Breaking the ice—in any situation—is no easy feat. Whether you’re approaching someone at a bar, a party, or online, putting yourself out there can be an awkward and scary experience, even for people who are naturally outgoing.
Lucky for us, breaking the ice online is a lot easier and a lot less frightening than approaching someone in real life. You don’t have to deal with a crowd of people watching you, you can take a really long time thinking of what to say, and you have the assurance of knowing that the people you’re approaching are also single and open to meeting someone—after all, they’re on a dating site.
Next time you log in and start meeting people, consider these five online dating tips for writing a first message:
- Don’t be nervous.
Even if your stomach is tied up into knots and you’re so nervous you can barely type, try to stay calm. Go splash some cold water on your face, look in the mirror, and ask yourself, “What do I have to lose?” Really, it’s not like the person on the other end of the message is going to publicly reject you, and you’ll never have to see this person in real life if nothing comes out of your attempt. The worst that can happen is an “I’m not interested” message, which you can quickly delete. And, if you get no response at all, you can do what we all do and just pretend it never happened. The ability to compartmentalize is a beautiful thing.
- Do your homework.
Actually take the time to read someone’s profile before sending that first message. I know a lot of us are quick on the draw when it comes to messaging people who catch our eye, but it helps to actually know something about that person before you message them. And, from the feedback I’ve gotten from real online daters, we know that’s exactly what most online daters want you to do. One online dater Elizabetta wrote, “Before flirting or mailing, please, read my profile. Do not just look at the photo! Think: Do we have anything in common, why would she be interested in me? There is a reason she has written all that.” Another dater, Damian, said, “The best flirt I ever received was from a lady who wrote something that showed she had at least read my profile. In fact, I thank her to this day for her honesty and friendly reply.” Tailor-made messages, like tailor-made clothes, really do fit better. You’ll see.
- Cool your jets.
“Cool it down,” isn’t just a lyric in one of our favorite Velvet Underground songs. It’s also basic advice when it comes to dating. Online dater, Nathaniel elaborated for us, “Girls get tired of cheesy compliments like, ‘you are so beautiful, you have such beautiful eyes, I think I’m in love, I’ve died and gone to heaven, if I’m sleeping don’t wake me, I must be dreaming, let’s do it, your so hot, etc.’ Don’t use pick up lines ever. They don’t work.” The same goes for guys; everyone will just think you’re creepy if you over-do it with compliments, especially when you barely know them. According to data from the online dating site Zoosk, messages with generic compliments that included words like sexy, cute, beautiful, or gorgeous actually made responses go down. Also, while it’s one thing to be tongue-in-cheek, it’s another thing to be vulgar. The best way to approach a first message is to keep it in ‘friend’ territory. Keep your message light and simple. You have plenty of time to develop things further, so be patient for now.
- Avoid TMI
TMI, or ‘too much information’, about yourself is a no-no on a first date, and it’s also a no-no with a first message too. Generally, when people talk too much about themselves it reveals a real problem with listening, which is a turn off. If things work out between you and your prospective match, they’ll find out everything about you in due course. There is no need to tell someone everything about your life right away. Also, keep an eye on the scale of your letter. Don’t write a novel, but don’t send a haiku either. While you should make sure you include enough text to spark someone’s interest, don’t include so much that they fall asleep while scrolling through it. And you should make sure at least some of your sentences end with a question mark. Asking questions in your message, as opposed to talking nonstop about yourself, is also a great way to get a reply.
Never underestimate the power of a typo-proof message. Typos and grammatical mistakes are ugly blips that detract from the sincerity and sweetness of what you’re saying. Can you imagine what Sonnet 18 would be like if instead of “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” Shakespeare wrote instead, “Shlal I compaer the 2 a sumur’s dai?” If you feel uncomfortable with the grammatical integrity of a message, why not run a simple grammar and spelling check on it? It’s not that hard, we promise.
Just to give you an idea of what a good first message might look like, below is a sample first message to use as an example.
Hi _____. My name is _____, and I really liked what you said in your profile!
We share a lot of interests, like synchronized swimming and live action role playing games. It also appears that we have really similar music taste. Norwegian death metal is the best! What’s your favorite band? Also, I noticed in your picture that you have a pet turtle. I have a pet turtle too, named Rick! He’s thirty-five years old. Do you have any other pets? I’m a vegetarian and I love animals, and I’m happy to read that you’re a vegetarian too.
Anyway, I hope to hear back from you because you sound really interesting. Have a nice day!
See how easy that was? Even if you don’t think you’d respond to a message like that, I’m sure the pet-turtle having, Norwegian death metal loving, synchronized swimming LARPer getting that message definitely would.
Next time you’re ready to start messaging someone, remember these tips. Over time, you’ll realize that breaking the ice online isn’t so bad after all. In fact,you might even surprise yourself and start having fun.