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If you feel alone or insecure in your dating struggles, know that most people aren’t naturally comfortable or good at dating. They learn how to date more successfully through practice, experience, patience, and continuously fine tuning their dating skills and approach.
They also learn about themselves and what they’re looking for through all sorts of dating experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and then they apply this knowledge to the present and future.
If you’re not a natural at dating, it doesn’t serve you well to give yourself a hard time. Instead, know that dating is something you can get better at if you’re willing to learn new skills and put in the effort it takes to date smarter and more mindfully.
Here are 10 skills to cultivate for a more successful love life:
Reading social cues during dates and knowing how to interpret body language, eye contact, and other forms of nonverbal communication (e.g., distance and touch) are essential dating skills. You’ll be better able to connect with potential partners if you know how to read unspoken messages and can accurately observe key components of the date that build or interfere with a connection.
Consider the gestures your date makes, if and how future plans are discussed, what is communicated through touch, etc. Build your observation skills by focusing on what’s happening in the present moment while gaining an understanding of social cues.
The ability to compromise and make joint decisions is imperative in successful, mutually satisfying relationships. Showing inability to compromise can quickly deter a potential romantic partner from getting close to you, especially if making plans is one-sided or logistically difficult in the early dating phase.
If you don’t know how to compromise in your relationship, your partner will most likely feel like he or she is losing or giving up something without a sense of balance, and therefore feel alone or dissatisfied.
You can cultivate the skill of compromise by better understanding your position on an issue or decision and how your date or partner feels about the same issue or decision. Then reflect on how you can meet a potential date or partner in the middle. This process involves showing empathy for your partner’s view, coming up with solutions that take both parties and their feelings into account, and finding ways to make decisions together with respect and a win-win attitude.
This involves speaking up for your needs, being authentic in articulating how you feel, setting appropriate boundaries, and utilizing open and honest communication. Assertive communication isn’t about acting out, bullying, or controlling behavior, and it isn’t about being passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive. Assertiveness is about using your voice and owning how you feel in a direct manner.
In dating, it’s important to be assertive, so your dates know where you stand, how you feel about them, and what type of relationship you’re looking for. Assertiveness can be a challenging skill if you’re prone to people-pleasing tendencies or social anxiety. Remember playing games isn’t the healthy way to someone’s heart. Learn how to be skillful at assertiveness and comfortable expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs instead.
Dating commonly adds an element of stress to life as is natural when two people adjust their established routines to include another person. Finding ways to manage stress around dating, heal from rejection with resilience, and take care of your needs through healthy self-care are all skills that are associated with more successful dating outcomes.
The healthier you are, the healthier your dating and relationship life will be. Examples of stress management include physical activity, psychotherapy, journaling, and relaxation techniques. Making time for stress management will help dating feel more manageable.
There’s no denying that life can be busy and fast-paced. Incorporating dating into an already busy agenda can feel like commitment overload. This is where time management and scheduling skills come in to ensure you’re able to integrate dating into your life without burnout, exhaustion, chronic stress, overbooking, or being late. Managing your time well will allow you to actually be present on dates (instead of being in your head worrying about a never-ending to-do list).
If you want to truly be open to love, dating must be a priority that you give time and attention to. Focus on using tools such as being deliberate about decisions and how you spend your time, saying no, exhibiting self-control, and avoiding procrastination. Also schedule dates intentionally, so you show up as your best, well-rested, and least stressed-out self.
Handling and regulating your emotions in healthy and constructive ways, feeling empathy toward others, exhibiting a deep understanding of who you are, and using your emotions as information are key components of emotional intelligence. These skills help facilitate stronger, more intimate relationships and connections and aid you in meeting your own needs (as well as your partner’s).
When dating, it’s important to reflect on your relationship patterns, process any feelings that may be holding you back from being fully available, and understand what you bring to the relationship. Being self-aware and emotionally mature makes you an attractive catch.
It can be hard to maintain your focus when someone you’re interested in rejects or breaks up with you. It’s natural to need some time to bounce back after a breakup or a dating disappointment, but it’s important to find ways to get back into dating and avoid giving up. Continue to learn through all dating experiences and move on with resilience, motivation, and patience — all essential skills to employ in your love life or life in general, for that matter. While you may have to adjust your attitude to stay motivated, having a positive, hopeful perspective plays a large role in how each date goes.
Understand that dating can be very stressful, so be patient and aligned with your relationship goals. Also allow yourself room to take breaks from dating to process feelings and avoid burnout.
Healthy communication is the foundation to strong relationships, so being a skilled communicator — that means listening and participating in an exchange of ideas — will make you a better dater. Having good conversation skills on dates (some pauses are OK) and showing interest in what your date is saying is a must in dating. Show appreciation and validation of what your date is sharing with you by interjecting with questions and related anecdotes of your own — instead of just nodding your head or staring.
The big thing is to listen and ask open-ended questions without judgment. Make your date feel heard and important to you. Avoid purely talking about yourself to ensure you and your date both have the opportunity to share.
Research finds that long-lasting relationships come down to kindness and generosity, so bringing these qualities into your dating life is essential. Being kind and generous doesn’t necessarily mean bringing your date or partner extravagant gifts; it’s about showing up consistently, being clear about your interest, and turning toward him or her (aka accepting bids for attention, connection, and affection).
These qualities are the opposite of off-putting dating behaviors such as being manipulative or phony, playing games, or using pick-up artist techniques to attract a partner. Instead, show a genuine interest in getting to know your dates. Be considerate of your date’s feelings, and help him or her feel at ease. Connection isn’t about cheesy pick-up lines, so give genuine compliments only and listen with curiosity.
Let’s face it, dating means making yourself vulnerable. However, if you really want to be a better dater (and actually achieve the relationship of your dreams), you must be willing to face dating head on and really put yourself out there. This is where the willingness to be vulnerable comes in.
You must be willing to let your guard down, open up your heart, and show up as your authentic self. Yes, it can be risky. You may be rejected, criticized, or feel completely exposed, but genuine connection does not exist without vulnerability. Go slow, don’t overshare, establish trust, and remember that vulnerability is not weak (it’s strong).
Working toward the above skills will ensure that you’re an emotionally available, more confident dater. Also by being deliberate and making choices that are aligned with the type of relationship you’re looking for, you can date smarter.
If you aren’t a natural at dating, turn challenges and mistakes into opportunities for growth and reflection. Bring vulnerability into your dating life, and be confident in all you have to offer. Remember you can always improve and gain new skills if you’re willing to do the work. Successful dating takes skill and intention.