First impressions are everything: We all know that. But did you realize that first impressions actually begin before your first date, usually by phone?
Talking on the phone is a tricky dating stage that comes after exchanging emails but prior to meeting face-to-face. What I’m seeing as a matchmaker is that many first dates never happen, because your potential mate had a negative “pre-first-impression” of you on the phone.
But not to worry! After interviewing more than 1,000 single men and women for my new book, “Have Him At Hello,” I have 7 phone tips that really work:
1. Watch your tone. Use a cheerful voice, even if something the other person says annoys you or you’ve had a bad day.
2. Give intentional responses. If the other person says something vague such as “How are you?”, remember that they are not inquiring 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 this vague question to give an intentional response, to share something about yourself. For example:
Your date 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 say 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 years since college), and you’re an energetic, positive person (“I’m great!”).
Obviously, don’t make anything up, but proactively think of something positive about yourself that you want to share whenever you’re asked a mundane question.
3. Turn the tables. Follow up your intentional response with a related question that lets the other person talk about themselves, such as “So, do you run? 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 in a casual way what type of person they are, without making them feel as though this is a job interview and you’re ticking off a checklist of requirements.
4. Don’t grill. Getting other people to talk about themselves is not the same thing as peppering them 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, make the flow more organic) and don’t grill with boring questions, even if they asked you a boring question first (avoid: How are you? What are you doing? How was work? Was the traffic bad?).
5. 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 ask a question about it. For example, “Hey, did you happen to see David Letterman last night? He did the Top Ten things overheard waiting in line to see ‘Avatar’. Guess what #1 was?”
Asking the other person 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 easygoing because you aren’t like all the other people probing to find out if they’ve found Mr. or Ms. Right (avoid: What do you do for work? Tell me about your parents. Do you golf?).
6. Give positive feedback. Make the other person feel relaxed and confident by acting happy that they called and giving positive feedback on their conversation skills, even if their phone skills aren’t great (women, take note: The initially shy or awkward guys usually make better husbands in the long run than the instantly suave, charismatic ones!). For example, say, “I had a rough day at work, but your call cheered me up!” or “Oh, that’s an interesting question…”
7. Know when the party’s over. End the conversation quickly when you sense the energy level dropping. But blame it on an external factor rather than sounding bored. For example, “Oh, I just realized it’s 9 p.m. and I didn’t call my grandma yet to wish her happy birthday today! So sorry about that, I was really enjoying our conversation…. But good luck on that big presentation tomorrow, and I hope to talk to you soon!” This says four things: You’re a family-oriented person (you’re calling your grandma, awww… that’s sweet!), you’re boosting the other person’s confidence so they feel good being around you (you enjoyed the conversation), you’re a good listener and thoughtful person (you remembered their 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?”).
More Phone Guidelines
Phone call duration. 15 minutes is usually a good amount of time for early-stage getting-to-know-you calls, while 30 to 60 minutes is appropriate for deepening intimacy as the relationship grows. Anything longer than that should be saved for in-person on the next date. Always leave the other person wanting more and feeling anticipation to see you.
Landline phone vs. cell phone. Try to speak on a landline phone whenever possible. There’s nothing more irritating than spotty reception and always saying, “What? Sorry I couldn’t hear you.”
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 (how many times that mute button doesn’t work, I can’t begin to count…), NEVER multitask while you’re on the phone by checking email, loading the dishwasher, etc. Give your full attention. It makes a huge difference!