I don’t discriminate, so first things first: Dating for, like, everyone can be excruciatingly terrible. But dating for introverts? That may just take the cake for being the worst-case scenario at nearly every level of the courtship process.
How do you make the initial first move? Trick question! You never make the first move. And since you’d rather eat glass than ask “So, do you have any siblings?” how are you supposed to make conversation? And, oh, what if your nightmares comes true and they take you to a party on your first date?
I ran into this problem a lot when I was on the dating scene. It’s a Herculean task to be someone’s plus-one at a party when you’re both firmly attached, but when you’re still in that getting-to-know you phase? Yikes. One of my worst nights ever involved my date abandoning me to answer a phone call (and really, who actually answers phone calls these days?) and I almost straight-up bailed after what felt like a thousand years on a rooftop by myself.
“If your date takes you to parties, you can mention you are more of an introvert and prefer to get to know them, one on one,” says relationship expert Paulette Sherman, PsyD. “Or, you can give it a chance and practice conversational skills as a way to become more comfortable in groups. Remind yourself you are there to connect and to enjoy yourself—not to impress anyone.”
Duly noted. And since dating for introverts can skew tricky, Dr. Sherman has a few other tips to keep in mind.
1. Structure may act as the antidote to anxiety
No matter my age, pre-date stress for me has always centered upon one idea: “What will we talk about?” And in retrospect, that anxiety is actually really cute, considering how few of my dates were actually interested in talking (haha…ha). All the people who have ever felt the need to rehearse what they plan to say on a date (I’ve written out scripts) feel my pain here—but apparently, we’re on to something.
Before heading out on a date, Dr. Sherman suggests preparing questions in advance so you’re familiar with what you plan to share and ask. And, steer away from the basics that may just get you one-word responses. For instance, instead of “Where did you grow up?” try “What’s your favorite vacation from childhood?” Or make some other tweak on a basic question that’ll still yield you an informative answer about the other person’s background while keeping them talking for a least a few beats.
And while there’s definitely a fair argument to be made against googling your date, especially if you’ve only been communicating through an app and can thus only build a perceived understanding of who they are from what you find, I think moderation is key. Because if the two of you have mutual friends, and you happen to be able to see their Facebook profile, it couldn’t hurt to do some light brushing up, right? I’ll leave that one up to you.
2. A pre-date ritual can be relaxing and centering
Having a routine is helpful for psyching yourself up for a date when the nerves start kicking in. For me, that routine skewed cosmetic (shaving my legs, applying makeup at my vanity, doing whatever helped me feel myself). But the part of my routine that felt actually soothing was having a record on while I got ready and repeating one or seven positive affirmations. I don’t know if that, specifically, would work for you, but Dr. Sherman is a big supporter of discovering and utilizing whatever calming ritual feels effective before you go out.
“Do a meditation or some deep breathing. You can center in your authentic self and feel more grounded. Visualize your date going well.” —psychologist Paulette Sherman, PsyD
“Do a meditation or some deep breathing,” Dr. Sherman advises. “You can center in your authentic self and feel more grounded. Visualize your date going well.”
Furthermore, going in with a “this won’t be a disaster” attitude can help diminish those first-date jitters, even if, well, it is a disaster. But it won’t be! Think only wonderful thoughts, Wendy!
3. Choose a date spot that’s familiar and comfortable to you
Related to routine, if you’re someone who enjoys comfort in sameness, Dr. Sherman recommends sticking to a go-to spot when you’re making those initial date plans. Being somewhere you really love, whether it’s a bar or a coffee shop or somewhere else, will put you in a safe space, so to speak.
And honestly, it takes off the stress when someone dares to text you “I’m good with wherever =)” and immediately throws you into a deep panic attack of needing to select somewhere cool and casual and convenient. Bonus: You know where all the nearest exits are if the date goes horribly wrong. But, as we previously established, it will not go wrong.
4. A date-night activity is a smart plan
Okay, so you’re feeling super self-conscious, and the idea of making small talk over tacos for two hours seems like a GD nightmare. If you want to take that spotlight off yourself, shine it onto something else.
“If you are worried about talking and being over-focused on what is being said, opt for an activity like walking in a botanical garden, bowling, or seeing a movie,” Dr. Sherman says. “Your focus on the activity will divert the focus from yourself.” Just don’t do an escape room. Never an escape room.
5. Challenge negative beliefs
This harkens back to the think-happy-thoughts idea. When you’re stuck in your own head about whether you’re saying the right things or wearing the right outfit, Dr. Sherman recommends to counter your stress with a positive truism, like “I have many interesting things to say.” Or, “this jumpsuit makes me feel like a boss.”
“When worries surface, you can challenge negative beliefs to stay positive. For example if you fear judgment, you can tell yourself, ‘The right person will accept me as I am.’” —Dr. Sherman
“When worries surface, you can challenge negative beliefs to stay positive,” Dr. Sherman says. “For example if you fear judgment, you can tell yourself, ‘The right person will accept me as I am.’”
For what it’s worth, I think when it comes to dating introverts, extroverts, or some other buzzy identifying term with which I’m not familiar, that positivity baseline is the exact mentality you should strive to adopt. Because the only thing you have to lose is a date who’s ultimately not right for you.
Which is to say, I never made it work with anyone who abandoned me at a party. Instead, I’m with someone who understands the joy of leaving early.
While you’re in the process of getting to know your date, we have a few tips on how to genuinely connect with them…or like, anyone. And if you’re on the flip side of this issue and want to know how to date a introvert, we have you covered.