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Starting the

Starting The Conversation

So, you've landed a dream online date and are excited about the possibilities. If this is not your first online rodeo, you've likely had an online date that seemed all too promising, but then it all went wrong in person. If you are new to online dating and have yet to experience what is commonly referred to as the "awkward silence", then keep reading so you can avoid this undesirable outcome.

Yes, getting matched is an important step of online dating, but it is also the easiest part. With a few swipes, you will probably find a suitable match of some kind before long. This is particularly true for ladies, but it is far more important to make the most out of the matches you get paired with. This is where conversation takes center stage. By engaging in compelling conversations that lead to laughs and intellectual discourse, you will find yourself getting more dates. And, more importantly, you will be setting the table for having effective conversations in person as well.

The hard part comes when it’s time to actually start conversing with your matches. For whatever reason, people freeze. Online daters have a tendency to match with people left and right (pun intended), but let the connections just sort of sit there without saying “Hello.” Whether conversation feels difficult because you’re waiting on them to reach out first or you’re simply unsure of what to say, here are some general ways to approach starting a conversation so you don’t have to second-guess yourself anymore.

Say Something Substantive

Whatever you do, just don't say "Hi!" and leave it at that. You're trying to have a conversation that leads to a date here, not exchanging a quick pleasantry with a co-worker you rarely interact with at the office. Of course, it's easy to fall prey to the idea of a lazy exchange with the hopes it will lead to a more substantive discussion. The problem with this strategy is that, in reality, the message will simply be ignored as your match proceeds to have a conversation with someone who sent a more substantive first message.

According to a piece, online dating app users converse with less than 10% of their matches. This figure may seem daunting, but it is likely these app users are merely ignoring the abundance of bland "Hi!" and "Hey there" messages they receive all too frequently. Stand out by not being one of those generic messages that get ignored all too quickly.

If someone took the time to write something about themselves in their profile, you should take the time to read what they had to say and be able to cherry pick a conversation starter out of it. Sending a one or two-word message gives your recipient barely anything to work with or play off of. Send something that makes them want to respond.

Be Original

Some readers, after realizing that "Hi!" is a strategy leading nowhere, may be tempted to create a copy and paste template for their first message. The idea goes that spamming messages is more efficient and will lead to better results. Well, spamming is certainly more efficient from a "time spent" point of view, but that's about it. It certainly isn't more efficient if you are looking to land more dates or have better conversations.

But, beyond the efficacy of message spamming, it is just plain rude. The monotony of the message will be obvious, and you may even be messaging someone else's friend who has received the same message. Whether awkwardness ensues or you simply get ignored for creating an obvious spam message, you will be treating your matches and yourself better by taking the time to create something original.

In short, it’s not cool to write out one generic message that you blast across your list of prospective matches. Not only does the monotony of the message become obvious, but it makes it very clear that you’re looking at online dating as more of a numbers game than an actual chance to get to know someone. Now, with the "don'ts" of starting a conversation out of the way, let's focus on some of the helpful conversation strategies you should implement when sending messages.

Use a Match's Profile As a Road Map to Conversation

If you have a match you are interested in, it is likely there are plenty of things you already have in common. Take a couple of minutes to carefully read their profile, as that is often all the effort needed to find plenty of great topics to talk about with your prospective match. Truly, the first message you send — that is, however you choose to break the ice — shouldn’t be a source of anxiety. There is bound to be something embedded within their profile that is an easy choice for conversation starting.

Even if all they listed was their alma mater, you can ask something about their university’s sports team or how they liked attending college there. There is sure to be at least one nugget of information you can capitalize on for conversation if you really look. Paying close attention to a match's profile is a great way to uncover topics of importance to both of you, which goes a long way toward starting a great conversation. That said, don't treat something in common as an excuse to talk about common interests in a bland or boring way.

For example, say you are both fans of the Yankees (or insert your local sports team). Avoid a generic "Yankees fan, huh? Cool!" kind of vibe. Instead, think about a way to discuss the subject meaningfully or with a decent amount of humor. Relay a story about what made you a Yankees fan or discuss the latest blockbuster trade instead. These are ways to have a meaningful conversation starter about common interests in a way that keeps the initial conversation, loose, relaxed and fun. Most of all, you will stand out since you actually took the time to put meaningful thought behind your first message.

If you previously relied on simple "Hi!" or copy and paste messages, incorporating this one tip will likely lead to better response rates and conversations with your matches.

Use Conversation to Explore Your Match's Passions

Dating should be about igniting sparks of passion, so why should an online conversation be any different? No, this isn't an excuse to start sending passionately lewd messages the first chance you get. Rather, it is a chance to begin building intimacy by connecting on an intellectual and emotional level. Do this, and the rest will follow.

How do you connect on an emotional level? Explore your match's passions and discuss the passions and hobbies in your own life as well. Again, both your profile and your match's profile should provide one another with the clues to discuss these matters naturally. That said, perhaps you have come across a match with a bland profile or they are a new app user who has yet to build up their profile. In that case, you will need to get creative with how you get them to open up.

In such a case, it is probably best to look to facts and data to take an educated guess as to what might prove fruitful as a conversation starter. To that end, a Singles in America survey found that money and cultural interests matter a great deal for male and female daters alike. On the economy 41% of women and 29% of men indicated they look for a partner with a good grasp of economic knowledge. 33% of women and 21% of men value a partner with strong business knowledge.

Play to these numbers and send a playful message about money and finance to get things started. If you live in a large city, for example, consider asking them what neighborhood they live in and if they are paying the sky-high rent you are. This is a great way to kickstart the conversation based on a mutually shared experience on a subject that data indicates is important to male and female daters.

The Singles in America survey also revealed that 39% of women and 31% of men believe knowledge of the arts is "very important" to find in a significant other. That said, not all pop culture is created equally. In the aforementioned Yankees example, it is best to talk sports only when you can tell it is a mutual passion for both you and your prospective match. The survey revealed that, for most daters, sports is simply not a popular point of conversation. Fewer than 20% of men and 23% of women care if a date has sports knowledge. Similarly, just 10% of women and 11% of men surveyed found it important for their date to be up to speed with the latest Kardashian antics.

Based on these findings, discussing cultural interests needs to be a little more high brow than just talking sports or your favorite TV shows. Instead, give her a reason to reply. Talk about culture in a fun and engaging way. For example, let's assume your match is a well-traveled woman who loves exploring the world. Tell her about the time you traveled all across Europe and dream of exploring South America soon. In this scenario, you are exploring your mutual appreciation for cultural interests in a way that portrays yourself as a compelling and eminently interesting individual. Continuously messaging matches in this way will likely increase your reply rates and ensure you have more effective, interesting communication that leads to dates.

To summarize, your plan for sending first messages should adhere to these simple, yet effective rules:

  • Say something of substance, avoiding a simple "hello"
  • Be original, and avoid the temptation to send copy and paste messages to everyone
  • Carefully read a match's profile to pick up on hints to leverage into a great first message
  • Use online dating conversations as a vehicle to explore each others' passions and portray yourself as a fun person to be around

By sticking to these four simple and powerfully effective tips, you will be well on your way toward having quality conversations that enhance your online dating success.