Take one step into your bookstore’s dating advice section and you will learn every trick in the book for snagging a man and settling down before he even knows what hit him. Anyone who has actually tried those tips can tell you they come with more than a few broken promises, probably in no small part because most of the books are written by actresses, authors and comedians. But experts actually study dating—like, as a science—and they have their own dating advice to dish out.From specifics about what to do on the first date to secrets for upping your odds, dating experts share with you their top tips for finding love.
1) Talk about yourself half the time.
Ever been on a date with someone who thinks his own fine self warrants a two-hour monologue? According to one study, on dates that go well, people talk about themselves about half the time, leaving plenty of open airwaves for their date to fill. On awkward dates, the balance shifts, with 60 percent of the focus on one person. (Beyond that, it’s rescue-call-from-the-bathroom territory.)
The point isn’t to count your words; it’s to share a bit about yourself while showing interest in the other person. “The dates are smoother because people seem warmer,” says Paul Eastwick, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M University. Take conversation that flows naturally back and forth, throw in a little flirtation—laughs, smiles, body language—and that’s a ticket to a second date.
2) Be agreeable (but smart).
To hit it off on a date, you want to find common ground. Studies show that more agreeable people tend to have more successful dates, likely because they avoid the dreaded awkward pause. “Disagreeing is a conversation killer,” says Eastwick. All it tells you is what the two of you don’t have in common. Still, you never want to feign agreement. “There’s a way to agree without falsifying your own opinion,” says Eastwick. For example, if your date says he’s a travel nut but you’re partial to the one-mile radius around your apartment, you can just affirm that he sounds adventurous.
Of course, you can also seem too agreeable. If you smile and nod your way through dinner, then you might make a very attractive bobble-head but you’re not a very stimulating date. You do want to engage in the conversation, and having an opinion shows confidence. Just make sure your comments promote conversation instead of stifling it.
3) Fish from a small pond.
You know how Prince Charming invites every single eligible lady to the ball? Note to Disney: That’s actually not the best dating strategy. A 2010 study found that more mate options cause information overload, leading us to make choices based on superficial characteristics (like, say, Cinderella’s fancy ball gown). When we have fewer options, we make better choices, based on characteristics like career and education, which predict compatibility. So if you’re browsing online profiles, don’t spend an evening looking through 300 options. You’ll probably just choose the hotties. Instead, look at 10-15 profiles at a time and contact the person who seems most interesting. You’ll be more likely to stumble on lasting love.
4) Put yourself out there.
We’re gonna give it to you straight: You will never meet someone sitting on your couch watching reruns of Law and Order while eating cereal out of the box. So as awesome as that sounds, if you want someone to watch with, venture outside your apartment. “Don’t turn down opportunities,” says Rachel Sussman, LCSW, marriage and family therapist. You can meet people in unexpected places, from an awkward singles mixer to the water fountain at the gym. If you keep an open mind, you’ll be more likely to find that one great person in a roomful of randos. Meeting new people can be stressful, but choose to have fun with it—and call a friend to laugh it off when it turns out to be a total fiasco (you know sometimes it will).
5) Test your mettle.
This one isn’t a dating tip, per se, but a life lesson that will make you a man magnet. No matter how annoying your mom is when she nags you about grandchildren, leave husband-hunting in the history books. “Don’t make meeting a man your mission,” says Sussman. Instead, gather your gumption and tackle your life head-on. Get to know yourself, challenge yourself, do something you’ve always wanted to do (even if that sounds scary). “Make it a big life,” says Sussman. If you really want to taste pizza in Sicily or paint in the French countryside, you can. It’s like “Eat, Pray, Love” meets a Nike ad—come up with a crazy plan and just do it. “When you get out there and live your life, you are more likely to meet a man in the process,” says Sussman. Plus, you’ll have more fun and come out a lot more confident to boot.
The bottom line: When you start embracing your own life, others will embrace you.