That last first date you went on. Technically, it wasn’t a date. Just a quick cup of coffee. But after three years since your last relationship, it may have well been called a date. There was some real chemistry there. She didn’t flinch when you talked about your ex for fifteen minutes straight. And that sweatpants and hoodie combo made you look pretty gangsta. Even more so when you offered to pay for your own coffee with a personal check. No cheap tight-wad there. So… why hasn’t she returned your calls?

Does the above seem like an over exaggeration? Perhaps. But she still hasn’t returned your calls, has she?

The fact is, first impressions rarely lie. Whether it’s in the workplace, the gym or the supermarket. And especially when it comes to dating.

It may be that there simply was no connection. Not only does it happen, but it happens frequently, in spite of the best intentions. But it’s also true that socially awkward behavior occurs frequently in spite of our complete lack of awareness.

At least, a lack of awareness sometimes. But we can all learn from our mistakes. Here are some tips that can turn a first date from a catastrophe into a call back.

Clothes Make The Man (So Long As You Don’t Try Too Hard)

The key to knowing whether you’re over dressing or being stylish rests on a fundamental distinction: when in doubt, don’t try too hard.

This doesn’t mean neglecting your grooming. And it definitely doesn’t mean wearing a basketball jersey on a first date. But if you need to ask whether or not you should wear a Tom Ford blazer when you’re taking her out to an Irish pub, the answer will be emphatically no. A nice shirt or sweater and creased pants should be more than sufficient.

Save The Quirkiness For The Third Date

There’s a common misconception that possessing an offbeat sense of humor or personal quirks are automatically endearing. And while in some instances they can be, it’s typically in spite of them—not because.

This doesn’t mean you should necessarily put on airs or be anything other than yourself on a first date. It does mean there’s a far cry from individuality to affectations of a self-defined “weirdness.” Unusual first dates aren’t uncommon, but they rarely lead to second ones. When in doubt, coffee shops, bars and museums are generally safe. Shooting ranges, UFO conventions and competitive eating contests, on the other hand, may be questionable.

Put Some Thought Into Your Date

Despite the above caveats, you can be fairly creative on a first date without being outlandish. The difference is simple: choose an activity that best suits your personality.

Are you both creatively inclined? Numerous bars are now offering “drink and paint” nights as a way of unleashing your inner artist. Both love the outdoors? Kayaking, hiking and mountain biking are all excellent choices. The key is to choose an event that allows you to get to know one another while engaging in an activity you both might enjoy. This creates a pressure-free environment, but one in which chemistry can develop naturally.

Show, Don’t Tell

Who doesn’t love a good surprise? In fact, the more spontaneous you seem, the more relaxed she’ll feel. This will not only relieve any awkward pressure or uncomfortable silence, but foster a certain sense of trust.

Keep in mind that this can backfire—particularly if your date is dressed for a meal at a trendy new restaurant when you’ve planned a hiking trip. Whatever you’re planning, drop only subtle hints ahead of time in terms of what to prepare for. There’s a chance they’ll be able to guess, but a better chance they’ll appreciate the effort.

Be On Time

There’s no such thing as being fashionably late, particularly on a first date. It’s thoughtless, rude and just plain selfish. Even if she insists on pulling off that (frankly stale) trick, there’s no need to respond in kind. Manners are fundamental to making a good first impression.

Learn To Listen As Well As Speak

Perhaps you are the epitome of a witty conversationalist. Perhaps you are blessed with the gift of gab that can enchant even the most stubborn of people. But dominating a conversation is a surefire way to ensure you’ll only be talking to yourself by the end of the date.

Coming up with questions to ask on a first date can be tricky. You don’t want to appear too forward. At the same time, you’d like to get to know them on a more meaningful level than mere idle chatter. Often times, people will tend to reveal themselves only after another person has taken the initiative first. So if you’re curious about her family life or work, bring up an anecdote from your own first. It doesn’t have to be meaningful—in fact the more casual, the better—but it will encourage them to discuss themselves more naturally and freely.

Keep It In Your Pocket

No, we’re not referring to sexpectations. By now, you should have enough common sense to know that no one is entitled to offer you anything in return for a first date, even if you have picked up the tab for everything. We’re referring to a behavior that seems to be accepted but is equally distasteful—your cell phone.

There’s nothing that indicates your utter indifference to the presence of another person than mindlessly texting during the middle of a conversation. Even in the middle of the playoffs. Even in the middle of a blizzard. If you can’t genuine muster a sense of full, undivided attention? Try to fake it. You can check the scores when you get home.

Be Completely Honest With One Another

Sometimes there just is no chemistry. No matter how attractive they might seem, or intelligent or simply down to earth, there simply is no connection whatsoever. And if you’ve picked up on it, chances are they have too.

Don’t plan for or assume there will be a second date out of simple politeness. Let them know respectfully and honestly there was a pure and utter lack of sparks. They’re just as likely to agree, and you can mutually end it right then and there without leading one another on.

On the other hand, if there was the slightest hint of a connection? Keep in touch. There’s no such thing as a three-day period between calls anymore. Shoot them a text or email later that night and let them know you simply had a great time.

And the second date? This time, let them plan it.

Learn more about relationships, dating and love by visiting Safer Dating.