how to succeed at online dating

Let’s face it – dating can be a tough haul for everyone involved.  Nervousness and uncertainty can take over and make the entire experience comparable to a trip to the dentist.

But it doesn’t have to be like that!  So much of this process is entirely up to you. You just need to recognize where you have the ability to stand up and take control to ensure an outcome that doesn’t leave you crying in your martini.

So with that in mind, here are 10 proven ways to succeed at online dating that can help you put your best foot forward in the world where it’s just so easy to stumble.

1. Set your objective

The first thing you need to decide is what you are looking for.  Are you online dating just for fun and looking for short-term, casual dates or are you looking for a long-term relationship or even marriage?

Once you have that answer clear in your mind, use it to guide your fishing grounds (aka dating site choices).  For example, if you are just looking for a good time, great – but anytime you use a picture as a basis for swiping right to find something more permanent, the odds may not be in your favor.

2. Use it as an introduction

Use the online world as an opportunity to swap a few emails and texts before you actually meet.  This is the best way to establish some commonalities to see if you even want to take things to the next level.

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Have some standard questions you can ask to determine some of their likes and dislikes, and maybe find out how they like to spend their time.  And back to our first point, use this opportunity to find out what it is they are looking for from this potential date.

3. Check your attitude

Before you even walk out the door for that first date, the first thing you need to do is check your attitude.

Look at this date as an opportunity, no matter how it turns out.  An opportunity to get a bit dressed up, to try out a new coffee shop or restaurant you’ve never been to.  An opportunity to meet another human being who shares this earth with you and to learn a little bit about them… And worst-case scenario, the opportunity to tell your friends the best worst date story ever.

The main thing is you won’t die if it’s a terrible experience, and going in with a bright and open attitude can make all the difference.  Remember, everyone is nervous, so doing your best to make things go smoothly is in everyone’s best interest.

4. Choose coffee over dinner

If you want to play it safe on your first date, choose coffee over dinner. It lessens the time commitment and gives both of you an out on the chance that things don’t go as smoothly as you would like.

On the flip side, it also allows for a 20-minute encounter to turn into a 2-hour date should things go swimmingly, so don’t book something else directly after that can’t be easily changed should you get caught up in the moment.

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5. Suggest a venue

If you are a more daring type or are looking for more of a traditional first date, do it – agree to a dinner date.  Remember, it’s all an opportunity and no one ever died from sitting through a whole dinner with a stranger, right?

If you happen to be a picky eater, make some suggestions as to where you would like to go. The last thing you want is to be distracted by an environment you’re not comfortable in.

6. Don’t be late

Whether you choose a simple coffee or a night on the town, be on time.  It sounds simple, and really, it is.  Showing up casually late sends such a loud message of disrespect and can leave a lasting impression.

Of course, if something comes up and being late is unavoidable, be sure to communicate that with your date.  Life happens, they’ll understand – as long as you keep them in the loop.

7. Two drinks maximum

Set a two-drink maximum for a first date. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time with cloudy judgment. It also ensures you won’t make a fool of yourself should you exceed that limit (probably due to nerves!) and you won’t have any regrets in the morning.

8. Open up

There’s no point going on a date if you aren’t interested in being open and honest. That doesn’t mean you have to bare your soul on the first night out, but being cagey and secretive won’t get you anywhere.

Choose some things in advance you would like to share about yourself – some information about your family, what it is you do for a living, perhaps some comical anecdotes from a recent trip.

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And show interest in your date as well.  It’s all about getting to know one another!

9. Have some topics at the ready

In case there are some awkward moments, have some topics at the ready.  Get caught up on a few current events and know some of the local happenings in your area.  Of course, make sure you know what you are talking about on the off chance they are super knowledgeable in whatever arena you choose…

If you can’t spark a conversation with current events, fall back on some of their likes and dislikes that you learned in your introduction phase. Something like, “Hey, you mentioned that you are really into blah blah blah!  That sounds interesting, tell me more!” can go a long way.

10. Don’t ghost

After the date is over and for whatever reason you’re just not interested, don’t ghost.  It’s such a popular thing to do these days and yet such a show of disrespect.

Should you get a follow-up text or e-mail, a simple response saying, “Thank you so much.  I really enjoyed meeting you but don’t think we’re looking for the same thing. Best of luck in your search!” closes the door firmly but on a polite note.

Remember, dating is hard for everyone.  A little kindness and etiquette from both parties go a long way!

Dharma is an advice columnist who strives to be fair, firm and funny all while dispensing sound advice to your everyday problems. Questions regarding family, friends, and spouses, problems on the job, etiquette dilemmas - if you can think of it, it’s probably been asked!

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