Essential skills for the modern world

Keep an open mind

It's easy to write off a potential partner on a first date. When you know very little about someone, their every word, gesture and action can seem significant, a reflection of a fundamental part of their character. This is usually a mistake. Cracking one lame joke doesn't mean that someone has a dire sense of humour and will never make you laugh; a bit of spinach stuck between the teeth should not be taken as an indicator of terrible personal hygiene, and failing to invite you up for coffee is unlikely to mean that they have the sex drive of a neutered panda.

Be positive

Not just about the person sitting opposite you, but about life in general. No one wants to hear their date drone on about their terrible job, overbearing mother, horrid friends, bad holiday – it is best to save these laments for a few months down the line. If you are most definitely a glass-half-empty type, don't worry. There is no need to fix a rictus grin on your face and adopt an entirely different persona for the evening; just make sure you temper all the negative comments with something positive. These can be small things, like appreciating the food or wine.

Don't give too much away

It is often said that it is important for a woman to retain a sense of mystery in the early stages of a relationship. This rule should surely apply to both sexes. On a first date, too much information can be a passion-killer. A friend of mine recently went on a date with a seemingly eligible chap, who announced midway through dinner that he would be unable to kiss her that evening, as he was suffering from a nasty bout of highly contagious ringworm. In this kind of situation, gentlemen, it is better to make up an excuse and cancel.

Don't mention your ex

Speak fondly of your previous lovers and your date will assume that you are still holding a candle for them; launch into a character assassination and your companion will adopt a "two sides to every story" approach and start wondering whether your ex would have a different tale to tell. No good can come of this train of conversation, so steer well clear.

Try to secure date two

Make sure you leave your date keen to see you again. You might not know if you want to progress to round two yet, but it is important to give yourself that option. If you have been on a date that was just "OK" and are wavering on whether or not to see them again, remember that most people improve on closer acquaintance, and give them another shot.