How to Get Online Daters to Engage

And why, exactly, people just aren’t efforting…

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Ask Wendy: Dating, Sex & Relationship Advice for the Bold

Today’s Ask Wendy is a twofer…

Hey Wendy,

I’ve noticed an increase in drop-offs from guys on dating apps when I suggest we move from text to a phone call. It seems like a reasonable way to get to know someone before setting up a date. Part of me thinks well, if they can’t participate in one phone call or zoom meeting, then just move on; however, since this is happening often, it’s making me pause and question my strategy. Where are the men who have the basic social skills to go from online to in-person with one phone call in between? I mean WTF?!

Kristen D.


Hey Wendy,

In Australia, Tinder is the best platform to meet men. The bios are short and messages are generally sent as short texts. I find myself chatting to a lot of men (most of whom initiate the conversation with me) that just do not seem to know how to ask questions! In my messages, I will reveal a little something about myself and then ask a question to keep the conversation going. I try to keep the chat fun and interesting.

I’m getting frustrated and I presume that this is a representation of his real-life character. I mean, if he simply replies with a statement and no question in each message, it seems like he’s either very self-focused or clueless about how to talk to people, right?! Am I being too judgy?

Annie M.

Hey Kristen and Annie!

Thank you for giving voice to an issue that so many daters around the world experience. Yeah, dating is frustrating — I hear you! There are a ton of people who have zero game; daters who are clueless about how to succeed by paying just the slightest bit of attention to what makes up a basic conversation; there are those who have no intention of ever meeting you face to face and are just reaching out because they’re lonely, and then there are the bots (i.e. not even real humans!) writing you text messages using basic emails and scripts that pull keywords — sorry about that.

And yet, dating apps are still your best source for gaining access to real, live, amazing people you do want to date and who you don’t have access to in your everyday world.

When online dating was new, a journalist said, “A dating site is a lot like the community pool on the hottest day of the year.” A ton of people you don’t want to see naked or share a lounge chair with, and a few that you do. So, treat making online connections the same as you would if you were at the largest community pool on the hottest day of the year. Be discerning about who you speak to (or continue to speak to) so you don’t burn out or get grossed out.

And nope, it’s not too much to ask that your dates be able to string a couple of well-crafted sentences together and bring a little curiosity to the conversation. Your friends can do that, right? Hell, randos on the subway on your morning commute can do that.

It Might be the Technique

Now, when it comes to the phone, most of us don’t like talking on it much anymore. (I hear it’s an old person thing to do.) And Zoom fatigue is real.

Try running a little science experiment of just meeting right away without that call or video chat in between. But only do this if you like their profile well enough and you’ve had some smart, vibe-y banter back and forth.

The last dozen or so dates I went on, I didn’t talk on the phone first and the quality of my dates didn’t decline.

With the phone, you also run the risk of accidentally ruling them out too soon because you make a bad judgment call as you’re trying to have an organic conversation with a stranger who can’t see you and knows little about you. That’s not easy and can easily go south.

I would rather you meet right away, and if they delay meeting up with you, that’s your red flag. You don’t want to spend too much time in text-land, because that’s where the potential catfishers live.

Voop! Swipe Left

So, you two lovely ladies (and all your single friends) get to set your minimum standards. If you’re at the pool, and a guy chatting you up couldn’t muster up a decent question, you’d stand up and move somewhere else, right? If he was coming on too strong, you’d find a way to politely excuse yourself.

You can get as strict about your minimum guidelines as you’d like, and on days where you have extra patience and grace, you can give people a little leeway and run science experiments with them. When your friends are complaining about the guys who aren’t following up or asking any good questions, you can say, “Oh yeah, I totally don’t talk to those guys. They’re gone the moment I figure out that’s what’s up — voop, I just swipe left!”

If you’re using one of the big apps like Tinder, and you live in a decent-sized city, you’ll be fine. You’ll never be alone in that big community pool, and when the selection starts looking a little sparse, remember new people jump into that pool every single day.

Remember… it only takes one and everything about your single life could change in just one instant.

Good luck out there!

. . .

Wendy Newman is the author of 121 First Dates. She’s a dating, sex, and relationship expert who’s led hundreds of workshops and revolutionized the lives of over 70,000+ women internationally.

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Dating, Sex & Relationship Expert and Author of 121 First Dates (Simon & Schuster). Over 70,000 women trust Wendy’s advice, tools, & experience.

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