9 Life Skills to Master Before Your Next Date

Some of these may be slightly more involved than the surreptitious tooth-lipstick check, but we promise they're worth the effort.

Setting Your Internal GPS

You have to know where you want to go (and who can help you get there) in order to point your life in the right direction. Are you searching for someone to travel around the world with you? Then perhaps the home-owning workaholic with the needy wolfhound will never be more than a fun distraction until your next flight. Are you just looking for a fun distraction until your next flight? Terrific. But be clear with Mr. Wolfhound about this from the outset, so as not to break any hearts (including your own).

Knowing When to Close the Tab

The problem with anxious Internet stalking before meeting IRL is that you tend to find whatever it was you were looking for: the accomplished ex-girlfriend, the misspelled "its", the disparaging tweet about your favorite Orange Is the New Black episode. Then again, you'd feel really silly if you went on a date with a registered sex offender because you hadn't done your due diligence. So by all means, do a background check—you'd do as much if you were looking for a petsitter. Read the first story. Check the first picture. And then, unless you're good at not saying "Oh I know you were class president, I read it in your high-school-paper archives," stop there. A creepy stalker vibe can be a real conversation killer.

Selecting a Restaurant Like a Superhero

If I could have one superpower, it would be the power of Dinner Deciding. I would be that person with the ability to size up the company, mood, tastes, weather and general vibe of an occasion, and then leap in a single bound to the most perfectly perfect restaurant. If you have this superpower, please invite me out to dinner. If not, spend some time before your next date thinking about the ideal thread-the-needle spot: a place where you know the menu but won't run into all your friends, a place that has charm but isn't too cutesy, a place close enough to home that you can get there with cute shoes and makeup intact but not so close that an invitation feels implied...and extra superhero points if you know of some secret, off-the-menu trick or just-right, drinks-and-dessert joint around the corner.

Punching Up Your Elevator Speech

At some point, you're going to need to explain how you coordinate the regional office's bulk orders of hotel carpeting in a way that makes sense and sounds interesting—i.e., without all the vague blandness that once made a friend confess she'd thought you were sharing your CIA cover—particularly if the other person is in a totally different line of work. After all, if you're not interested in yourself and what you do, how do you expect anyone else to be? For your next trick, refrain from the boring, old volley of questions ("And what do you do? And how do you like that?") and master...

Using This Conversation Conversion Chart

You know how sometimes you realize you're out of conversational eggs, so to speak, and so you have to find a replacement, like the way you'd use applesauce in a cake? Next time, refer to this handy conversion chart!

Instead of "Do you have siblings?" try "What was you favorite childhood vacation?" Instead of "What's your favorite restaurant around here?" try "What's the best meal you've eaten in the last six months?"

Instead of "What do you do?" try "What's the weirdest thing I would find in your office?" Instead of "Seen any good movies?" try "What's your secret favorite movie? Not the one that makes you seem all smart, but the one you'd watch 1,000 more times?"