There’s a lot more that goes into a successful date than just looking good and smelling good. We always hope we won’t act awkward, standoffish, or accidentally say something weird. You want the date to go smoothly, and you don’t want to do anything that might turn off your date. It’s never a good feeling to leave a date with someone you’re interested in feeling as though it didn’t go well, and feeling certain you won’t be seeing him or her again.

Sometimes, the first few dates are agonizing and uncomfortable, but you then start to learn what types of dates work for you and you notice which dates allow you to feel more at ease and therefore less awkward.

With these tips, you’ll be able to avoid bad dates and figure out how to put a stop to an uncomfortable date before it starts. Here are 6 ways to make sure your next date isn’t awkward:

1. Plan ahead

Having a plan is one of the best ways to make sure your date will go smoothly. A lot of introverted people and socially awkward people rely on this dating strategy. Your date night plan should include things like reservations, an outfit picked out, a set time, a meeting place and a second location pre-planned in case the date is going well and you want to stay out.

Research things like comedy shows, karaoke bars, and don’t shy away from reading reviews and asking around so that you know what you’re getting into. It’s a lot better than being surprised when a venue isn’t at all what you expected. If you can, go on a reconnaissance mission so that you know what to expect, and if it doesn’t go well, add it to your list of date locations to avoid.

2. Embrace distractions

When I suggest that you embrace distractions, I don’t mean that you should be scrolling through Snapchat on your date. What I mean is, an awkward person doesn’t need the attention on them at all times on a date. Go to places like open-mic nights, karaoke bars, comedy clubs and improv centers so that you can enjoy your date’s company without feeling the pressure to make conversation all night long.

I recently went for drinks with a guy who planned the perfect date. He knew of a cute little restaurant / pub that had 9pm stand-up comedy performances every night. So, he suggested we meet there at 8pm, giving us one hour to chat before we would be focusing on the performance. This worked well because it was easy to find things to talk about for an hour, but it was nice to be able to stop talking after that and just watch a show and laugh while his arm was around me.

3. Don’t go anywhere too fancy

If you somewhere fancy on your date, you’ll feel even more uncomfortable and consumed with obsessive thoughts. At a fancy place, you’ll be like is what I’m wearing nice enough for this place? and am I using the right fork? Should I be using the little fork? and am I going to have to pay for half of this expensive ass bill?  Not to mention the fear that you didn’t pronounce the menu item you ordered properly.

For some reason, you really feel the pressure and feel the expectations at a fancy place. You feel as though you must be on your best behaviour, and you end up not really being yourself. It’s better to keep it casual for the first few dates, until you’re comfortable enough with each other to survive the white tablecloths and 3 forks.

4. Dress appropriately for the type of date you’re going on

When you’re choosing an outfit for a date, you want to avoid anything that requires maintenance, constant adjustments, or causes pain. For example, don’t wear the skirt that is notorious for always riding up. Don’t wear the blouse with the buttons that sometimes pop open. Don’t wear the red lipstick that smears. And definitely, definitely don’t wear the high heels that hurt to walk in. If you wear these things, you’ll make your date awkward and feel uncomfortable.

There are plenty of lip stains that don’t come off when you eat, and there are lots of stylish yet comfortable shoes. Fashionable sneakers are trendy right now and you’ll definitely be able to walk in them without complications.

5. Don’t go anywhere too quiet

In general, the noisy buzz of people and music will help you get through an unnerving date, and that noise in the background will also help you not notice any awkward silences. An awkward silence feels 10 times more awkward in a silent, empty restaurant. I’ll tell you that much.

You don’t want to go anywhere that’s so loud that you can’t hear each other talk, but you do want to pick a place that has a healthy level of background noise. Again, this is where research comes in handy. You’ll get to know the restaurants and lounges that are always decently busy, not too loud and not too quiet.

6. Avoid anywhere with line-ups

Although going to the Zoo or going to a theme park may seem like a good date idea, it’s not. At least not until you’re comfortable with that person. You’re going to be waiting in long line-ups, and that can be awkward. Sometimes you’re stuck in the sun and you’re hot, sweaty and not in the mood to make small talk while you wait in line. Plus, nobody likes waiting in lines, so maybe it’s not as fun of a date idea as you think.

7. Say no to anything overly romantic

I’m all about the romantic date, but it’s not something I want to partake in until I’m confident that him and I will become something. I want to know that what we have is real, and get to know him in casual settings at first. It can be super awkward to go on an extremely romantic, extravagant and intimate date in the beginning. If you act too much like a couple too soon, you can end up scaring each other away. I made the mistake of going on a romantic weekend getaway at an intimate hotel with a guy I had only been dating for a few weeks, and I realized it an incredibly stupid thing to do. It was too soon, too awkward, and the last I ever saw of him.

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Erica Gordon is the author of Aren’t You Glad You Read This? The Complete How-To Guide for Singles with a History of Failed Relationships Who Want their Next Relationship to Succeed, available for only $4.99 on Amazon and on iBooks here.

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