7 "Polite" Things You're Saying on a Date That Are Actually Offensive
This may be why you're not getting that second date, etiquette experts say.
When you're first getting to know someone on a date, you want to put your best foot forward. However, according to etiquette experts, all too often, the things we think are polite or innocuous enough are, in reality, stepping on toes. They say there are several mistakes you may be making that could be alienating your dates without you realizing the error of your ways. Wondering if you're sending the wrong signals? Read on to learn the seven "polite" things you're saying on dates that are actually offensive.
"You're so [pretty/cute/handsome]—I wonder why you are single."
You may think it's complimentary to wonder out loud why someone is still single despite their obvious appeal, but Jodi RR Smith, founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, says that this type of comment is best avoided.
"This is problematic for two reasons. First, it makes looks and physical attributes primary. Second, the implication is that someone is only worthy if they are part of a couple," she says.
"What makes you a good catch?"
It's normal to assess your date's various qualities and try to determine whether you'd make a good pair. However, asking the person to make a case for themselves as a potential partner puts them on the spot unnecessarily.
"While there are many similarities between interviewing and dating, take care not to make your date into an interview," says Smith. "The same would go with 'Where do you see yourself in five years?' You should be able to ascertain the answers to these questions over the course of the first few dates."
"Oh, you're a [job title]? I wouldn't have guessed."
We all make assessments based on people's appearances or demeanors. However, Jules Hirst, founder of Etiquette Consulting, says it's best to avoid passing those judgments when possible—and certainly important not to share them with your date.
"It is offensive to assume someone could not have a certain job based on their appearance or how they act," says Hirst.
"You'd look great if you grew your hair out."
You may think you're complimenting a person's appearance by telling them a certain look would suit them. However, Hirst says that making unsolicited recommendations about one's appearance is offensive: "Respect the person for who they are and the choices they have made."
"No offense, but [offensive statement]."
Adding the phrase "no offense" to an offensive statement doesn't let you off the hook for how it makes your date feel. In fact, Hirst says that the very need to use this phrase should signal to you that your statement may be out of line.
"By starting with 'no offense' you know that what you are about to say is going to be offensive, so why say it? Why even chance the possibility of hurting the other person?" she advises.
"Are you close with your family?"
While it's certainly normal to inquire about your date's family, there's a fine line between questions that are polite and those that are invasive. Laura Windsor, founder of Laura Windsor Etiquette and Protocol Academy, recommends avoiding excessively personal questions about your date's life or family if it's a first date.
"It isn't the time to bring up family dilemmas or try to get someone to bare their soul. Ease into it slowly on other dates," she suggests.
Windsor adds that you should be especially cautious in your approach if you're newly dating someone with children. "Don't ask too many questions about them, as many parents prefer to withhold any information about their child until they have had the opportunity to get to know their date better," she says.
"Wow, nice car. You must be doing well!"
Through their clothes, appearance, or the car they drive, your date may reveal clues about their income or finances. However, Windsor says that commenting on signs of wealth—or lack thereof—is sorely misguided on a date. "Asking about a date's income or what car he or she has is out of line," she says.
Smith agrees and notes that it's also inappropriate to highlight your own finances on a date. "While stable finances are important, you are broadcasting that you believe someone's worth is equivalent to their bank account," she says.
For more dating tips sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.