You’re on your first date and you like this person, or at least you think you do for the moment. Either way, you want to make a good impression so that if you do want a second date (and a third date), you can get one.

Lots of people will tell you that good dating skills means being relaxed and friendly. Be yourself. Be kind. Be funny. And the list goes on.

No one ever said date-night conversation was easy. But, with some insider advice from a top conversation and relationship expert who is the best-selling author of Fight Less, Love More, you can learn to focus your chit-chat in a way that will have your date seeing you at your very best. Try floating a few of these key phrases and watch them work their magic.

Smart phrase #1: “Tell me more about it”

When your date opens up about an issue he or she’s struggling with at work or in some other area of life, you might feel the tug to jump in with your own similar story or to offer up a clever solution. But if you do that, your date is likely to pull back, turn silent or send that crossed-armed body language of boredom. What happened?

You forgot to listen. If you’re chit-chatting about your favorite coffee, sure, chime in quickly with your thoughts, but when you cross the line into anything personal, the right thing to do is to show respect by asking questions and listening to your date to learn more. Try one of these simple lines to show you care: “Tell me more about it,” or “That’s difficult.  How did you handle that?”

Smart phrase #2: “What are the reasons for your opinion?”

Oh, no! Your date’s in favor of extending tax cuts for the rich. You, on the other hand, have marched in every “We are the 99 percent protest within a hundred miles of your hometown.

I’m not saying you two are doomed; in fact, butting heads a bit is a great way to get to know each other, not to mention make some sparks fly. So by all means, share your opinion — just do so after you’ve asked your date to speak first with a diplomatic, “What are the reasons for your opinion?” This, my friends, is the difference between an engaging conversation and an instant turn-off.

Smart phrase #3: “You are a really generous person”

Many people, especially men, are quick with the compliments on the first date: “You have the most gorgeous eyes,” “You look beautiful in that dress.” Your date will love it, at first. But then the compliments wear off and so does the reciprocal interest in you. What’s going on?

The problem is, you’re focused on superficial qualities when people often prefer to be recognized for who they are on the inside.

So when your date tells you something he/she did that was generous, honest, caring, etc., point it out. Say something like, “It was so thoughtful of you to ______ (for example, “go out of your way to meet me here”), or “You really seem like a ______ (fill in with “caring” “honest,” etc.) person. I really like that about you.”

Smart phrase #4: “Thank you”

If you think I’m telling you to thank your date, think again. Okay, okay, your date does deserve a thank you for paying for the drinks or picking you up, but I’m assuming you already know that.

What I want you to do, is to take the gratitude even farther. Thank your waitress for the drinks, or the hostess for the taking you to the table. Thank the ticket seller at the movie theater and/or the cab driver for dropping you off.

When you’re on a date, you have a chance to reveal your character by how you act toward the people providing services. Don’t miss the chance to show that you are thoughtful and appreciative.

Smart phrase #5: “I really admire that”

Everyone loves to be admired and loves to be around people who admire them. So, look for opportunities to make your date feel proud. If your date shares a story about taking a risk, switching jobs and ending up in a better position, say something like, “That takes courage. I admire that.” If your date tells you a story about how he or she got a friend out of a bind, say “I admire that kind of loyalty.” How do you know your comments are winning your date over? You’ll see an instant smile.

Laurie Puhn, J.D. is the author of the best-selling book Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In, now on-sale in paperback.  Laurie is also a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, syndicated columnist and television personality frequently appearing on CNN, Fox News, Good Morning America and 20/20.  Visit for more information.

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