Advice About Proper Dating Behavior and Dress

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Are you too proper? Learn what it means when your first impression is too proper. Consult a Dating Coach on ways that you can update your clothing, makeup, hairstyle and even body language to make you more appealing.

Are You Too Proper in Dating?

Reader Question

Hi Lori,I have met two guys for the first time from an online dating site. Both told me I acted too "proper." They were afraid to get near me or touch me. On the other hand, they told me I was easy to talk to, friendly and easy to get to know. I guess it is my body language but I don't know what I need to change.

Thanks. Linda

Expert Reply

Dear Linda,

The average person takes less than 20 seconds to form a first impression of another person. Once that opinion has been made, positive or negative, they then spend the remaining time looking for evidence in support of their conclusion. This is why when someone has a negative impression of you it is very hard to change his or her mind. It appears that this was the case in your meeting with these two men. Something about what they saw or felt (think "vibe") gave them a negative impression of you. I applaud your insight as to the reason for the wrong image - your body language. The good news, this is something you can improve rather easily.

What is Proper?

When I think of the word "proper" what comes to mind is something old fashion, formal or structured. When thinking about first impressions, consider appearance. Even before words are exchanged, the man who has come to meet you is sizing you up. Immediately he is forming an impression of you before he starts talking. To get an idea of how others see you (which is usually different than we see ourselves), you can develop a simple questionnaire and ask friends, family and trusted colleagues to respond. I suggest seven areas to be evaluated on your questionnaire, include the following: Clothing, hair, makeup, smile, greeting, eye contact and conversation opener. Under each category list one-word adjectives, for example under clothing you might write, stylish, flattering, conservative, Sunday school finest, and outdated. Ask your respondents to circle all that apply. This simple test will give you insight as to how others see you.


For clothing, ask yourself what the clothes you wear on these first dates is saying about you. Perhaps your wardrobe is in need of updating? Maybe your wardrobe is updated, but the clothes you have chosen are too conservative for meeting a date. All of these are an easy fixes.

Consider using an image consultant. An image consultant is someone who helps people put together a wardrobe that's fresh and enhances one's body type. The consultant does this by going through your closet and matching up what you already have into outfits for work, weekend play, dating, etc. Sometimes people use the consultant as a personal shopper. To find one in your location you can use the Internet, your local Chamber of Commerce or ask friends. Many major department stores offer personal shoppers at no cost. They will put outfits together for different occasions and have them waiting in a fitting room prior to your arrival.

Hair and Makeup

Clothing is one form of making a non-verbal first impression. Two others are hair and makeup. Consultation with an image consultant, hair stylist or the makeup artist at your favorite makeup counter will give you feedback for updating your look. Don't forget your teeth and breath. Coffee, aging or any number of things can take away from a beautiful smile. Over the counter whitening strips are an inexpensive way of brightening your smile. A smile is the easiest non-verbal communication you can use to say "come and talk with me."


Other non-verbal communication includes, eye contact, smile, body language (i.e. distance between two people, leaning towards or away from the other person), and hand gestures. When two people are interested in each other, their eye contact is longer and they lean in toward each other when talking. Women will appropriately touch a man on his forearm or hand. When evaluating yourself, how do others see you in these areas? Are you warm and inviting or keep others at a distance? Do you put others at ease quickly or are you slow to warm up when meeting new people?

Finally, consider verbal communication. When meeting a new man for the first time, does the conversation seem more like a job interview? Are you doing all the talking or all the listening? Is the tone, pitch or pace of your words matching the person you are talking with, or do you talk faster or slower than the other person?

Further Reading

I would suggest reading First Impressions, What You Don't Know About How Others See You, by Ann Demarais, Ph.D. and Valerie White, Ph.D. This book is a helpful tool for any type of situation that requires a first impression. Keep this thought in mind when meeting new people. A great way to practice for making a great first impression is the following scenario. Pretend that you are hosting a party and you want your guest to feel comfortable. What are the things you can say and do that will put your guest at ease? If you focus on making the other person feel good about himself, his impression of you will be greatly increased.~~Lori

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Advice About Proper Dating Behavior and Dress