In online dating, first impressions are crucial: usually people focus on having a good photo or writing a clever profile. But have you ever thought about what kind of first impression you make by telephone?
Your first phone impression is a tricky mating stage that comes after exchanging emails online, but prior to meeting face-to-face. What I’m seeing as a matchmaker in this new dating decade of 2010, is that many first dates never happen because the guy or girl had a negative impression of you via phone. Note that I used the word “impression” because it’s not about who you really are: it’s about someone stereotyping you before they get to know you, based on little things you might say, or not say, that usually don’t reflect who you are deep down. But not to worry! After interviewing more than 1,000 single men and women for my new book, “Have Him At Hello,” I have 9 tips to help you shine on the phone:
- Use a Land Line: Try to speak on a land line whenever possible. There’s nothing more irritating than spotty reception and always saying, “What? Sorry I couldn’t hear you….”
- Be aware of your tone: Always use a cheerful voice, even if something he says annoys you, or if you’ve had a bad day. People are drawn to an upbeat vibe.
- Give intentional responses: If he/she says something vague such as “How are you?”, remember that is not an inquiry about your health or your mood. In the early stages of getting-to-know-you, everything you say is used to project what type of person you are. “How are you” is actually a Rorschach test! Use that vague question to give an intentional response, to share something about yourself that you deliberately want him/her to know. For example:
S/He says, “How are you?”
You say, “I’m great! I just returned from an exhilarating run in Central Park with my best friend from college.”
What does that tell him/her about you? It says you are fitness oriented (you run), you’re the type of person who has sustainable relationships (you’ve maintained a friend for 20 years since college), and you’re an energetic, positive person (I’m great! The run was exhilarating!).”
Obviously don’t make anything up (i.e., don’t say you went running if you really didn’t!), but proactively think of something positive about yourself that you want him/her to know whenever you are asked a mundane question.
- Turn the tables (casually): Follow up your intentional response with a related question that lets him/her talk about him/herself, such as “So, do YOU run, or what kind of exercise do YOU like? ” or, “How about YOU, do you have an old friend you spend time with?”
Finding a “conversation bridge” from something you said (“So, speaking of running…”) also helps you evaluate the other person in a casual way to see what type of person they are, without making him/her feel as though this is a job interview where you’re ticking off a checklist of requirements (Do you exercise? Check! Do you have long-term relationships? Check!)
- Don’t grill: Getting someone to talk about him/herself is not the same thing as peppering him/her with frequent or mundane questions. There are two elements here: quantity and quality. Don’t ask more than one question per minute (inject comments and reflections in between questions to minimize the quantity of questions, making it a real conversation, not Q&A session). Also, don’t ask boring questions, even if s/he asked you a boring question first (Avoid: How are you? What are you doing? How was work? Was the traffic bad?).
- Be fun: If there’s a lull in the conversation flow, try to be fun and spark some banter. Pick a neutral, third party topic, and make a comment (or ask a question) about it. For example, “Hey, did you happen to see David Letterman last night? He did the Top Ten Reasons for things overheard waiting in line to see Avatar…. Guess what #1 was?”
Asking someone to guess something is a great way to flirt and keep things interesting. And raising a third party topic (e.g., The David Letterman Show) will make you seem easy-going because you aren’t like all the other girls or guys probing to find out if someone is Mr./Ms. Right (Avoid: What do you for work? Tell me about your parents? Do you golf?).
- Relax him/her: Make the person feel relaxed and confident by acting happy that s/he called and giving positive feedback on their conversation skills (even if his/her phone skills aren’t great-the initially shy or awkward ones usually make better partners in the long run than the instantly slick, charismatic ones!). For example, tell someone, “I had a rough day at work, but your call cheered me up!” or “Oh, that’s an interesting question…”
- Know when the party’s over: End the conversation quickly when you sense the energy level drooping. But blame it on an external factor rather than sounding bored. For example, “Oh, I just realized it’s 9:00 pm and I didn’t call my grandma yet to wish her happy birthday! So sorry about that, I was really enjoying our conversation…. But good luck on that big presentation on tomorrow, and I hope to talk to you soon!” This says 4 things: you’re a family-oriented person (you’re calling your grandma, awww: that’s sweet!), you’re boosting his/her confidence so the person feels good being around you (you enjoyed the conversation, you hope to talk soon) , you’re a good listener and thoughtful person (you remembered his/her big presentation tomorrow), and you’re not too needy (you said “hope to talk to you soon” rather than “When will I see you? Will you call me tomorrow?).
- What Never To Do: While talking on the phone, never chew food or gum, never go to the bathroom or flush a toilet, even if you mute the phone (don’t risk a malfunction!), and never multi-task while you’re on the phone by checking email, loading the dishwasher, etc. (give the person your full attention: it makes a huge difference!)