Communication Tip: Ask A Question

One of my closest friends is someone I started out just barely knowing and we came to know each other through e-mails for the most part.  And early on I realized this friend was very good at one aspect of communicating that I’d never really thought about before, namely, asking questions.

Almost every e-mail this friend sent me included a question I needed to answer.  It meant that I almost always responded, because I was raised to be polite and you answer questions when people ask them.

Think about most real life conversations you have:

“Hey, Joe.  How are you?”

“Good, Sue.  How are you?”

“Good.  What are you up to?”

We do this naturally in face-to-face conversation–prompting the other person to participate by asking them a question.

But I find that people often fail at this in online communication.

And it can kill your chances if you’re in an online dating situation.

See, here’s a terrible secret of online dating–people will respond to you even if they aren’t particularly interested.  You may just be in the “well, he/she’s not so bad I need to shut it down” category.  But the person isn’t sitting there hoping and praying that you’ll write them back.  (More true for the men than the ladies since men initiate most of the contact so generally if a guy’s done that he had some attraction to the woman before he wrote her.)

Well, if you’re in this, “eh” category, you don’t want to give the other person any chance to walk away until you can meet them.  You need to keep the conversation going.  And the way to do that is to (a) ask questions so the person feels compelled to respond to you and (b) don’t say anything so offensive or over the top that you drive them away.

I had a match fall down on this just this week.  He wrote and asked a few questions, I wrote back and answered and asked two questions, he answered the two questions.  And…I read his answers.  Neither of which made me feel especially motivated to continue the conversation.  Now, if we were in person, I would’ve followed up because awkward silences are painful.

But online?  Not so much.  It’s been a busy week and he was in that “eh” category and even if I’d continued the conversation I suspected it wasn’t going to be that interesting.

I want there to be a back and forth flow with a guy I’m interested in.  A give and take.  (Think about this for a second–it’s not just in e-mails where this matters, right?  There are other vital parts of a relationship that require working together to create a mutually enjoyable experience…If someone can’t do that at a basic level that doesn’t bode well for more sensitive areas of the relationship.)

So.  Ask questions every time you respond.  Play on the other person’s sense of politeness until you can meet in real life and captivate them with your charm and wit or sheer physical attractiveness.  (And if you’re really bad at written communication, get to that point as soon as you can.  Short responses that don’t build a conversation will do you no favors in the world of online dating.)

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