7 Tips for meeting 'the friends'

One of the key moments in the dating process is when you have to step out and meet your new dates' friends for the first time. It may happen on the first date or it could be an event that is organised after several weeks of intensive dating. Whenever it occurs make no mistake - it's vital that you take this seriously and make a great first impression.

The reason why you should make a big deal about meeting their friends is that they hold a very important place in your new love interest's life. They know them very well and have a long-term history with them. They have supported them through the good and bad times. They're trusted allies and their opinion counts!

So, if meeting their mates is something that's on the horizon for you - here are some practical tips:

1) Treat your date well Of course you should always treat your date with respect but when meeting their friends, make a point of showing this. You don't want to downplay how you feel about them or how you treat them. Show good manners and make it clear to everyone that you're keen on them and you value who they are. These people want the best for their friend so they'll be watching how your personalities complement each other.

2) Take an interest Get to know these friends by asking questions and showing an interest. This will indicate that you're not selfish or self-centered, but rather you're happy to learn about them and their lives.

3) Do some personal sharing Be open with these new friends and be prepared to self-disclose. You don't need to hang it all out there on the first meeting - but be a little vulnerable and tell them some truths about yourself so that they can get to know you better.

4) Don't drink too much One of the biggest mistakes you can make on the first meeting with friends is to go overboard with your drinking and lose control. This will show that you're nervous and don't have good limits. Some of your actions and words may embarrass the people you're wanting to most impress.

5) Be respectful of opinions Don't get into a heated discussion with their friends over your differing opinions on the big topics (politics, money, religion). Take the approach that you're trying to get to know and understand the new friends - so be respectful of where they're coming from. Realise that their opinions are already established within the peer group and in time, as you get more comfortable, you can certainly discuss hot topics and express differing or contentious opinions - but for now - go easy.

6) Don't be joined at the hip Show these friends that you don't need any babysitting. Make sure you spend some time apart from your date during the meeting rather than being glued to their side. It displays confidence and independence and this will make a positive impact on everyone.

7) Present yourself well As always, first impressions count so put some time and effort into your appearance and grooming before meeting their friends. They're going to make some early judgements about you before you even open your mouth - so look the part.

If you keep these simple tips in mind, you'll be sure to have a smooth introduction to your date's friends. Good luck and remember to have fun.

John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship expert, as seen on Ch 9's series Married At First Sight, and the ABC doco Making Couples Happy. He is also the author of the book Making Couples Happy: How science can help get relationships back on track (www.johnaiken.com.au)

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