With all the advice columns, psychological studies, and love gurus out there today, there’s a ton of conflicting advice—and it can be confusing and overwhelming to sort through it. Some say play hard to get and follow “the rules” to get the love life you want, while others advocate the assertive, go-after-what-you-want approach. So before you start strategizing and trying out all the different tips and techniques, the first and most important step to “getting the guy” (or girl) is recognizing what doesn’t work. And while there is no fool-proof formula to guaranteed dating success, there are a few scientifically proven “dating don’ts” to avoid in order to increase your chances.
1. Don’t fake it (for men).
There’s nothing sexier than a low, breathy voice—at least by society’s standards. New research from Albright College suggests that women are able to successfully manipulate their voice—by lowering the pitch and increasing hoarseness—to boost their sex appeal. Men, however, are unable to do the same, according to the study. “In fact, although not significantly, [men’s attractiveness] got a little bit worse when they tried to sound sexy,” says Susan Hughes, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Albright.
2. Don’t fake it (for women).
Most of us can agree Meg Ryan faked it best in When Harry Met Sally, and many women have done the same in bed. But it looks like we’re not fooling anyone, according to a new study showing there’s no point to faking it because chances are your partner will be able to tell. Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that men and women are equally perceptive regarding their partners’ sexual satisfaction.
3. Don’t put a timeline on the relationship.
The timing of when to get into a relationship is different for everyone, but according to some research, most couples get into an exclusive relationship after six to eight dates. Men can fall in love as early as the third date, while for women it can take until the 14th date. Finding out whether the love proves to be true and enduring, however, just takes time.
4. Don’t approach a first date like an interview.
It’s natural to want to know everything about your date right away, but remember that most of the time, you’re meeting a stranger. Don’t ask personal questions you wouldn’t want to answer. Plus, you can learn a lot (about sense of humor, intelligence, and so on) by keeping the conversation at a surface level. According to a study by MSN Living, the most common first-date conversation turn-offs are complaining (don’t bring up how much you hate your job), talking about your baggage (no one wants to hear about an ex on the first date), rambling (stick to talking about your shared interests), and plastic surgery (as far as your date is concerned, you’re all natural).
The Wall Street Journal sums up the secret to effortless conversation perfectly: “People love to talk about themselves and often will think you are a great conversationalist if you talk about them and not yourself. Don’t let the conversation stall after the person has answered—be ready with follow-up questions or build on the topic.”
5. Don’t underestimate the importance of your online profile.
A new study from eHarmony reports that certain keywords can attract potential dates to your profile. The top words men are interested in seeing are, in order of importance, “sweet,” “ambitious,” “thoughtful,” “spontaneous,” and “physically fit.” Women want to see “physically fit,” “ambitious,” “passionate,” and “optimistic.”
6. Don’t “be yourself.”
It looks like Mom’s go-to line “just be yourself” may not be the best advice to follow. New research published in Social Psychological & Personality Science suggests “fake it till you make it” is a better approach. Even if you’re acting, presenting yourself in a positive light is vital to a great first impression. People tend to prefer confidence to expertise in conversation, so when you pretend to be the best version of yourself, you’ll actually feel more confident—and in turn, you’ll become more engaging.
7. Don’t forget to smile.
According to a recent survey conducted by MarketTools Inc. for Match.com, both men and women rate teeth and grammar as the two most important dating “must-haves.” A new study by AXA that surveyed singles’ impressions on first dates reports that people immediately judge their date’s smile, eye contact, and tone of voice. “Human beings are programmed to return a smile, so smiling, even when you are nervous, will get you and your first date off to a good start,” advises psychologist and relationship expert Donna Dawson.
8. Don’t believe everything you see on TV.
Have you ever fantasized that your life was a romantic movie? According to research from Albion College, the more people believe in the romances they see on TV, the less successful their relationships will be. “In this study I found that people who believe the unrealistic portrayals on TV are actually less committed to their spouses and think their alternatives to their spouse are relatively attractive,” says study author Jeremy Osborn, Ph.D. “My hope would be that people would take a look at their own relationships and the relationships of those around them,” he adds. “How realistic are your expectations for your partner, and where did those expectations come from?”
9. Don’t over-share (online or in person).
48% of women and 38% of men say they research their date online before going out with them. Similar statistics indicate that people are likely to ditch a date if they find something unflattering about them online. So use restraint when posting! Also, when you’re on a date with someone new, it’s important to keep it light—sharing too much too soon can be an attraction killer. Remember, a little mystery goes a long way!