7 "Polite" Online Dating Messages That Are Actually Offensive
These common comments often get lost in translation, etiquette experts say.
Dating is hard enough when you're sitting face to face. But without the benefits of body language and other important in-person cues, online dating offers even more opportunities for misunderstanding and insult.
"Online dating suffers from the same issues as emailing," explains Jules Hirst, an etiquette expert and the founder of Etiquette Consulting. "There is a lack of tone, so what one person might see as polite can easily offend another person. The key to successful online dating is respect, empathy, and a bit of charm."
That's why, if you're hoping to create strong connections on dating apps, there are a few key themes to steer clear of in your communications. Wondering if you're sending the wrong signals or even causing offense? These are the seven "polite" messages that could be putting off potential partners, according to etiquette experts.
The Careless Compliment: "You don't look your age."
If you find yourself compelled to offer a compliment, it's important to think twice about how it might land. Compliments that focus on thorny subjects such as age and appearance can often prove insulting if you fail to word them thoughtfully, the experts warn.
For instance, Hirst suggests never telling someone that they don't look their age. "Although intended as a compliment, it can come off as rude by insinuating there are standard looks for certain ages," she explains. "A better way to phrase this would be to say the person has a timeless energy about them."
The Misguided Compliment: "You are too pretty to be on a dating site."
Here's another common compliment gone wrong: suggesting that someone doesn't need to be on a dating site because they're too attractive.
"This implies that online dating is for people who cannot find a relationship offline, which is not true," Hirst points out. "Instead of focusing on the looks, say that their profile stood out and you would like to learn more about them."
The Backhanded Compliment: "I usually don't date people who…"
You may find that the person you're talking to over a dating app diverges from your typical dating patterns—for instance, they may have a different type of job or live somewhere you're unfamiliar with. However, Hirst notes that highlighting your willingness to create an exception to your regular dating rules is likely to fall flat.
"This statement is demeaning and makes assumptions about groups of people. Try saying that you find their job or location fascinating and would like to learn more about how that came about," she suggests.
The Unnecessary Comparison: "You're so much smarter than my ex."
It's often considered a red flag when someone speaks ill of their ex, especially in the early stages of dating. Laura Windsor, etiquette expert and the founder of Laura Windsor Etiquette Academy, says this can quickly alienate your romantic interest—even if your intention is "to make them feel special."
"People who live in the past and compare the person they are texting to their last relationship can be very off-putting," she explains.
For example, someone might say, "You seem so adventurous; my last girlfriend was so boring." Far from being complimentary, "this type of comment hardly flatters the person being texted," Windsor warns.
The Overly Personal Question: "Why are you still single?"
Asking questions that help you get to know one another? Good idea. Asking invasive questions with an underlying agenda? Bad idea.
In particular, Hirst recommends side-stepping the topic of why someone is still single. "This question implies that there is something wrong with being single or with the person and their relationships for still being single," she explains. "Instead of focusing on the fact that they are single, try asking about their life experiences and what led them to where they are today."
The Late Response: "…"
In the world of online dating, nothing is worse than a non-response—but a long overdue response is a close second.
"Respond as quickly as possible when someone contacts you, even if you are not interested. A quick message expressing thanks and a courteous regret will do. It should always be said with grace and respect," Windsor says.
The Overconfident Assumption: "I bet I can guess your type."
The right amount of confidence can come off as fun and flirty. However, if this leads you to make assumptions about the other person, you've taken it too far. For instance, telling someone you bet you can guess their type is unlikely to be well received.
"This is presumptuous and reduces the other person into a stereotype. You should ask what the person values in a relationship and ask about the qualities they appreciate in a person," Hirst suggests.
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