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How to make a good first impression

In honor of National Singles Week, I'd like to present the rules of a first impression, as adapted from OkTrends, the official blog of OkCupid. The team behind the site presented a helpful analysis of first contacts between users via the site's proprietary messaging services. Along with some nifty bar graphs, OkCupid has come up with some rules for striking up a conversation. Keep these things in mind as you courageously approach one another out there.

Rule #1: Be literate
In face-to-face contact, this would apply once you have exchanged contact information and decide to send that first email or text. Netspeak doesn’t hit most people the right way these days. Also, think before using slang, as even people with a shared interest might not know what you mean when you say you “spange” in Little Five every Saturday afternoon. Even an apostrophe makes a difference, as “wont” and “won’t” received different response rates.

Rule #2: Avoid opening with physical compliments
Offering an honest compliment toward smarts or wit -- anything that speaks of the person within the good-looking shell -- is a much better use of your words than a physical remark. “As an opener, ’Hey beautiful’ is just creepy,” says Wendy. “I automatically think of construction worker’s catcalls.” Pretty, hot, and any other variation you can think of doesn’t work well. Often, it’s seen as better to offer a more specific compliment, something Kyle finds handy. “I say that the shirt matches her eyes, or I like her hair. It’s not as invasive.” However, Wendy counters, “That comes off as gay. It would put my guard down, but I’d just want to go shopping with him.” If the conversation is going well, throwing in a specific compliment has a fifty-fifty chance of derailing the moment. Also, Kyle doesn’t think this rule applies to women in the same way. “One of my best girl friends tends to approach guys and say ‘hey hot stuff.’ That seems to work well for her.” Take note girls, if you may be so bold.

Rule #3: Use a casual greeting
A proper “hello” may be polite, but it might come off as stiff and not catch much more than a polite nod in return. OkCupid’s study shows that “How’s it going?” and “What’s up?” received the highest response rates, probably because these are open-ended and allow for elaboration of what one is doing or thinking. “I always think someone approaching with a ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so is really presumptive, no matter the situation,” Kyle says. Unless you’re at a work orientation, save the proper introductions for later in the conversation, treating them as an afterthought.

Rule #4: Don’t try to take it outside
Simply enough, offering a phone number or  wanting to “go somewhere quiet” within the first few minutes of meeting someone new is overzealous. While there’s something to be said for taking of together on a whim, it can be said by very few. When people are out, they’re usually involved in several conversations or part of a larger party, and meeting someone new isn’t going to make them ditch their previous arrangements.

Rule #5: Bring up specific interests
After talk about the weather and why you’re both in the same place at the same time (do not call it fate until you’re married) , it’s time to get to know the basics of one another. Because OkCupid is typically used by younger hipster types, niche words that worked well were “band,” “metal,” and “vegetarian.” Don’t use these for the response rate, but use them if they describe you and what you like to do. The caveat of this analysis is that Rule #7 shows that “atheist” netted the best response on  the site. However, your religion is a part of you, so feel free to mention that as well, even though religion, along with politics, are things to supposedly be avoided during polite conversation. If your religions (and applicable politics) don’t jibe, it’s probably better to know up front.

Rule #6: Be self-effacing
On OkCupid, this advice is aimed at men, however, no one likes a braggart, and self-effacement shows a bit of humor. As OkCupid says, “a lot of real-world dating advice tells [you] to be more confident, but apparently hemming and hawing a little works well.” Keep in mind that no one likes a downer, so keep your self-insults to a level that elicits laughter, not uncomfortable silence.

With these rules, you’re on your way to making a good first impression, whether online or in person. Do you have a list of first impression rules? Feel free to share in the comments!


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