An Introvert’s Guide to Dating
If you’re introverted, dates can be a nerve-wracking experience. But there are things you can do (and be aware of) to ease some of the stress.
By Jonathan Meur
BEFORE THE DATE
1. Introvert or extrovert: figure out which is a better match for you
Do you want someone like yourself, who instinctively understands how you work and how much personal space and time you need? Someone who can empathise and is likely to make the same choices as you? Then you’re looking for a fellow introvert. Or do you enjoy the company of someone who’s a social butterfly and can bring you out of your shell? You’d be seeking an extrovert who’s likely to do most of the work, and happily so, when it comes to their social interactions with you and others.
2. Help others understand what being introverted means to you
Thinking of setting up a profile on a dating app? Rather than saying you’re introverted, try something more concrete so people understand what that would mean in the context of a relationship: “I don’t hate parties, but I much prefer a night in with Netflix and a warm home-made dinner”. “I’m not a fan of small talk but I can spend hours talking about new music or the latest movies”. “Not really into team sports but I enjoy an evening of board games with friends”. These descriptions are more specific and help give better insights on your personal interests.
3. Choose a place you’re familiar with
A new place can add to your level of nervousness. Choose one of your usual hangouts, whether it’s a casual restaurant or cafe. That way, you won’t have to check how to get there and you won’t need to familiarise yourself with the space or the menu. You’ll be able to focus on the person in front of you.
4. Opt for an activity rather than a meal or drinks
If the idea of spending an extended amount of time facing someone is just too daunting, consider an activity you both enjoy. We are spoilt for choice in Singapore: the zoo or botanic gardens, an interactive exhibition, a heritage trail, an art or street fest, a food or wine tasting, a concert... You might find it easier to converse as you walk along rather than sit face-to-face, which might seem rigid or daunting, plus the subject at hand will give you a topic to fall back on.
5. Dress comfortably
Yes to dressing up for a date... as long as it’s appropriate for the place and time of day. But avoid trying something new or drastically different with your haircut or outfit. As it is, there are enough unknown variables to every date; as an introvert, you want to be yourself and not feel even more self-conscious and/or uncomfortable about a new look you haven’t had time to get used to.
6. Practise... maybe?
This is a tricky one. Just like you might for a job interview, you may wish to recruit a trusted friend with whom to have a mock-date conversation. This will help you identify questions you prefer not to ask, or ways to answer difficult questions. On the other hand, this exercise might disrupt the spontaneity and natural flow of your date. Try it if you want to avoid a repeat of past dates that were marred by awkward silences or answers.
DURING THE DATE
7. Just do you
Be as friendly as you know you can be but don’t put up an act or go out of your way to come across as extroverted. Being introverted does not mean you are boring; it just means you do things and carry yourself in a low key or quieter way, and that’s all right! People, plenty of extroverts included, appreciate those qualities and will be drawn to you, not despite, but because of them.
8. Ask open-ended questions
Once you have asked the standard questions about work, family and interests, move on to open-ended questions – passion projects, favourite kinds of vacations, pet peeves, best childhood memories... and let your date so the same. This will allow you both to open up, go beyond small talk and ultimately get a sense of whether you’ll be interested to see each other again. Try not to ask those questions in rapid succession out of nervousness: breathe in, allow pauses in the conversation, maintain eye contact, and nod and smile to show your date you’re paying attention. Be present.
9. Have an exit plan
If you’re an introvert, the pressure of a one-on-one encounter might prove too much after a certain point and you might want to cut the date short. “I’m sorry to do this but I think you’ll agree we’re not really a good match and maybe it’s best if we call it a day” – chances are, this approach is too direct for you. Instead, you can either use the age-old trick of the call or text from a friend with an emergency, or you could pretend to feel ill and explain that you really have to go. Either way, keep it short: the simpler the excuse, the easier it will be to deliver and the faster you’ll be able to leave. Here’s hoping you won’t need to act on this plan!
AFTER THE DATE
10. Don’t dwell
If things went well and you’ve decided to see each other again, great! If not, just remember that introverts experience things intensely and you’ll possibly think back on some moments of a date over and over again, and kick yourself for the awkwardness you might have displayed or something stupid you might have said. Go easy on yourself. Try to focus on the positives instead. Either way, letting go of what’s done will give you confidence for a second date or to move on to someone else.
Yes, dates are hard. But in your quest to find Mr or Ms Right, they’re the unavoidable first step. So brace up and go for it: one of these dates could be a real game changer!