A Harvard psychologist explains why going for a walk is the perfect first date
It might be your first instinct to ask someone out for a drink or a cup of coffee on a first date, but Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy wants you to reject that impulse.
Go on a walk instead, Cuddy advises.
You’ll both have a better time because you’ll each feel more powerful and self-assured.
Cuddy is the author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges,” a book on the subtle yet powerful ways our behaviors can influence our thoughts and emotions.
The main takeaway from “Presence” is that we feel most powerful when our bodies are expansive. Think James Dean slouching in a chair, legs spread wide open, or runners after they’ve finished a race, their arms raised high above them, their head tilted upward, and their chest full and proud.
Typically, we think these postures are effects of feeling powerful. Cuddy’s research suggests the opposite, that we can use certain expressions and forms of movement to cause us to feel powerful.
At a recent talk at New York City’s 92Y, Cuddy told the story of her first date with her now-husband. They were in Paris. And rather than sit eye-to-eye in a cafe, they decided to walk. And walk.
“We basically spent two days walking around Paris as our first date,” she says.
As Cuddy explained, the reason that was a good date over squeezing into a table at a restaurant is that she and her husband, who were “shaking with anxiety” before the encounter, were free to move their bodies and take up more space than if they’d been sitting down.
“When people feel powerful,” Cuddy says, “their walking becomes more expansive, their strides are longer, they move their arms move, they have more vertical movement — they move their heads more.”
And as per the central argument of “Presence,” this behavior doesn’t just follow a feeling of power; it can help create it.
She and her husband could feel more present on the date. They could discuss heavier topics more confidently and crack jokes they might otherwise keep to themselves.
A feeling of presence enables people to move closer toward their truest selves, Cuddy says. It’s hard to feel present when your body is squished into a small space and you’re competing against the noise of your surroundings.
So get out and move, and feel powerful.