Dating is a skill that’s honed with experience, but if you find that your relationships never progress past the first date, your experiences may not be teaching you enough. The first date, as with all first impressions, is a delicate yet vastly significant art, and some people are simply more talented at it than others. With that said, anyone can pull off an incredible first date if they have the right person and the right knowledge. I provide the right people to my clients, but it’s up to each individual to make use of the following tips:

1. Preparation is Key

A successful first date depends on more than the date itself; preparation beforehand is essential. This is true for everything from planning the date to how you anticipate the date. When planning the date, I recommend finding a neutral setting that allows for conversation and has a designated end time. Having a clear idea of when the date ends allows for either party to leave promptly if there’s no spark, but if the date is going well, you can always extend it. For example, after a dinner you can go for a walk or move onto a bar or coffee setting to continue getting to know one another.

Always confirm the date as well, especially if you’re the one who planned it. While most people text to set up and confirm details of a date, making a brief phone call instead will go a long way to break the ice. Most of communication, after all, is in our tone of voice, rather than in our words alone, which texts can’t accurately convey. Allowing someone else to hear your genuine excitement about seeing them and getting some of the basic verbal introductions out of the way will ease the awkwardness and hesitation that comes with a first date.

2. Get Ready Mentally

Your mental state is equally as important as your appearance, so take some time that day to consider how you feel. Are you anxious or lingering on previous relationships? Exercise some self-compassion: past relationships are not personal failures but nuanced learning experiences, everyone has been frustrated by the dating scene, and you are worthy of love and respect. Anticipating an unsuccessful date is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so always arrive optimistic.

3. Body Language is Louder Than Words

You’ve probably already considered your conversation topics, but have you thought about your body language? Although it might seem beyond your control at first, you can easily and naturally alter your body language to more obviously express your interest by catching negative cues and changing them into positive cues. The main three positive cues are:

  1. Opening Up

Avoid appearing “closed off” to your date. Uncross your arms and make sure you’re facing them. If you’re sitting beside or at an angle to them, shift your body toward them when they speak so you appear engaged and interested. Conversely, if you notice your date is turning away from you, crossing their arms, or hunching, it may be time to change the topic of conversation.

  1. Leaning

Leaning toward your date, whether you’re standing or sitting, is a good indicator that you’re listening attentively. It’s also a good indicator of attraction, so leaning or stepping away will, intentionally or not, read as discomfort and aversion.

  1. Mirroring

If you’re ever at a loss about how to express yourself physically, mirroring your date is a great strategy. Behavioral science shows that the more attracted we are to someone, the more we subconsciously mimic their body language. If your date smiles and leans forward, you should also smile and lean forward to express mutual attraction.

4. Be Openly Interested

Putting on airs is the quickest way to make a good date turn sour. Contrary to what you may have heard, “playing hard to get” isn’t the way into someone’s heart, and it’s definitely not the basis for a healthy, long-term relationship. If you’re interested in your date, let them know by asking questions, allowing them to talk about themselves, verbally telling them at the end of the date, and initiate the second date. Telling a date you had a good time with them boosts their confidence and doesn’t leave them doubting their own good experience. Setting up a second date shortly after the first is another way to make your date feel wanted and tends to be especially important to women; strike while the iron is hot rather than worrying about seeming overeager and building anxiety for both parties.

Once you master the art of the first date, each date that follows should come easily to you.