Everyone has those dates when you know very early on that he or she is absolutely, positively Not The One. Maybe it’s a blind date or someone you met online or on Tinder, but when you show up, it’s not what you expected (or hoped). Even with your rosiest glasses on, it’s just not gonna happen between you two. But there you are: stuck at the dinner table or coffee bar for at least an hour, trying to be polite and get through it. A waste of your time? It doesn’t have to be.


You’ve invested a chunk of time up to this point: maybe some emails, phone calls, the time it took to get dressed and ready for the date, and probably time discussing the upcoming date with friends. You need to make this investment pay off, even though this person is not your future mate. Below are 5 ways to make a never-gonna-happen date pay dividends:


  1. Play detective. Ask questions that may give you ideas about singles activities, parties, or places you might explore in the future. For example, ask “What kind of activities have you done to meet single people in this town?” He or she might mention a group or event you’ve never heard of– something you could try next week. My favorite how-we-met true story is from my client who lives in Portland, OR. She was on a terrible blind date, but just to keep the conversation going, she asked him, “So, um, what did  you do last weekend?” He mentioned that he had joined “It’s Just Lunch.” She had vaguely heard of that dating service, but didn’t know they had a Portland chapter. Later she decided to look into it, she joined, and her very first date turned out to be her future husband. Her bad blind date with one guy led to meeting the right guy a few weeks later!


  1. Try for set-ups. You’ve got nothing to lose at this point, so why not see if you can wrangle an introduction to someone else through this bad date? Everyone (even a dud) has friends, family and co-workers who might be a good match for you. If you play your cards right, and remain polite and engaged in conversation, you might get a fix-up later with someone intriguing through this person. First try hard to think of someone you know who might be interested in your current bad date (he’s not right for you, but could be right for someone you know), and then make the first move to set things in motion. For example: (You) “You’re such a great guy, but I think we’re realizing tonight that we don’t have a lot in common. However, I have a friend at work with whom you might really hit it off. Would it be too awkward if I gave you her number?” By remaining pleasant and offering to set him up first, you are primed for him to reciprocate a fix-up later.


  1. Get feedback. Perception is reality. Do you really know how you’re perceived on a date? As long as you’re stuck at the table, take this opportunity to get some feedback from the opposite gender, even if his or her opinion is not one you’d normally seek (you never know: he may be boring but his candid feedback comments might actually be insightful). Try asking, “I’m always trying to learn how men perceive me on a first date, when two people don’t really know each other and tend to draw fast conclusions. I know this may be awkward, but please be honest. What are your first impressions about me, and is there anything you think I should be aware of?” If this direct approach is too bold for you, try this: “What are the three best and worst things that a woman has done on a first date with you?” The question is less personal here while it still allows you insight into what is valued (and not valued) by the opposite sex. Not everyone will provide honest or enlightening answers, but as long as you’re stuck at the table on a bad date, it’s worth a shot.


  1. Stay in touch. Keep this person on your Evite or Facebook list for future parties and outings, including happy hours, after-work office drinks, softball teams, or holiday celebrations. Remember, everyone has a single neighbor, single coworker, even a single teacher in their child’s kindergarten class who might be right for you. Your strategy will be to invite him or her along to a future event with friends. By waiting a few weeks or months after the date and suggesting a friend or two come along, you are being careful not to lead him/her on. And you’re also staying top-of-mind for this person to reciprocate a group invite to you where you could meet his/her friends who might intrigue you romantically.


  1. Practice makes perfect. Use this opportunity to practice your dating skills and expand your dating repertoire. You know that funny story you heard last week at work? Try it out on this bad date (the way comedians practice their material). See if you can tell the story with flair, so you’ll have it down pat next time you’re on a great date. Or, perhaps you’ve been thinking lately that you’re not very good at flirting? So try a flirtatious comment or gesture (such as lightly touching his arm) to get comfortable with it. The pressure is off here since you know he/she isn’t The One, so feel free to experiment.


Bad dates are all part of the dating process that lead to finding your mate. So the next time you’re stuck, instead of trying to make meaningless small talk to power through it, use the strategies above to make the experience pay off for you down the road.