You finally worked up the courage to ask out that cute guy from the gym or that girl in the coffee shop, but an ordinary night out just won't do. Dinner always feels like an interview, and drinks lead to the same monotonous conversations. You want to do something that will be fun even if your date is boring. So what do you do? The answer is simple: don't play by conventional rules of dating.
There are two important scientific factors you want to take advantage of:
- Seek Novelty: When people are exposed to something new, their brain responds with delight and a desire to explore. Going to a new place, trying a new food, and playing a new game all have risks, but the benefits tend to outweigh the potential downsides. A team of researchers led by Gregory Burns found that the part of the brain associated with pleasure responds more to surprising rewards than predictable ones.
- Leverage Misattribution: Research by Aron and Dutton shows that when people are in intense scenarios that arouse human reaction (elevated heart rate, adrenaline, etc.), we can misattribute our physical response for our interest in the person we are with. Nervousness and an accelerated heart rate may in fact serve to bond the two of you more and create deepened feelings of attraction.
When planning a date, here are some tips to use this science to your advantage.
Make it something you enjoy.
I like to plan elaborate dates. Don't tell the girls I date this, but I don't actually do it for them; I do it for me. I have very little patience to sit in another bar having the very same conversations that I always have. Instead, my dates have ranged from scavenger hunts through the city of New York to trips to foreign countries and cooking three-course dinners together. This may seem like a lot of effort, but spending two to three hours with somebody, talking about the same things you always talk about, is an incredible waste of time. So do something that is fun for you regardless. Even if you don't enjoy your date's company, at least you'll enjoy the activity.
I'm a huge fan of activity-based dates. Whether it's ordering Blue Apron and preparing a meal together, riding bikes around the city, or taking an art class, there are countless activities you could participate in. If your concern is cost, a box of crayons and some coloring books or some sketchpads are only a few dollars. Many cities have free programs ranging from sports such as kayaking to bouldering to predesigned trails and routes that will let you explore and discover the history of the area. There's a wealth of material out there, so you have no excuse to rely on the same old ordinary activities.
Make it a game.
Set a goal or a game for the night. Don't have much money in the bank? Convince strangers to buy you all of your drinks. Want to do a good deed? Perform three acts of kindness for people you don't know. Or combine the two: spend under $20, and give every dollar left to someone who is homeless. The inclusion of a mission or goal revitalizes familiar environments. Constraints like time, money, and location force you to be creative. Rather than complaining about only having $20 for a date, use it to your advantage.
Save a pleasant surprise for the end.
According to the peak-end rule, people remember and overvalue the endings of experiences more than they remember the whole. So make sure to end on a great note. It will leave you looking forward to your next date.
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