Most of us tend to stick to the tried and true for a first date — meeting for a meal, drink or coffee. Planning something outside of the comfort zone is a possibility but not recommended, at least not for a first date. A neutral place where you can talk and start the process of getting to know each other is ideal.
So maybe taking your date rock climbing, for example, is not the best idea, and more so if you or your date has never rock climbed. The focus is then on learning how to climb instead of getting to know each other. First dates, especially between virtual strangers, can be awkward enough without adding the pressure of learning a new skill.
But there is another alternative if you want to try something a little different. Why not grab that coffee to go and go for a walk? This is a simple but surprisingly good choice that checks off all the boxes: it’s a space in which you can talk freely and it’s a neutral activity. It also gets bonus points for being free!
But there is more. It’s no secret that walking is not only good exercise but is also a great stress reliever. We’ve all gone for a walk to clear our heads or to think through a problem. Studies back that up and show that walking releases feel-good endorphins that naturally reduce anxiety.
So let’s compare the calming and anxiety-reducing qualities of walking to sitting across from a first date at a restaurant or cafe. This may sound a little familiar. Sitting stiffly across the table, trying (or not trying) to lock eyes, making stilted conversation, all while trying to figure out what to do with your elbows. It can feel unnatural and the comparisons to first dates feeling like job interviews can have just as much to do with the setting than what is said.
Amy Cuddy, Harvard psychologist and the author of the new book “Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges,” spent her first date with her husband basically walking around Paris for two days. They were both “shaking with anxiety” before the date. “We walked all over Paris. And it was so much better than sitting in a restaurant, sitting still and trying to get to know each other. Walking allowed us to move and to expand.”
Walking, it’s as simple as that. And for those inevitable lulls in the conversation, the conversation-starters are all around you. Why not point out that great independent book store that you love, or the time you climbed the steps of the CN tower for charity? And if the date is going well, that option to sit down in a restaurant is always available.
Terran Shea is a Matchmaker and Dating Expert with MutualMatch.ca