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Avoid The First Date Flake

By all accounts, Emma is a catch. She’s funny, kind, and attractive. She works a job she loves and is described by many as a social butterfly.

So why do so many of her matches ghost her or cancel dates last minute?

“I don’t get it,” she said during one of our Zoom sessions. “What am I doing wrong? Is it me?”

First, let me be very clear: no, it’s not her. Or you. Much to the chagrin of single dating app users, the scenario I just described is one they know all too well. This happens to pretty much everyone. The good news is: there are ways to avoid it.

Focus on the people that initiate interest

After looking through Emma’s text exchanges with her last few matches, something immediately jumped out at me. Emma was always the one to send the first message. With Bumble, that’s unavoidable. On that app, only women can start the conversation once a match has been made. Tinder and are a different story. On those two apps, either person can send the first message. My advice to Emma was to only send the first message if she was the one to swipe right and get a match. In reverse cases, where the other person swipes on a profile and it’s a match, the onus is on them to send that first message.My reasoning behind this is simple: invest the majority of your energy on the people who initiate interest.

Crafting cute, flirty messages was trying back when we used desktops to view dating profiles and communicate. It’s become exponentially more tedious now that all we have is a teeny-tiny keyboards and screens. The goal here is to lower the potential for burn-out and frustration, not make people unnecessarily jump through hoops.

Cut back on the cold calls

There’s a reason why so many sales people dread having to make cold-calls. They’re contacting people, most of whom never asked to be solicited let alone have any interest in whatever service the salesperson is trying to push. Online dating is very similar. You’ll have a higher success rate with a targeted list of contacts aka people who have already expressed interest in the product, that product being you.

In the context of dating apps, it’s best to focus your effort on people who have already made it clear they’d like to hear from you. (Obviously, this does not include the people who swipe indiscriminately and don’t review your entire profile first. They’re THE WORST.) If you want to be successful using any online dating or dating app platform, you’re going to have to pony up and pay the membership fee so you can see who has already swiped right or liked your profile. That’s your goldmine.

“But if I don’t message anyone, how will I meet anyone?”

That’s a valid concern, but please note that I am not saying you should never ever make the first move. I’m suggesting you be more strategic in your approach. That way, you won’t expend time and energy you’ll never get back on people who were never that interested in the first place. Shoot your shot, just be smart about it.

Don’t ask any questions

Not in the first message, at least. As we all know, there are an extraordinary number of time wasters utilizing these platforms. The attention seekers, the people just looking for quick sex or a free meal, the ambivalent wishy-washy types who aren’t sure they even want to date at all, etc. They have no problem dicking people around for their own amusement. That’s why you should avoid asking any questions when you send your first message. Some people will respond out of boredom or to be polite, which leads to a string of banal messages that never lead to setting up a date. In the cases where you take the bull by the horns and suggest a face-to-face meeting, they might even agree, only to unmatch you or, worse, completely blow you off.

Keep that first message simple and close with a directive.

Hey there! Looks like we’re a match. If you want to chat a bit and potentially meet up, drop a line back.

In a note like this, you’re acknowledging the match and making it clear you’re there to meet in-person. While this won’t prevent the time-wasters from responding, it will certainly lower the likelihood.

But what if that seems too aggressive or scares people off?

If someone using a dating app gets scared off by simply considering the possibility of an email conversation leading to an actual offline date, you just dodged a bullet. You’re welcome.

Make sure they meet you half-way

In most of Emma’s exchanges with her matches, she was the one pushing the conversation along. She asked more questions and gave lengthier responses. If someone isn’t showing explicit interest in the conversation or inquiring about something from your bio or profile, they’re lukewarm about you at best. If you’re responding in a relatively timely manner, say within a couple of hours, and they’re waiting half a day or more? Pay attention.

Something else Emma did was follow-up when the guy dropped out of the conversation. There was even one case where she suggested they meet for a drink, he agreed, she offered two potential nights on which to meet and then, nothing. He never replied. Cut to three days later. Emma circles back to the conversation and asks if he’s still interested in meeting. No answer. Try not to do that, as it puts you in a vulnerable position. We all know when a response is expected of us and the appropriate way to proceed. If the pacing of the message exchange involves lags in conversation and increasingly diminished enthusiasm, take the hint. Your self-esteem will thank you.

If someone disregards basic etiquette, that’s rude. Be like Hannibal Lechter and eat the rude. Only in this case, “eat” means “ignore.” Don’t give them a second chance. I don’t need to tell you there are some self-serving, insensitive people lurking behind those profile pics. If they smell blood in the water - like the shark that they are - they’re going to bite.

Know your league

Ugh. I know. I KNOW.

“Leagues don’t exist!” you say. “You’re advising that I settle!”

If you want to look at it that way, I get it. It sounds like I’m suggesting you lower your standards. It sounds like I’m telling you you aren’t all that and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

I’m not. *crosses heart* I swear. Despite what teen rom-coms have taught us, leagues are not about looks. Attraction is too subjective for us to be put into restrictive categories. Leagues are about options, as in who is in higher demand. YOU DESERVE TO BE IN DEMAND.

In no way am I suggesting you should date people you don’t find attractive. However, I am definitely (politely. gently.) suggesting you give those “maybes” a chance. It should stand to reason that if you’re all hyped up about someone’s profile, many other people are, too. Ergo, they are in high demand. Someone with people clamoring to date them will have less availability and time to offer. The chances they’ll push everyone aside after one date with you are pretty slim. It’s the jam theory aka choice overload. When we’re presented with multiple options, it takes longer for us to choose just one. Sure, it would feel like a huge win if you could be the one to snag the brass ring, but consider the emotional and mental toll it will likely take to do so.

The reality is, very few users of dating apps fall into the “objectively and conventionally attractive” bracket. That doesn’t mean we are not desirable or sexy or even hot, it simply means there are fewer people who would consider us those things than there are those who would. (In this case, fewer does not mean “hardly any” it means “less than.”) And here’s the kicker: those people who are conventionally hot? There are some people who don’t find them attractive at all. Hot people. They’re just like us!

The tips offered here are not meant to make you feel like you have to forget about ever finding that person that makes you tingle and swoon. No way. That person is out there. They just haven’t found you yet. There are so many people out there hoping to get a shot at meeting you. They’re in your inbox or lining up in your swiped queue.

You’re in high demand, too. You just don’t know it.

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