Why E-mails are Useless in Judging Connection

I briefly tried online dating before I became frustrated with the process and quit. Through the parties I host, I’ve met several hundred single men and women whom I’ve asked about their experiences with on-line dating. Based on their and my experience, I’ve concluded that e-mails and instant messaging are useless in judging connection. I believe that if you like someone’s profile and they like yours, it makes sense to have a phone call as quickly as possible.

Profiles are primarily useful in telling you whether there are any deal breakers. If the other person lives in Florida, and you aren’t looking for a long distance relationship, that would be a problem. If his profile indicates that his political views are that he is right wing nut, or a Muslim terrorist, presumably that would be a problem. If he’s a smoker and you don’t want to date a smoker, you can find that out from most profiles.

In terms of making a relationship work, most of the facts you see in a profile don’t really matter. Whether you like to roller blade or not, or whether you grew up in Vermont or Texas, is interesting but in the long run doesn’t matter much in whether the relationship will last. What does matter is whether you click with him, do you connect with him. My experience with on-line dating is that profiles and e-mails are totally useless in judging connection.

E-mail can be useful in only two contexts judging whether the person is literate, and if you have a specific question (e.g., “I see you are allergic to green eyed iguanas and I happen to have eight of them. How would we deal with this?” or “I’m 97 years old. You’re 21. Do you think our age difference will matter?”). (In my case, my extensive


title=”James Mitchell’s profile”>profile will tell you whether or not I am literate, and I’m certainly open to answering specific questions.)

On a phone call, however, two people can get a sense of whether they click. If they click on the phone, then it makes sense to meet. If they don’t, then it doesn’t make sense to meet.

On a phone call, you can determine:

  1. Are you attracted to his voice? If his voice bothers you, you probably won’t fall in love with him.
  2. How quickly does he answer questions? There are some people that when you ask them a basic question — such as “Where did you grow up?” they take 10 seconds before they answer. I simply can’t fall in love with such a person. I want someone whose neurons snap more quickly.
  3. You can get some sense of how intelligent they are.
  4. Energy level. You can sense high energy over the phone, and you can also sense low energy. Psychologists say that for a relationship to last, energy levels need to be similar. If you’re very high energy and he is low energy, it’s not going to work.
  5. Sense of humor. If you make 12 funny comments and he doesn’t laugh at any of them, you shouldn’t go out with him.
  6. Does he have good interpersonal skills? Can he carry on a conversation? Does he talk about the right amount of time (i.e., probably between 40 and 60 percent of the conversation)? If he does all of the talking, or alternatively he says little
    and you do almost all of the talking, you probably shouldn’t meet him.
  7. How open or reserved is he?
  8. Positive outlook. You can sense over the phone whether someone views the glass as half full or half empty. (I have learned to avoid people who run on negative energy.)
  9. How easily do you talk? If the conversation flows smoothly and easily, if you want to keep talking with him for a long time, that’s a great sign. In the long run, whether you can talk with someone is critical.

If you click with someone on the phone, then you should probably meet. If you meet and there is chemistry, then there’s potential for a romantic relationship. If there’s no chemistry but you click, then at least you’ve got the basis for friendship. (Through on-line dating, I’ve made numerous close women friends.)

Unlike physical attraction, which is often one-way (he’s attracted to you but you are not to him, or vice versa), clicking/connection is almost always mutual. It’s very hard to click with someone if he does not click with you.

The other thing I’ve learned is that putting aside the issue of connection/clicking, there’s a huge difference between those who want a protracted series of e-mails and those who jump to a phone call right away. My experience has been — and I’ve heard this from literally dozens of other single men and women — that protracted series of e-mails almost always lead nowhere. There’s something about the kind of people who do this — whether it’s that they aren’t serious about wanting a relationship, they’ve painfully shy, they’re looking for perfection, or whatever — that statistically those people rarely end up meeting anyone, and when they do, they rarely end up in a relationship. People who insist on protracted e-mails are usually passive rather than doers.

People who go to a phone call quickly, on the other hand, are more likely to be doers and statistically end up in relationships, some long-term, and some that lead to marriage. It doesn’t make much sense to have lots of e-mails with someone if you’re not going to click on the phone. If you and he are going to totally click, then don’t you want to meet him sooner rather than later?

I’ll give you an example of a doer, who I will call Rachel. Her last long term relationship ended quite a long time ago. For three years, she waited for guys to approach her. Inevitably the wrong guys did. The guys she wanted to approach her did not, while the guys she was not interested in were calling her all the time. So she joined Matchmaker. I saw her profile, wrote to her, and gave her my phone number. She logged in, read my e-mail, and then read my profile. Rather than thinking about, or writing back a series of questions, or even writing back to say “Call me,” she picked up the phone and telephoned me right then. “Hi, this is Rachel. You wrote to me and I liked your profile.” (Since her screen name was unrelated to her name Rachel, I had no idea who she was. I later asked her about this. She said, “Your profile was a bit intimidating and you gave the impression that you were a phenomenally intelligent guy who could think on his feet. I want to see if you could really think on your feet.” I guess I passed.) After 25 minutes or so, she felt she knew enough about me to warrant a meeting, so she proposed having dinner that night.

Unfortunately, there was no chemistry, but Rachel is a doer. Three months after she joined Matchmaker, she met Mr. Right, and they married 18 months later. And Rachel and I became friends.

My theory may be questionable but the data support this.

On-line dating is to most people “unnatural.” They view it as a necessary evil because it is so difficult to meet people through “conventional” methods. Phone calls are much closer to conventional methods than e-mail. Let’s assume you’re at a party. A guy notices you and you notice him. You think he is attractive, he dresses appropriately, and you like the way he carries himself. You give him a sign that you like what you see so far. So he comes over and you talk. You like his voice, he’s easy to talk with, he’s funny, he’s high energy, he can carry on a conversation, and he appears to be genuinely interested in you. (And he’s not wearing a wedding ring.) So when he asks you out, you accept. Both of you have already determined that you click and there is chemistry. On a phone call, you can’t judge physical chemistry, but you can tell most (but not all) of these other things. You simply can’t do that through e-mail.

One of the other things I have learned is that great girls (and great guys) are very, very hard to find. They don’t grow on trees. The odds that any one person (including myself) is the love of your life, the person you will spend the rest of your life with, are frankly not high. To find that person you will have to talk with lots of men; there’s no way of avoiding it. Simply put, you’re going to have to kiss a lot of frogs. If someone is a high quality person, unless there is an obvious deal breaker, you should at least consider them. (By high quality person, I’m talking about someone with several dozen highly desirable characteristics — intelligence, manners and politeness, emotionally communicative, broad range of intellectual interests, and lots more.) And as I keep mentioning, you’ll have no idea whether you will connect with someone until you talk on the phone. It’s possible that after 15 minutes you’ll say to yourself, “This guy is a boring dweeb. He only talks about himself and he has no sense of humor. He’s the last person I’d like to go out with.” Or you might say, “Wow! I love his voice. He’s so bright and high energy. He’s funny. And we talk so easily with each other.” But you’ll never know unless you risk a phone call.

So that is why I think it make sense that if you like his profile and he likes yours, it makes sense to have a phone call sooner rather than later, rather than e-mailing back and forth.

For the same reason, it makes NO sense to meet someone unless you’ve had at least a short phone call. He could have a perfect profile and write beautiful e-mails. What if you hate his accent? What if he is painfully shy? What if his voice drives you nuts? In three minutes on a phone call, you can determine this and then politely bow out. If you commit to meet for drinks, with the hour you spend having a drink with him and the time getting dressed and commuting to where you will meet, you’ve invested at least 2 hours when after 3 minutes you could have known it didn’t make sense to meet.

There’s also a more practical reason to talk on the phone. Scheduling by e-mail is silly. You write to him and propose three times. He takes a day to respond. In the meantime, your best friend calls and asks you if you are free one of these three times. You say yes, having not yet heard back from him. Inevitably he writes back, choosing the one time that is now not available. Wouldn’t it make more sense to schedule a date in real time, so there is not this lag in setting up a day and time?

Read James’ essay on How to Write a Personal Ad.

List of other essays written by James Mitchell  |  Copyright notice

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