First dates can often feel like interviews, because if you want someone to like you, you try to put all of your best qualities forward. And sometimes trying to sell yourself can turn into listing your accomplishments like you're a human resumé. But for lots of people, especially women (who have been socialized to undermine their achievements), talking about all the things that make you worth dating can be hard because you don't want to come off conceited. The balance between boring and arrogant is hard to achieve, but the solution is simple: Stop trying to sell yourself.
Kate Stewart, a dating coach in Seattle, wants us all to stop treating first dates like job interviews. The goal isn't to be the best version of yourself so that the person sitting across from you is interested enough for date number two. The goal is to see if you and this person have similar interests, dreams, and values and whether or not you can carry on a fun conversation. "If you're a Nobel Prize winning author, you may not say 'I won the Nobel Prize for my work in blah, blah, blah,'" Stewart says. "You would say, 'I'm an author' and this is what's going on in my life and this is what I'm interested in." There's no value judgement attached to being an author, but it still gives your date valuable information about yourself. Stewart, for example, likes to sew and does it pretty much every day. If she were dating, that's something that her date should know, because it's important to her. But she wouldn't tell someone that she's an excellent seamstress who makes amazing dresses.
"I'm all for putting your best foot forward and not trashing your exes on a first date or something like that, but you want someone to know who you are from a very eyes-wide-open and accurate idea of what's going on in your life," Stewart says. Giving them an overview of what's important to you is better than listing everything that sounds impressive, because if a first date turns into anything serious, you want your date to like you for the things that matter.
So that means letting the conversation be like a tennis match, with you both lobbing questions back and forth. When you're trying to sell yourself, there can be a tendency to talk more than you listen. Or, if you're too scared to sell yourself, you can listen more than you talk. But neither are productive for a first date. "You will know you're on a date with the right kind of person if there is the back and forth conversation," Stewart says. So you'll say something like, "I'm a big fan of chickens," and then your date can say, "Oh wow, that's fascinating. I don't know much about chickens, but I do enjoy eating them." And that gives you an in to talk about how your grandmother makes the best chicken pot pie you've ever tasted. Letting the conversation flow this way can give you more insight than trying to tell someone about how you're the youngest executive at your law firm.
That doesn't mean you can't accept compliments or be proud of what you've accomplished. If Stewart showed a date photos of a dress she made and they said, "Wow, you're so talented," she wouldn't downplay that compliment. She'd say thank you and maybe mention that she's been sewing for a long time. "Gracefully accept a compliment, because saying, 'Oh, no, I'm not' doesn't help you or make you look any better," she says. So don't put yourself down when your accomplishments come up, but it's also not important to lead the conversation with them. "A first date is about saying, 'Here's who I am and what I'm interested in, who are you and what are you interested in?'" Stewart says. As you and this person go on more dates, they'll eventually learn that you're not just an author, but a Nobel Prize-winner, or that you quickly worked your way up in your job, or that you can make a damn good crepe.