You are accomplished, brilliant and sophisticated during the workday, managing to stay on your A game! When it’s time to go out on a date, and the brain fails to process properly. We end up in deep yogurt as the most embarrassing and awkward moments occur. How does this happen, even to us married folks?
You think these things only happen to you? Awkward moments happen to everyone, and all we can do is handle them with grace and modern manners. My husband John and I experience these moments while on double dates. Do the following sound familiar?
- You’re a traditional guy and a modern woman asks you out: In today’s world, this is perfectly acceptable. For another generation, this might have turned a few heads, but in 2017 women can and do ask men for a date.
- Refer to your date by the name of your ex! Imagine being out on a Valentine’s date and you accidentally refer to your date by the name of your ex. There’s only one thing to do besides hope they don’t walk out on you: apologize profusely and don’t ever do it again.
- Laugh at the unexpected events you can’t control: Maybe you spilled your red wine on her Lily Pulitzer dress or your new suit. Maybe you walked into a glass door. Perhaps the comedian at the show pulled you onto the stage and had a little fun at your expense. Don’t let these awkward situations get the best of you. How you handle it tells your date a tremendous amount about your demeanor.
- Monitor alcohol: A glass of wine or cocktail with dinner is perfectly acceptable. Why drink to the point of no return? Alcohol might calm those date night jitters, but if you have to call for a cab or your start dancing on the tables, you’re not going to impress your date.
- You momentarily forget your manners: It happens. You’re out on a date and you hiccup, food falls off your fork, slurp, or accidentally spew water on your date. Catch the mistake and apologize before your date comments. When you own up and take responsibility, it speaks volumes about your character and integrity.
- Your date has spinach in her teeth: You’re eating dinner and notice that your date has a piece of leafy green spinach stuck between their teeth. Do you say something or let it go? It’s best to nicely say something because when they go to the restroom and see the spinach in the mirror, they may be embarrassed at first, and then upset that you didn’t mention it. Say something like, “This food is so good but the spinach keeps getting stuck between my teeth. By the way, there’s a very small piece sitting right there between your teeth. You have beautiful teeth. How do you keep them so white?”
- Awkward conversations: Do you want your date to ask how many children you plan to have or how much money you earn? Think about conversation starters in advance. Depending on your generation, be cautious about discussing sex, politics, and religion too. In U.S. culture, enjoy lighter topics like cuisine, best-selling books, new movies, pets, hobbies, and sports. Ask questions to get to know your date as a person.
- You run into someone of meaning: Maybe it’s your boss, your parents, buddies, or girlfriends. You’re caught off guard. How do you handle the situation? Keep it short and make an introduction. “Hi, NAME. Please meet Terry, my date for the evening. We have to catch the 9:00 movie. Talk to you soon.
- You run into your ex: Although it’s awkward, you an handle it like a pro. There’s a lot riding on this moment as your date will observe your fortitude under pressure. Be polite and courteous no matter what you think of the person. Say hello and ask how they are doing. Introduce your date. Close the conversation with, “It was nice to see you. We really must be going. Have a good evening.”
- You are absolutely miserable on this date: Although you might not necessarily care for your date or be having the time of your life, it’s a few hours at most so be gracious. Refrain from pulling out your Smartphone and texting your friends or surfing the web. If the date has no end in sight, simply say something like, “I apologize. However, I do need to make it an early night and get going soon. I have a big presentation at work tomorrow morning.”
- Who pays the bill? The server places the bill on the table and there’s silence – you both look at each other. Don’t let this happen. As a sophisticated host, let the server know that you are paying the bill by saying “please take my guest’s order first” or “I’ll take the check after coffee and dessert.” Arrive early and provide a credit card, or call the restaurant in advance. Women in male-dominated cultures must do so if they extend the invitation.
- Good breath equals good kiss: If you decide to go in for the goodnight kiss, make sure you have a breath mint handy to erase the memory of the garlic you enjoyed with dinner.
Awkward dating moments are going to happen. Accept the inevitable and maintain a sense of humor while avoiding the drama. Keep these tips in mind and you will handle any situation gracefully and with modern manners.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her best-selling book Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its second printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. Sharon is the winner of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.