There are several solid mandates when it comes to a first date, guys: don’t talk about your exes, pick up the bill, and iron your shirt. (Or at least throw it in the dryer for a few minutes.) But when it comes to staking your claim to a second date, little things like that won’t make or break your chances. In the end, it all comes down to one simple question: Did she like you enough that she wants to see you again? Here are some expert-approved tips to make sure the answer is yes.
1. Make a Plan
It used to be that men proved themselves as Alpha males with bulging biceps and crazy bow-and-arrow skills. Now, they do so with strategy, initiative, leadership, drive, and perseverance, says Chantal Gagnon, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist and dating coach.
How do you begin to show all that? When you pitch a well-thought-out plan for the date—one that takes into account her convenience and preferences—she’ll see you actually put some effort into making her happy and comfortable. Just showing that you were listening when she mentioned her love for Italian food and following up with the perfect restaurant proves you listen and aren’t self-centered, says Gagnon. You can also show her that you respect her time by scheduling the date at least three to four days in advance so you won’t be waiting on a table. Now before you even pick her up, she’s looking forward to seeing what you can do next time.
2. Don’t Think about the Outcome
Ready for some straight-up Mr. Miyagi advice? Don’t try to get a second date, and the second date will come to you. Let’s explain: Most guys head into first dates with the “I’ve got to make her like me” mindset, says dating coach Drew Michaels, author of The Secret to a Successful First Date. But that’s focusing on an outcome that you really don’t have any control over. Instead, focus on the question “Is she a good fit for me?” and not “How can I convince her I’m a good fit?” This counterintuitive mindset creates a vibe and way about you that is more attractive than you could ever consciously realize, says Michaels.
3. Be Curious
If you’ve implemented an “Is she right for me?” outlook, this will come naturally. But it’s worth emphasizing: Ask questions and listen as much—if not more—than you talk, advises Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a marriage therapist in Manhattan. But don’t drill her with an onslaught of queries. To keep your questions from coming off as interview-y, Michaels suggests simply turning them into statements. For instance, if she’s talking about her travels, try this: “I’m planning a vacation myself. How about a few tips on where I should go?” It makes it a conversation, rather than a straight question-and-answer session, he says.
4. Keep Things Light … But Not Too Light
No one wants to come off as boring, but a lot of guys take things too far the other way. “Joking too much makes you look nervous, or like the class clown,” says Gagnon. “But a healthy sense of humor conveys a flexible and forgiving attitude about life.” Keep the convo on positive topics—and away from anything heavy your first night together—but don’t force the humor. It’s just uncomfortable.
5. Challenge Her
“The majority of men out on first dates don’t stand up for themselves in the presence of a beautiful woman,” Michaels says. Now that doesn’t mean you should go into a first date ready to make war. The goal is not to be a pushover and have opinions. For example, if she’s checking her phone, call her out on it—nicely of course. “It is truly rare to find a man who can call her on her crap in an honest, composed, patient, calm, and self-assured way that isn’t about disrespecting her, but instead, is simply about respecting himself,” he says. For women—especially intimidating ones—it can be refreshing to meet a guy who can hold his own around her.
6. Lock Down the Second Date
Forget the three-day rule. “I like a guy to book the second date at the end of the first date,” Gagnon says. Her advice: Say, “I had a great time with you tonight. You’re a lot of fun to be with. I’d love to take you out again.” If you get the reaction you want, ask if she has any preferences on the day or activity, and then tell her you’ll call her within a day or two to finalize plans. (And we’re back to tip No. 1. After all, they can also help you get a third date.)
Disclaimer: This Article first appeared on Men’s Health.com