Step By Step

1. Choose a Service 2. Set Up an Account 3. Write Your Profile4. Make Contact 5. Respond...Or Don’t 6. The Email Dialogue 7. The Phone Call 8. The Date

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Step 6: The Email Dialogue

The two keys to online dialogue are inquisitiveness and humor. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who doesn’t ask any questions? I can’t stand that. After I get sick of holding up the conversation single-handedly, I just stop asking questions, and the conversation dies. People who don’t ask questions in their messages are just as annoying. When only one person asks questions, it’s not a conversation; it’s an interview.

Coming up with good questions can be difficult, especially when you know nothing abouta person. To get started, you can ask questions about the other person’s profile. Ask them about the things in which they seem to take pride. Answering those questions will make them feel good about themselves, and they’ll be likely to give full answers, which will facilitate the conversation. Ask them about the aspects of their profile that most intrigue you and the parts that aren’t fully explained. Don’t be afraid to throw in random questions, e.g.favorite/least favorite holidays, best party trick, memorable vacations, dream car. If you’re really stuck, you can fall back on getting-to-know-you standbys: What do you do? Where do you live? Where are you from? How many siblings do you have? But try to avoid these, or at least sprinkle them in with other more specific questions. After you get responses, follow up with more detailed questions that build on the responses. Avoid topics which might make people feel awkward: dating, politics, exes, personal issues, relationships, etc. Youcan talk about these things once you’ve gotten to know each other a little better. Such advice might seem obvious, but I’m often surprised by how people with solid conversational skills don’t translate those skills into email.

In responding to questions, try to avoid short answers that shut down lines of conversation. The more extensive your answer, the better the other person will understand you and the more material they’ll have to advance the conversation. Within reason. If you answer a simple question with several paragraphs, they’ll think you’re self-absorbed. If you’re asked a question that would take too long to answer, explain that you’d be happy to discuss it once you know one another a little better.

Humor and wit separate great dialogues from good ones. In my best email exchanges, I have learned little information about the other person because our dialogues consisted mostly of word play and witty banter. You know an email exchange is going especially well when you make one another laugh. But don’t worry if that doesn’t happen. Email chemistry is not necessary for conversational chemistry. Some people just aren’t great writers. Conversely, great email chemistry doesn’t guarantee personal chemistry. A woman that I once dated wrote me email messages that would make me laugh out loud and vice-versa, but when we were together, we had nothing to say to one another. Think of the email exchange as a filter. You can use it to determine a basic level of compatibility and weed out people who are wide off the mark, but it’s not sufficient to determine actual dating compatibility.

Don’t be surprised if your correspondent asks you to write back to a regular email address. Some people would rather not login to e-dating sites whenever new messages come in. It can be awkward at work or at public terminals. You might want to set up a special email account that you use just for e-dating, especially if your regular email address has identifying information, like your name.