Building up the nerve to ask someone out on a date is often hard enough. Add the pressure of a first date, and some men and women would rather stay home under the covers watching television with their cat.

If you do take the leap and go on a first date, you want it to be a fun and exciting experience. You want to impress your date so you will get a second, third and more dates.

What are some of the best places for a first date, and how to break the ice are questions you need answers for before the big night? Below are several tips to help you plan a wonderful evening and to break the ice on a first date.

Plan Ahead

This may seem like common sense, but many men and women don’t think ahead before their first date. They imagine they will just “wing it” and let nature take over.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a sparkling personality and the ability to talk to anyone about anything. Some men and women are shy, and when it comes right down to it, they don’t really want to talk with others.

Most of the time, one person in the couple is outgoing and the other is more reserved.

This is helpful in balancing the relationship. It doesn’t matter which personality you have; you should have a plan for every step of the date, which includes conversation topics.

Make it an Event to Remember

When creating a memorable first date, consider events and special occasions as possibilities. Check your local events calendar to find something different like a balloon glow, rodeo or circus.

You want to stay away from traditional dinner and a movie as this type of events don’t lend themselves to the excitement. You may find you aren’t compatible before the salad is delivered and then you have the rest of the night to be together.

If you can’t find a memorable event or place to take your date, think about a unique coffee shop or a picnic in the park. This will allow you to get to know each other without pressure and if things aren’t going well, you can go your separate ways.

Jot Down a Few Questions.

Having a few questions, or more, in mind will help you avoid the dreaded silence. Awkward pauses are okay, but long silences will kill a mood faster than anything.

Long stretches of quiet are also harder to overcome because you each think the other doesn’t want to talk, which is often not true.

Don’t pepper your date with a ton of questions but ask him or her about things they do or did to help you get to know them better. Sometimes a question will lead to an answer that shows you have something in common.

Think About Your Body Language

This may be the furthest from your mind, but try to remember what your body language is conveying to your date.

Here is a partial list of body language to be aware of on your first date:

Licking Lips – You may just be excited about the food, but this typically is taken as a sexual signal.  

Nodding Your Head – This is almost always a signal of agreement and shows your conversation partner you are listening.

Touching Your Face – Along with twirling your hair or moving your hair is seen as a signal you want (more) attention from the person you are speaking with.

Smiling – This is contagious and always signals happiness with what is going on or just said. Never force a smile because the person you are with can always tell a fake smile, even if they just met you.

Crossed Arms – This is a universal signal that you are closed off and don’t like what is going on. The same can be said if you add crossed legs to crossed arms, you project a sense of non-interest and can turn off your date to anything further.

Tight Lips – This is typically a sign of a liar. Try not to pursue your lips when talking or listening to something you are not happy about. Not all liars tighten their lips, but it is something you should watch out for.

Active Listening

It is widely known that more adults listen to another person while forming an answer or recalling a similar story they want to tell. This is not actively listening; it is not even good listening.

Before you answer or share your opinion, really listen to the other person speaking.

Try to remember the key points they make and then repeat them. This is known as “mirroring” them and will help to make the person you are talking with feel as if you were listening.

Learn from the Past, But Don’t Mention It

Chances are, this is not yours or the person sitting next to you’s first date. You or your date may have been in one or more long-term relationships, some good, some not so much.

It is best not to relive past relationships, good or bad. You can comment about something not working out, but don’t spend an hour on why the rat-bastard deserves to be hit by a bus. On the other hand, no one wants to compete with a saint. Comment about them being a good person, but don’t go on and on about their good looks or saintly deeds.

Talk About Your Passions

When we talk about something we are passionate about, our entire face lights up and we become more animated. Passions are inspiring and when we discuss them, the other person can tell we are a better person for what we do.

Whether you rescue dogs or volunteer at a children’s reading program, tell your date about these activities. Talk about why you decided to choose a certain activity. It may be because you struggled with reading as a child or whatever brought you to your passion.    Remember, a first date is a beginning, not the end of the world. The person in front of you is just that, a person. If it doesn’t work out, move on, but you won’t know if this is the right person for you if you don’t take a leap of faith.