit with a person and have a conversation with mutually shared information. Genuinely exchanged and not full of crap, I hope

Except, anyone who has met me in person can vouch that I have the most transparent face on the planet…and my expression is instantly a dead giveaway to when I: a. think you’re awesome, b. think you’re a con artist/serial killer/smooth operator, c. think you’re a total idiot.

So as I’m chewing on my pasta, I’m chewing on the reality that I need to better…contain…my unfiltered facial responses – for the sake of trying to reacquaint myself with successful dating. For the sake of trying to move forward and make this a priority in my young professional existence. First impressions are not a fair measurement of a person’s make up for me to judge them (or for them to judge my bulging eyes). So as terrified as I am of the potential situation where I have to sit in front of a person who is wearing wool socks in the summer (true story), it’s the realization that dating is a mind over matter exercise in trying to be laid back.

Which brings me to the realization that I am going to take the strategy of handling any sort of dating situation as networking. At least for now. Networking is something I’m comfortable with –it’s confident information-gathering to see where synergies exist. It separates getting too invested in something and also curbs panic. The intent in networking is to learn about the other person – plain and simple. It means you can terminate a conversation once you’re satisfied with the assessment of the person, and that you don’t feel pressure to drag on an evening when you just don’t mesh.

David Beckham probably felt nervous when he first met Victoria. And maybe Rachel Zoe networked Rodger in the beginning. It may sound like splitting hairs, but power couples have to start somewhere, and it isn’t necessarily “easy” to get to know other young professionals out there. We’re exceptional, talented, successful individuals who are focused on our development. So when you consider including another person into your world, it’s kinda maje (to quote Zoe).  I’m sure there are some of you out there who are getting back in the game and in need of a familiar crutch to lean on. And for me that’s being a young professional. But once you forget about the nerves, things often just kind of…flow, right? Because by the second meet up, you should be ok with being on a date, which hopefully involves flowers and a kiss.

Situations Conducive for a Networking Feeling Date:

1. An after-work cocktail that gives you the opportunity to exit for dinner or some other fraudulent time commitment. If you’re as antsy as I’m feeling these days, opt for a non-focal evening (i.e. not Saturday).

2. A weekend afternoon coffee where you can thank them for their time, and go to the gym to deadlift the heck out of your disappointment.

3. Anything that provides a certain level of structure to converse, but also wrap up if either party doesn’t feel comfortable. So don’t order the Trenta coffee to try keep her in your presence (true story). You can order a second beverage if things go well. Or just plan a second date.

4. A situation where you don’t feel the impulse to make a run for it in heels (i.e. not bound to a gala table or sprinting from a wedding or work event).

Maya Chendke