Going on a first date can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. Will the two of you hit it off? Will you have a lot in common? Will the conversation flow? While you may be spending all of your time and energy thinking about how you should act when you're on a first date, it's just as important to consider how to end a date, too.
Whether you're meeting a blind date for coffee, having dinner with a friend that you're newly romantic with, or something in between, the last few minutes of your encounter can often be the biggest impression you leave someone with. No matter how the date turns out, it’s important to understand how to end a first date the right way so that you’re being your best self—whether it was the best or worst first date that you’ve ever had in your life. After all, you may leave the date truly wanting to see this person again, and the last thing you want to do is self-sabotage by sending the wrong signals.
Before heading out the door to meet your date, consider these tips on how to avoid sending the wrong message at the end of the outing.
Express Your Gratitude
If you want to win big points when you end a first date, as well as do the right and polite thing, you should always remember to say, “thank you.” It may be that they paid for your meal or drinks, and you are thanking them for picking up the tab. Your gratitude can extend beyond a financial dependence, though. You could be thanking them for their time, especially if they had to drive across town or struggled with parking. Gratitude goes a long way, whether the date was good or bad.
"Be positive," says psychologist Martin Graff. "Even if the date doesn’t go well, you will at least leave a favorable impression. Remember they are associating you with the situation, and it is possible to be found attractive by association with a positive experience."
The bottom line is that ending a first date on a positive note by thanking this person for coming and meeting up with you is a simple gesture that can go a long way. Even if you don’t want to see this person again, or if you had a frustrating day prior to the date, or if you simply don’t care about the impression you make, it's always a good idea to be well-mannered. You may not fall in love at first sight, but it is just as important not to give anyone reason to hate you after you go because you were rude.
Try to Set Up the Next Date
According to psychologist Marty Nemko, another important tip when ending a first date is to try and lock down the second date before you leave. "If you’d like to see the person again, make a date right then or at least specify when you’ll be back in touch. It’s rude to leave a person hanging."
While you may be used to speaking in generalities with phrases such as, “We should do this again sometime,” or “It’d be fun to meet up again at some point,” you shouldn’t hesitate to take it a step further and get into specifics regarding your next date. This technique can also be a helpful indicator regarding your date’s feelings for you. If they're eager to see you again then you are more likely to leave a first date with concrete plans; if they seem unsure, vague, or uninterested, you might not want to invest the time.
While there are cases when someone will make plans with you only to cancel them later in the hopes of avoiding any awkwardness, it still works in your favor to try and set something up before you go your separate ways.
Be Kind No Matter How You Feel
Speaking of not wanting to see your date again, it’s always in your best interest to be kind and respectful when ending a first date. Even if you had a terrible time, were counting down the minutes until the date ended, and would have loved to tell your date exactly how you felt, it’s still better to put your best self forward and act in a kindhearted way.
There is a certain amount of benefit of the doubt that you have to give someone, especially if this was a blind date or set up via the internet or an app. Your inclination may be to point out that they do not look like their profile pictures, or that they come off as conceited, or that they are simply boring, but instead you should always opt for maturity. You can end the date by saying, “Take care,” rather than saying, “Take a hike!”
It's also important that you don't lead someone on and give false hope. For example, while they may want to set up a specific time and location for the next date, it's unkind to make specific plans and then cancel them later. "If the other person puts you on the spot by suggesting another date, smile and say something like, 'I have enjoyed meeting you but I don’t see any possibilities here. I hope you find what you’re looking for'," suggests marriage and relationship therapist Isadora Alman.
Of course, if you're nervous about turning them down on the spot, just say you'll let them know. This can also be an important safety tactic, as some people can take rejection badly. Maybe the reason the date didn't go well was because you got an unsettling feeling. Use your best judgment and, when in doubt, always put your safety over politeness.
When it comes to dating, it's best practice to follow the golden rule and treat others how you'd like to be treated.