How to Break the Ice in Online Dating

What’s more nerve wracking than initiating contact on a dating app? Starting a conversation is hard enough, let alone keeping the conversation going. If only someone could give you some pointers on breaking the ice when you contact someone on an online dating site. Well, you’re in luck. Here are some surefire tips to take the stress out of those early interactions and make it far more likely you’ll get a response.

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Do your research

People who are serious about online dating fill their profiles out fully. That means they’ll have multiple pictures, but it also means they’ll tell you about themselves in the text. Read it! You’ll find out about their hobbies, their jobs, their pets.

If they show off a particular vacation destination in one of their photos, ask them what they thought of it. In other words, their profile is a treasure trove of information. Use it to start a conversation that shows you’re interested in them as a person and not just because you think they’re cute.

Fill Out Your Profile Fully

You should take your profile seriously, too. No matter how cute you are, pictures aren’t enough. Dating isn’t a competition, but making it past their inbox is, and the first step is crafting a profile that makes them interested enough to respond.

You want to share information about yourself and who you’re looking for. Don’t waste text on filler text that they see in everyone else’s profile. “I’ll fill this out later” won’t cut it. Likewise, “I hate being here” or “Just checking this out” make it look like you’re not invested enough in the process to bother responding to. We’re all checking this out and most of us would prefer a meet-cute, but online dating is a great, efficient way to meet people, too — if you can get a response.

Focus on your hobbies, school, or even tell a short anecdote about something exciting or funny that happened to you lately. Show you’re a person with a full, fun life. No need to exaggerate or fabricate, but give someone a decent idea of what you’re like to spend time with.

Craft a Perfect First Message

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you get out what you put in! Make an honest effort at a great hello and you’re far more likely to be treated in kind. It’s very, very common for people to send messages that just say “hello” or even worse, “hey.”

Those two words are definite don’ts (Read our guide on first message mistakes to learn more). After a while, all of those “heys” become white noise, and they’re likely to get completely overlooked. A “hey” message won’t even motivate a person to look at your profile.

It’s more and more common for apps to impose a time limit for conversations, either after matching or after that first message. You may be tempted to send one of those one-word messages just to tag up and make sure you can get the conversation going, but it just makes you look lazy, or like you’re playing the numbers game. Taking a few minutes to get that first message is right gives you a leg up.

Take what you’ve learned by reading their profile to see what’s likely to get the best response. Look for things you have in common, and open with one of those. Like the same types of movies? Ask them what they thought of a particular film, especially if it’s one that had people divided. Ask open-ended questions that go beyond yes or no or another one word answer. We’ve got more message examples if you need extra help.

While you can compliment their appearance, that can backfire. Because the first thing a person sees is a picture, it’s a given you’re at least a little physically attracted to them, and leading with something physical may send the message that you’re not serious about getting to know them.

Plus, it’s trickier than you think. Complimenting something with a heavily sexualized connotation, like legs or chest, can make you look like a creep.

But on the other side of the coin, complimenting someone’s eyes is so common that no matter how sincere you’re being, it could come off as a cliché. Set yourself apart and engage on a meaningful level. You’ll both enjoy the conversation more if you start from that vantage point.

Still need some tips? Check out our guide on how to write a great first message.

Nail the Follow Up Conversation

So they’ve responded. What next? Conversation with a new person can be awkward, especially when neither of you have body language or tone of voice to give you cues about what’s working and what isn’t.

Keep up the open-ended questions, and try to balance them with your own thoughts on the topics — no need to make it seem like an inquisition. Likewise, if they keep responding but don’t seem to want to discuss a particular topic, move on to something else in their profile.

Hopefully that second topic will get the ball rolling, but if the second response doesn’t go anywhere, it’s officially time for you to step back. If they respond again, feel free to keep trying. If not, take the hint and move on.

If you decide to joke around, keep things light and innocuous. Never make fun of them or their appearance. No matter what you’ve been told, negging isn’t cool and won’t win you points in the long run, even if it gets an initial response.

Likewise jokes at another person’s expense can backfire and make you look bitter and cynical. Not a great way to start. In other words, if you’re not confident the joke will land, don’t risk it.

Above all, be genuine. That’s one thing that will absolutely shine through, even without body language to drive the sentiment home. As much as you may be sick of hearing “just be yourself,” it really is the best course of action to find the best match when you’re online dating.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.