Reaching out to people on dating sites is tricky, especially when most of us know that women get TONS of responses (and are therefore sometimes inclined to reply to few or none) and TONS of guys send lame-ass messages that women aren’t inclined to read. Sigh! However, I trust that most of y’all are above all that, haha. So let’s focus on how messaging can and should work, for both genders!* Please read even the paragraphs that aren’t geared towards your gender; I promise they’ll be enlightening even though they’re heteronormative.

DUDES: You have to be so interesting. I was just chatting with a client who said he found a gal in the Phillipines who’s willing to just spam messages to all kinds of different girls for $2/hour. I asked him point blank, “What kind of results do you think you’d get?” He lowered his eyes, chuckled, and admitted that he thought the odds of quality replies from quality women would be pretty low. And he’s probably right.

A guy sending a girl a message needs to be wittyforward, and brief. It has to catch her attention right away, preferably in the subject line if such a field exists, and it has to be short enough that she doesn’t glaze over or get bored, and forward enough that it incites a reply. Here’s one example:

A gal specifically mentions loving comic book movies at least twice in her profile.

Here are two potential message options.

1) If she’s wordy in her profile:

Subj (if you have one): “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! …Nope, it’s just an online date.”

Hey there!

Your profile cracked me up, and I love that you too are a fan of comic book movies! I’m not, like, living in my parents’ basement refusing to unwrap any of my Super Masculine Action Figures or anything, but I’ve been known to enjoy a great Marvel or DC flick myself. And hey, the new Superman movie opens soon… Ever seen a comic book movie at Cinerama? It’s a an experience not to be missed!

So whatcha say to dinner and a movie next week? Yeah, I know that’s a little cliché, but we obviously want to actually chat and get to know each other (hence “dinner,”) and we obviously would both enjoy the movie part too. Meet me at Dahlia Lounge at 8 on Thursday?

(optional number or email goes here)

2) If she’s sparse in her profile

Subj (if you have one): It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an online date!

Hi there! I can’t lift planes or stop trains, but I can *totally* awkwardly stumble over the words to ask out a girl I have a crush on, just like a real comic book hero. I invite you to check out my other amazing super hero skills over dinner, perhaps followed by seeing the new Superman movie. How’s Thursday?

(optional number or email goes here)

See? These messages are personalized, and filled with personality. They are NOT a “hey your profile looks cute lol” generic spam message. Something carefully crafted like this is more likely to get a response!

The other tip I tell guys that sometimes throws them is that it’s okay to message a girl twice if she never responded to your first message. I know, it seems weird and stalkery, but gals get such an incredibly large number of mostly mediocre messages that it might really be the nudge she needs. It shows you’re truly interested, and keeping it brief the second time shows that you respect boundaries but you also get that this process is overwhelming with a lot of creeps for her to sift through, which is a nice little touch of empathy. Give it a whirl! If nothing happens, you’ve lost nothing but a few key strokes.

FOR THE LADIES: Listen, not every guy has me to advise them. Not every guy is subscribed to this little email list. And not every guy realizes that he sounds like a tool in his message and/or profile. So you’re going to need to cut them some slack! Not TOO much, just enough to sift through all the crazy in your inbox and figure out who might make for a decent connection. Here are some strategies:

1) If he’s cute, just message him back even if his profile and message are lackluster. Look, it sounds shallow, but we’re kidding ourselves if we pretend physical attraction isn’t a huge part of what sparks are based on. So if you like the look of someone, even if he isn’t Shakespeare, get a conversation going. You’ll see more of his actual personality instead of his dread-filled resume-writing profile drone once you’re chatting more naturally.

2) Be open to getting in touch and getting together. Some people will tell you that you should back and forth a LOT inside the Match/etc. system before you share info like your email or phone number, let alone meet up in person. Those people are WRONG. This is important, so please take note: The goal of any online dating site interaction is to actually meet in person. Right? There’s no point seeing how someone writes over a three-week audition period if in fact you can’t stand their pheromones or the way they chew or the fact that they don’t tip or WHATEVER you might discover in person. So instead of making the awkward, toneless, logistically frustrating messages phase the audition, make the first actual date the audition. Go on dates. Do it! You can always provide a safe anonymous email address in the beginning, and of course you should follow safety tipswhen setting up your dates.

3) If someone has viewed your profile or winked at you, and you like the look of them, just message them back. Keep it short, but it can’t hurt to take this step. Yes, we all seem to prefer to let the guys do the driving when it comes to initiating contact online, but there’s little to lose by sending out a quick feeler and most guys will be so excited that you started it, they’ll go out even if you weren’t someone they would have normally messaged. You just never know!

FOR EVERYONE: This really is all about trying to connect in person. Online dating should NOT be mistaken for online relationships—it’s simply a vehicle to go on actual dates and test the waters. So let’s all try to be willing to meeting up, open to spending some actual time and money on a meal shared together, and game to forgive little awkward moments here and there as you get to know each other.

And of course, if you want some more targeted help getting through the onslaught of messages or crafting your communication to actually get responses that turn into pleasant evenings, you can always hire me. 🙂

*Realistically, straight guys have to work a lot harder than straight women or gays of any gender do at capturing and maintaining their target dates’ interest. So that’s why they get all the examples here. 🙂 But the principles outlined here apply to anyone who wants to be snappy and stand out with their username!

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