I’ve never been good at flirting. Maybe it was my Southern upbringing, but for some reason, I’ve always operated under the assumption that if I’m interested in someone, I can merely strategically place myself near that person and nature will take its course. If someone is interested, he’ll talk to me. Sometime after I was catapulted out of 1952, I realized my strategy needed to change. As one of my old managers-turned-dear friends pointed out to me, I needed to apply some classic sales techniques to my dating life. I needed to play the numbers game, build my pipeline, do a little trial closing. In order to flirt I needed to meet people. I needed to go on as many dates as possible in order to figure out what I wanted. Online dating seemed the best way to accomplish this. I created an online profile for myself and placed it on one of the major dating sites. I sat back and waited for the courtships to begin.
Nothing happened. I’d made the mistake of putting up a profile and waiting for potential soul mates to flood my inbox. Unfortunately, this technique fails just as miserably in the online world as it does in the offline world. You have to put forth a little effort, apparently. This is something I’d never mastered in the real world, but clearly would now have to learn in this new virtual world of romance. After some shameless (and sometimes shameful) trial and error, I learned a few tricks for letting people know I was interested.
Identifying Potential Dates
The first order of business is seeing who’s out there. You wouldn’t go to a party with lots of interesting potential dates and talk to no one, would you? You’d probably scan the room, see who’s interesting and make your move from there. Likewise, you should scan profiles on your site of choice, making sure your settings are not set to “view profiles anonymously.” You want people to know you’re interested and looking. The more you check people out, the more people will check out you. Think volume.
After a brief period of scanning, you’ll (hopefully) become intrigued by a few photos and/or profiles. How do you let them know you’re interested? What’s the online equivalent to making eye contact and flashing a big smile? It’s called winking and on most sites you just click a button to initiate it. Winking can be a casual, non-committal approach to showing your interest and it can also be a pre-cursor to actual contact. The online daters of the world seem to be divided on the wink. Those in the pro-wink camp are of the mind that it’s a nice way to let someone know that you think they’re interesting. Those in the con-wink camp seem to think it’s the lazy way to put the ball in someone else’s court without putting forth much effort on their part.
I prefer to bypass the wink in favor of a less casual approach to letting people know I’m interested. I like hotlisting. As the name suggests, hotlisting allows you to build a list of people you’re interested in contacting, either now or later. Since online dating doesn’t afford us the offline luxury of a wing-man or wing-woman, hotlisting serves as the closest equivalent to this. Think of this as the “My friend ________ wants to meet you” tactic. Don’t limit yourself by adding only the people you’re absolutely positively sure you want to contact or go out with. Get a little crazy with your hotlist. Throw in a few people who aren’t your type but seem interesting. You never know and you can always delete people later if you change your mind.
Keep in mind that hotlisting isn’t anonymous so every person you add knows they’ve made your list. If you’re a little shy/lazy/unsure/pressed for time, hotlisting can be just the prompt that someone else needs to contact you first. Most sites give you access to see whose hotlisted you. Check this regularly to find out who thinks you’re hot and perhaps use this as a prioritization list to find out if you reciprocate the hotness for anyone who’s hotlisted you.
The most important step is actually connecting with someone, sending that initial email to introduce yourself. In composing your email, you’ll obviously want to avoid the generic “you sound interesting” statements. Find something in his or her profile that intrigues you and run with it, maybe even weave that into the subject line.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of only responding to those who contact you. Be proactive and contact people you’re interested in meeting. Control your destiny by setting a goal for yourself; maybe shoot to contact five people per week. The more people you contact, the more people you’ll have contacting you. And that’s exactly where you want to be.