expert dating advice

A Few Insider Tips | First Date Advice

iStock_000019428153SmallHappy New Years! We hope your New Year is off to an exceptional start and that you are starting to think about dating again after the holiday rush. Even the most seasoned daters among us can use a refresher course in the ins and outs of dating. Dating is a skill and preparation is key so you arrive confident, relaxed, and importantly enthusiastic! Here are a few key basic pieces of advice for men and women based on well over a decade of experience in matching thousands of Bay Area professionals.

For the Guys…

1. Call with a plan. When you call to schedule your date, have two or three restaurants in mind, as well as a few days/times that work for you. That way you don’t get caught up in the early planning stages. For those guys who are rusty at dating and get caught up with nerves when calling her, it’s fine to even script this out if you need to. Make a checklist. Whatever works best for you.

2. Seek expert advice. If you don’t know how to order wine or aren’t even sure what seems like the best dish on the menu, ask for advice. Restaurants are full of “experts” so let the server or sommelier direct your choices if you’re not good at making them for yourself. Women like men who are willing to ask for directions. 😉

3. Stay out of quicksand. We all have topics we’d like to avoid in a first date conversation. All of us. Instead of completely deflecting them and sounding evasive or sharing too much and allowing the date conversation to take a difficult turn, develop a quick sound bite to address the topic and move on. For example, if you have a difficult custody situation with your ex-wife, simply say, “I actually spend as much time as I can with my kids currently, and we’re still negotiating what makes the most sense for everyone. I’m optimistic this will have a happy ending.” This is a clean and concise way to convey factual, relevant details that is also positive and encouraging. Don’t air your dirty laundry on a first date; you have nothing to gain by doing so.
Happy couple in the city

For the women…

1. Be responsive. This one is really, really important. If your date calls you, respond to him quickly if you don’t get his initial phone call. And don’t start counting or matching days between calls in some sort of quid pro quo. You both want to go on a date, so make that happen. I repeat, you both want to go on a date, so make that happen. And make it happen sooner rather than later. A lot of great matches stall out because people get stubborn about returning calls instead of getting serious about establishing communication. I am continually amazed at the lack of responsiveness amongst many people I see out there dating in the wild.

2. Change for the better. Even if you’re in the sort of job where your work wear transitions well to dates, make a wardrobe shift to remind yourself that this isn’t work and it isn’t an interview and you don’t do this every day. Frankly, it’s highly unlikely that your day looks are also great date looks, so don’t be afraid to slip into a colorful dress, throw on a great pair of heels, and let your hair down. If not now, when?

3. Be direct. If you’re out of practice with dating, you might have a tendency to make conditional statements about future dates like “I’d like to do this again if you would….” Don’t do that. Just be clear about it and say “I’d love to see you again. This has been a lot of fun.” The confidence will be incredibly attractive, and will make it easy for your date to ask you out again.

We have countless tips to share so if you’re someone who’s interested in hiring a date coach, inquire within amy@linxdating.com. As for matchmaking, we currently have so many successfully paired couples! In December alone, we celebrated engagements and learned about new Linx matches reaching exclusive status. Contact Amy today to learn more about our unique offline matchmaking services and how Linx can bring you multiple steps closer to finding “the one.” Our clients hire us and engage our service due to our gaining access to a pool of candidates they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. On top of this, our scrupulous vetting process allows Linx to reach new standards of excellence in the business.

Putting the CON in Confidence… Part III

March_4_10_Couple_LaughsIt’s great to have a toolkit for getting through a first date with a veneer of healthy self-esteem, but what happens after that? If you’re lucky, a first date leads to a second. And a second leads to a third. But if you aren’t feeling good about yourself, you probably won’t make it very far beyond a couple of dates. That’s fine if you never really had an initial spark, or it’s becoming clear that that two of you are very different people who might not easily connect, but it’s not so fine if the fire fizzles simply because you’re too trapped in your own head to focus on the person right in front of you.

In order to capitalize on early chemistry and attraction, it’s important that you a) actually believe that you deserve to be dating this particular person, and b) let your date see and appreciate that. Try to remember that in order for any healthy relationship to survive, both parties have to be invested, and both of you actually have to think that it’s a good idea. So let’s assume you really did feel sparks, and that the early interest in mutual… if you aren’t the world’s most confident person, what can you do to bolster your ego just a little bit? After all, there has to be more to successful dating than just asking a waiter for suggestions and walking a woman to her car, right?

Here are a few ways you can develop some dating confidence. And if you don’t think you need additional confidence when it comes to dating, try to keep in mind that having added confidence can be useful in almost every aspect of our lives.


Make a list, and check it twice…

I recently spoke with a client who was nervous about an upcoming first date. She was concerned that her date might not like her for a dozen different reasons, and had already started rationalizing a case for rejection from a man she hadn’t even met. While it’s healthy to be prepared for any possible outcome, she was really only focused on one. If you find yourself doing this – particularly when it comes to anticipating rejection, you need to slow down, and make a list of all of your positive qualities and attributes. Yes, all of them. Go ahead and start now; it might take awhile. Be as detailed as possible. Oh, you like your earlobes and pinky toes? Turns out you’re one of those rare people who never has morning breath? You rarely move while sleeping? You can make a gourmet meal out of almost anything? You’re incredibly good at your job, and your patients/clients/colleagues love you? You never forget a birthday? You actually have the time and desire to invest in a relationship? Your most recent ex said that you had “incredibly good hands”?

Take some time to really study this list. These are all of the things about you that are great. These are all of the reasons someone should want to date you. These are all of the reasons that would make someone LUCKY to be your significant other. Some of it, of course, is going to seem very silly. But the rest of this should feel very true and very real. Don’t focus on the possible perceived negatives. Don’t highlight your weaknesses; showcase your strengths. You may still not end up on a second date, but it will be because your date doesn’t appreciate your positive qualities, which is his or her loss. If you go into an evening expecting that your date is going to reject you based on your own insecurities, you’re creating a situation in which one of the worst possible outcomes simply lives up to your expectations. No one wants to experience that.

Dress the part…

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing that you need to dress up for a date, but I really can’t stress this enough. What you wear and how you present yourself really does matter. After all, you wouldn’t wear a bathrobe to a job interview, and yet you’re probably not hoping that you and your next job are going to have a relationship that involves the phrase “’til death do us part.” We get confidence from our clothing choices; color tends to make us feel more youthful and alive, flattering cuts make us feel better about our bodies, and high quality garments are often an indicator that we see value in investing in ourselves.

You want to signal that you believe yourself to be desirable, attractive, and worthy of investment. And you want your date to agree. When you really dress for a date, you’re telling the man or woman across the table that he or she matters, that you respect their time and value their attention, and that you value yourself. Highly. If you’ve ever had the experience of overdressing on a day that you feel awful in the hope that you’ll get some sort of compliment, you already understand the role that attire can play in dictating your mood. Putting some effort into your wardrobe pays dividends at all times. It also gives you practice being comfortable attracting attention and accepting compliments. If you have one of “those jobs” where you’ll actually be frowned upon for wearing anything more than a t-shirt and jeans, start making an effort on just one day of every weekend. Your friends will tell you that you look great, and you’ll start to feel even better.

Talk to Strangers…

One of the hardest things about building dating confidence can be overcoming stranger anxiety… you know, the stuff that sets in when we’re about 18 months old, and (for most of us) never really goes away? There is a lot of inherent risk in approaching someone you don’t know, and we spend the first part of our lives being told to never do it. As we age, involvements with strangers tend to be managed through classroom, professional, or social environments where an instructor/boss/friend provides a framework and context for initial interactions. Relationships of all forms tend to blossom from these meetings, but early expectations (and hopes) are typically low. This, of course, doesn’t provide much of a foundation for creating a relationship with someone you meet online or through Linx; we might say that the two of you should meet each other, but it’s still up to you to do the heavy lifting.

There is a way to get better at managing stranger anxiety, and that’s to actually approach strangers. Yes, do exactly what your parents told you to never do. Your goal should only be to have small, simple interactions… asking for the time, making chitchat while waiting in a grocery store line, etc. Do this initially with people you simply don’t find attractive. Start with people of the same sex, or with men and women who are significantly older or younger. Once you get comfortable striking up conversations with strangers you don’t find attractive, then start doing it with people you DO find attractive, but who aren’t available. In other words, look for wedding rings. This allows you to get over the anxiety of approaching someone you find desirable while keeping the stakes very low. And finally, when that becomes easy, you can start talking to strangers who appear to be attractive AND available. It will give you the confidence you need to approach people when dating in the wild. It will also provide a nice boast to your self-esteem when you meet someone exceptional through Linx.

Find a Coach…

Increasingly, people are more and more willing to turn to coaches to help them gain or develop missing and weak skills; we do it with fitness and nutrition, with sports, with job interviews, with grad school applications, and even with childbirth. So it shouldn’t seem odd to think that when it comes to dating and confidence, it might be a good idea to have a coach. Much like you might with a gym routine, see if one of your close friends can help you develop some skills and confidence. Give each other positive feedback, encourage more outgoing behavior, and remind each other of your positive qualities. Sharing your goals with other people in your life is usually a great first step to making them happen.

If you’re doing this on your own, consider using a book like Ten Days to Self-Esteem by David Burns. The noted Stanford psychiatrist walks you through several steps that help in gaining confidence, improving your sense of self-worth, and developing a positive outlook. The skills are applied broadly, but can definitely have romantic benefits. If your goal is really to just focus on skills that are dating specific, however, and to do so in person, you may want to consider working with Linx. We provide private, customized coaching sessions for clients on a regular basis, and would be happy to work with you in whatever way you might need.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, your entire life can benefit when you decide to work on your confidence and self-esteem. Even if you think you’re “doing fine” on issues of self worth, there isn’t much of a downside to developing more confidence, and learning that it’s ok to feel truly good about yourself. We all have things about our bodies, our lives, and our personalities that we’d probably like to change, but we want the people in our lives to accept us for the qualities and attributes that won’t. You can’t have what you don’t ask for, and you’ll never convincingly ask for a great relationship if it’s not something you believe you deserve. So learn to like yourself just as you are; learning to appreciate all that you have to offer is a key first step in finding a relationship that is real, deep, and everlasting.

Sex(y) Ed…

Written by: Linx staff member Michael Norman iStock_000042703430Small

I often get asked about what women should wear on first dates, and I really have just two words to say about that:

Be Sexy.

That’s it. Be Sexy. Despite blog posts and magazine articles to the contrary, there is no uniform for first dates. In fact, sexiness is different for every woman based on her age, her confidence, and her body type. But at any number – whether you’re counting years, reporting your dress size, or looking down at a scale – your first (and really, only goal) when dressing for a date should be achieving some degree of sexiness.

I know some of you are clenching your jaws (and possibly your pearls) when you read this. I can actually hear more than a few silent diatribes about objectification, being liked for who you are, the appeal of intelligence, self-respect, dignity, modesty, propriety, being true to yourself, and leaving something to the imagination. Those points can all be valid depending on the day, but note that I didn’t ask you to wear Lucite heels and a bandage dress borrowed from a Vegas cocktail waitress; I simply asked you to be sexy.

I know it can be harder for some of us than it is for others, so let’s examine some of the feedback clients often give me when they bristle at this suggestion. If you don’t think sexiness is appropriate for a first date, there’s a chance that one or more of these points might apply to you:

I don’t like being objectified. This isn’t about sex.

Hold up. This isn’t about sex? Are you kidding me? So you just want to make a new friend, is that it? Is that what we should tell your date? That you’re just looking for something platonic? Is that why he called you, asked you out, made dinner plans, and is going to pick up the check? Just to make a new friend? You’re right that a first date isn’t about sex, but it is about sexual attraction; that’s really the point of differentiation between a date and every other interaction in your life. If you don’t invite your date to be attracted to you, he won’t be. But hey, maybe you two can just be friends!

I don’t like dressing “that way.” I like to leave something to the imagination.

Again, I’m not telling you how to dress, but I am telling you how to feel. And so much of your mood – in all aspects of your life – can be dictated by clothing choices. Would you wear yoga pants to an important business meeting? Are you going to wear a skirt to SoulCycle? A bathing suit to a doctor’s appointment? (Actually, I did see a woman do that once. Please don’t.) If you want to be kissed, wooed, desired, wanted, you have to dress the part. Even the most conservative among you can spice things up a bit by undoing a button, letting your hair down, or adjusting a hem length. Invite the attention you want; if you don’t want a man to think about you sexually, I’m not sure why you’re going on dates in the first place.

I don’t like my body. You’re asking too much of me.

It can sometimes seem hard to accept, but we all have issues with our bodies. (Personally, I have about 56 inches of scars from 20 different surgeries, so I know of what I speak.) But if you don’t let yourself like your own body, how can you expect someone else to love it? Whether you realize it or not, you do love some parts of your physical self. If you have trouble starting at the top with a list of parts you like, go ahead and start at the bottom. List the things you dislike most and work in reverse. When you get to the top, you’ll know exactly where to focus with your clothing choices; draw attention to the parts of you that you like most (or dislike least), but always be sure to draw attention to yourself. If you don’t, you’re signaling to your date that some other woman in the room is more worthy of his gaze than you are.

I’m only interested in a guy who’s into more than just the superficial.

Yeah. We all are. Note the “more” in that statement. I get that you want him to be into your brain, but you also want him to be into your body. At least, I hope you do. It’s really enlightening to know that our clients who most often stress the importance of a physical connection are among the eldest. People who’ve had forty or fifty years of relationship experience know a lot more than the rest of us do. One of my favorite clients has often said, “There’s absolutely nothing more important than the way a man looks at me.” She’s right. So learn from your elders. (She, by the way, could teach all of us many, many things about the benefits of great tailoring and wearing slightly tight sweaters that have the perfect neckline. She’s also a successful retired attorney who can talk about almost any subject with a twinkle in her eye, a light laugh, and a smile.)

It’s 2014. The idea that guys are visual creatures seems really unevolved to me.

You’re right. It is unevolved. Because men are not particularly evolved when it comes to matter of the, uh, heart. How many generations do you think it takes to change the hardwiring of attraction? And what, exactly, would be the impetus? If anything, the practices of society – and the human body itself – adapt to feed our visually stimulated sexual appetites. You do, realize, right, that makeup is just a way to mimic the physiological signs of arousal? That every time you put on lipstick or blush or eyeliner you’re telling the men around you that you’re… interested? And your body… if you don’t want to attract the male gaze, your body is the biggest traitor of them all. More than one school of evolutionary thought proposes that enlarged female breasts (practically unheard of elsewhere in the animal kingdom) developed as a response to learning to walk upright; apparently human males need some form of cleavage to be not too far from eye level, and we don’t really care if it’s on the back or the front.

So let yourself be sexy. Admit that you’re looking for a connection that’s both physical and cerebral. Embrace the opportunity to advertise your interests. (Please, please don’t wear something that your friends called “cute.”) Learn to love the parts of your body that you already like, and to like the parts of your physique that you think you’ll never love. It’s ok to show some skin, to wear bright colors, to make choices that make it hard for a man to not look at you. It’s ok to want to be the center of attention on your date. In fact, it’s human nature. 😉 iStock_000039223286Small

Putting the CON in Confidence… Part II

Amy often points out that the skills of dating are themselves like a muscle, and unless regularly exercised, they tend to atrophy. This is true of people both in and out of relationships, and though it is a huge mistake to think that your “dating life” is over just because you’ve found a boyfriend or girlfriend (happy long term couples actively “date” each other throughout their marriage) this can be a particularly hard problem for those of us who are single; if the dating muscles have atrophied and a new date is on the horizon, how can we pretend to have any dating strengths?Happy couple in the city

Given that we charge our male clients with the responsibility of planning, arranging, and paying for a date, it makes sense to offer the more skittish guys some advice on how to make sure everything at the restaurant goes smoothly. Assuming you survived Part I of this series, and successfully navigated a phone call that has led to a first date, here are some things to keep in mind that can help provide the boost of confidence you might need to convert a first date into a second.

1. Scout the location.

As a guy, it’s really important to have some sense of mastery of your surroundings, especially if you’ve invited a woman to a place she’s never been. While we certainly recommend picking somewhere totally new to both of you if you’re a more practiced or adventuresome dater, go with someplace familiar if first dates are generally hard or stressful for you; we want you to be excited about this, not anxious.

So show up a little bit early, especially if you haven’t been there in awhile. Make sure you check in with the hostess, and maybe try to request a booth or corner table that has low lighting. Or ask to sit outside if the weather is right and you don’t think it will get too cool too quickly (women love dining al fresco, even if they’re rarely properly dressed for it). Make sure you know the answer to the inevitable “Do you know where they hide the ladies’ room?” query that you’ll get at some point during dinner. And even take some time to study the menu while you’re alone and form a couple of questions or opinions about the dishes; if decisions are hard for you, deciding what to eat will be even harder when you’re being distracted by a pretty face.

2. Admit ignorance.

If you aren’t particularly well-versed in any specific food or cuisine, the really great thing about a restaurant is that it’s full of experts who can help you out. Don’t know where the best table is for a first date? Ask the hostess. Not sure what to order? Ask the waiter. Not comfortable ordering a bottle of wine? Ask the sommelier. Some guys might see this as weakness, but admitting what you don’t know is actually a strength; it also gets you off the hook. If the wine is bad, you didn’t pick it. If the table is lousy, you didn’t ask to be seated there. If the dish is awful, blame the waiter. And send it back. All of us like someone who knows a lot about a few things, but no one likes the guy who thinks that he knows a lot about everything. It’s really ok to be ignorant; admitting ignorance in front of your date can allow both of you to learn something. Together. It also lets your date know that you aren’t the kind of guy who always has to have an opinion, which means she’ll likely care a lot more about the opinions that you do have. Confident guys are curious, because they admit they have a lot to learn. Most women will tell you that being a lifelong learner is very, very sexy.

3. Be gentlemanly.

This one should really go without saying, but be sure to open doors for your date, to not sit down until she’s seated, and if you really want to make an impression, stand up if she needs to leave the table in the middle of your date. You should also encourage her to feel comfortable ordering what she’d like (after all, you picked the restaurant) so be sure to signal that you’re feeling both generous and hungry. In other words, saying things like “We’re doing three courses, right” (You’re hungry) and “I’m sort of stuck… not really sure if I want the halibut or the duck” (Your pockets are deep… enough) provides reassurance for her that she should order as she pleases, and she should expect to enjoy the evening.

4. Be clear.

As your meal winds down, don’t be afraid to let her know you’ve had a great time. If you truly mean it, a woman loves hearing “I’ve had a great night” and “I’d like to do this again.” Too often, we hedge our bets and make conditional statements like “If you’re interested, I’d like to go out again” or “I’d like to do this again if you would.” Do not do that. Be direct. It conveys a lot of confidence when you use a declarative statement. After all, no matter how you word them, questions always involves a degree of uncertainty. Yes? No? Yes?

5. Be… the bodyguard.

Whether you had the best date of your life or the worst night you can remember, always offer to walk a woman to her car/hail a cab for her/escort her to a bus or BART stop/stay with her while she waits for an Uber. It might waste a few minutes of your life and you may have hated each other, but it’s still a sign that you’re a good person. And a thoughtful man. On the other hand – with a date you really liked – it could be that extra minute or two alone that builds enough sexual tension and spark to lead to a great first kiss. And if you think the time is right for a great first kiss to happen, be sure to kiss her with confidence.

The third and final part of this series will involve some general tips for building and maintaining confidence in a lot of different situations. If you’re a guy who’s lacking confidence and self esteem, that can change. You really can learn to be more confident. And your entire life will change positively as a result. So stay tuned for more…. 😉

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Have you ever started dating someone and made the infamous trip to their pad, all excited to maybe cook together, chill for the night….the candles are lit, the wine is open, the hot make-out has happened UNTIL you see their bedroom covered in stuffed animals?

That’s right, stuffed animals, teddy bears, and creepy dolls in a doll case? Although your new love interest might be biologically 30 years old, it is almost as if you are in his/her parent’s home in the old childhood bedroom. iStock_000022311896Medium

This stuff happens all the time. It can be a serious BUZZ KILL and put a damper on the evening. Why have the oversize teddy bears, droopy eyed larger-than-life fuzzy puppy dog, stuffed random toys, creepy porcelain dolls, Cabbage Patch Dolls, and the like gracing the bed, bookshelves, and what seems like a hallucinogenic nightmare for you.

I’ll admit I still have some of my absolute favorite fuzzy friends from childhood- but tucked away safe in a large box (or two!) at my parents home. These friendly little faces used to be my best buds- they listened to me when I really needed them, never talked back when I was bratty, tucked me in safe at night when I hated the dark, and even were my “best students” when I used to play school all throughout middle school. I packed fake lunches for them at night, begged my mom to take me to a real teachers supply store to purchase the teachers essentials (like a #1 Teachers mug, the perfectly sharp pencils, crisp paper, rulers, a marker board, smelly fruity markers, and of course..the grade and role book. )

Although I don’t play school anymore and hang with my buds aka my: “Ready Teddy bear” , “Rolo bear”, “Dancer Bear, “Nigel Murphy Cabbage Patch Doll”, “Kay Amie Cabbage Patch Doll” , or Rolo bears child aka “Small G ”…I do think of them on occasion. We shared SO much together. That said, I grew up, I moved on, I tucked them away safely in a storage box and knew they would be very warm and cozy in their new crate home.

I wonder sometimes why adults who are on the dating market still have their stuffed friends widely displayed in their apartments and homes? I’m talking displayed across the entire bed. Don’t get me wrong, it is one thing to have a cute bear on a bookshelf or maybe a sweet fuzzy hippo, baby lamb, duck, doggy, rabbit, or koala from your alma mater with the alma mater tie on it or sash from graduation but not your whole collection. Young man in pajamas thoughts seated on sofa at home

From a dating perspective, I believe it sends the wrong signal. Thoughts that go through your new love interests mind could range from:

Bed wetter issues, does he/she still suck their thumb too, mommy or daddy issues, issues and more issues, can’t let go of the past, what else is messed up with this person?

Your stuffed doggie can bring you serious relief from a crappy day at work and be a well deserved source of comfort for you- even when you are an adult. Or that little lamb can distress from you from an anxiety ridden situation or cradle you after a shitty break-up.

Now to throw an interesting twist to the scenario, Harvard Business School published information which reveals that “Adults are less likely to cheat and more likely to engage in pro-social behaviors when reminders of children, such as teddy bears and crayons, are present.”

So maybe we all keep the bear, buy some crayons, and throw a little tea party to boot?