“I don’t have any problem contacting people online,” said the message. “But for some reason, I struggle to keep the conversation going, and the interaction quickly fizzles out. How can I improve my chat?”
New Year is a great time to try online dating, as it’s when dating websites get their biggest number of new subscribers. On Christian Connection, the number of new members doubles between December and January, there are 60% more log-ins, and more than double the number of messages sent. But once you’ve taken the plunge and made contact with someone, how do you make the most of your online chat to get to know them and move towards meeting in person? Here are my top tips…
1. Ask lots of questions
The number one way to keep a conversation flowing is to ask questions. Everyone likes talking about themselves, and questions will prompt the other person to chat and open up. But the key is to ask “open-ended” questions without a yes/no answer. So instead of asking, “Do you like your church?” (to which they can answer, simply, “yes”), ask, “What do you like about your church?”, which requires a more detailed reply. Then pick up on what they say to expand the conversation. Crucially, when swapping messages, always include at least one question, as this invites a reply.
2. Take a genuine interest in them
If you’ve read the other person’s profile properly, you’ve probably got an idea of their interests and priorities. That gives you a great starting point for chatting. If you have shared interests, you can strike up a conversation about those topics; if they have hobbies or passions that are new to you, it’s something you can ask about. If the chat is drying up, go back to their profile for inspiration. And make sure your own profile gives plenty of info too, so they’ll have things to ask you about.
3. Share details about your life
The person you’re chatting with knows very little about you, so everything they learn will be new. Look for opportunities to share stories, describe experiences and give opinions, to reveal more about who you are. But stay safe: don’t share very personal information or identifying details (such as where you live, work or go to church) until you know them in real life and are sure you can trust them.
4. Keep messages short and sweet
When I was online dating, if I received an essay from someone, it became a chore to reply, and I’d keep putting it off until I felt I had the time to give an adequate response. Sometimes, by the time I got around to it, my interest had waned. Short messages of a paragraph or two is enough to keep the conversation flowing but not overwhelm the other person. And always be courteous and polite, even if they don’t respond as you’d like them to.
5. Stay positive (but not creepy)
Complaining or being negative doesn’t inspire anyone to want to continue chatting. By all means be honest, and it’s fine to share some tough stuff, but overall, people enjoy talking to someone who is positive and upbeat. Simple compliments are fine, but don’t overdo it as it can come become inappropriate and creepy.
6. Know when to take it offline
Research shows that in most successful relationships that start online, the couple meet within two weeks of initial contact. That might seem fast, but a long online or phone relationship can build up pressure and expectation, making it awkward when you finally meet. Meeting sooner also means you can find out if there’s any chemistry without wasting too much time. So if the interaction is going well, suggest meeting in person as soon as possible.
Finally, remember that no conversation is wasted – every chat is helpful for developing your online social skills, so you’ll be more confident and relaxed for the next one. For most of us, online dating is a marathon, not a sprint, so stay positive and have fun talking to others. Every person you chat to takes you one step closer to finding love!
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