• Girl reading a self-help book

First date disasters: how to fix a bad first impression

As if first dates aren't nerve-jangling enough, step forward Harvard University professors, who say that five seconds is all it takes a new person to form a lasting judgement about you.

Nobody has a 100% success rate where making great first impressions are concerned: nerves can get the better of you, you might have had a stressful journey, or you might just be having an off-day. Whatever the reason, your date isn't going home with a warm fuzzy feeling and a second meeting is off the menu. 

So how do you fix it? Well if you decide it's worth another shot at showing your sparkling self, science has some tips for winning over your date, second time round...


Don't catastrophise. You might be going over and over that stupid remark you made, but your date is probably just getting on with life. If you really think you've made a lasting impression for all the wrong reasons, get in touch and acknowledge that what you said or how you behaved isn't something you're proud of. Or if you just feel that you two got off on the wrong foot, say so without apportioning blame or making too many excuses. 


Psychologists say that when we mess up on a first impression it takes eight subsequent good impressions to make up for the initial blunder. But don't be alarmed - that doesn't mean you have to beg someone for eight more dates or fork out for eight more dinners before you're back on an even keel. Think of those eight impressions more as instances that can make up your next encounter - a couple of jokes, a warm smile, a thoughtful conversation - they all count!


Can I trust you? Can I respect you? These are the two questions that your potential partner is asking themselves when they first meet you. That's according to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, who refers to this process as the "warmth and competence equation" and says it accounts for up to 90% of a first impression. Ask yourself to what extent you came across as trustworthy and respectable and you'll gain some insight into how much ground you need to make up. Don't be inauthentic - trying to be something you're not will only serve to form a worse impression. But if you know that you're a good listener, you can make up for any warmth lacking from your first encounter by making sure you ask good questions and pay attention to your date. 


It's not about schmoozing or sucking up - rather it's about delivering authentic, genuine compliments you really mean, as a way to show that you're interested, you're taking them seriously and that you're noticing things about them that make them an attractive proposition. Asking someone's advice is a great form of flattery - demonstrating that what they think matters to you. Just don't get too personal on a first or second date, or open with a request for an analysis of your personal problem!


You want someone to look past that bad first impression and see you again? Just ask them! Psychologists say that humans have an 'egalitarian goal', that is to be seen as a fair and reasonable person by others. That goal is magnified if someone proposes that we behave in a fair and reasonable way. So by asking someone to give you a second chance, they're much more likely to do just that!


Author: Rebecca

Rebecca lives in London with her husband, daughter and dachshund. She hopes her dating blogs for Flame Introductions will inspire you to seek out the best London and UK locations for brilliant dates, and discover some tips along the way to help you find your perfect partner.