No matter if you love or hate texting, it’s hard to escape the “texting phase” in a budding relationship. In the best case, it’s an exchange of witty one-liners and fascinating reveals that create a slow build of anticipation to chatting on the phone and finally meeting. In the worst, it’s a painful and seemingly pointless exercise during which you trade small talk until you effectively douse any spark of interest.
What are the signs you are playing a poor texting game? If you and your match wait days to respond to each other, that’s not good. If your previous texting rounds consisted of “How are you?” and “Good! How are you?” you might want to check out these tips to use texting to get you closer to a first date:
1) Give your partner something to respond to
Instead of typing “How was your weekend?” try asking a question that elicits a more thorough response, such as “Did you have a relaxing weekend?” Your match will be more likely to describe what was so chill about it.
And if you’re the recipient, give your texter something to mull over by offering some content along the lines of: “Yes, it felt so wonderful to spend a quiet morning on my patio drinking coffee and brainstorming about where I’d like to travel this summer. So far, Lake Tahoe is on the top of my list.”
Now that’s material for an actual conversation. It helps to add a dash of emotion. When asked “Are you enjoying this nice day?” avoid offering each other boring weather reports. Describe how the sunshine made you feel as if you were on top of the world. Or maybe an unexpected summer shower brought out the kid in you. Did the crazy thunder in the middle of the night cause you to hide deeper under your covers? Use your words to connect with your match.
2) Ask questions back
It’s how you keep any conversation going. In the real world, if someone asked you about your favorite childhood vacation, you wouldn’t mumble “the time my family camped in Yosemite when I was 10” and head for the snack table. You’d probably add, “What was yours?”
Also, it’s a good bet that if someone asks you your favorite anything, they’re dying to tell you about theirs. So give them a chance.
3) Don’t forget to send photos or videos
Technology gives us incredible opportunities to share our lives. Dating is basically an audition to see if someone wants to spend more of theirs with us. Show them how awesome your existence is. At a fancy wedding? Send a pic of your red dress or dapper bow tie. Attach a photo of that amazing sunset or that gigantic quesadilla you just ordered.
Do you wish you could describe the sound of the crashing ocean waves or rushing mountain creek? Record a few seconds of video and send it to your match.
Don’t forget funny links to articles or a music video that touched your soul.
4) Sign off the discussion
If you’re in the middle of a texting exchange with your brother, you probably wouldn’t feel the need to add “It was great chatting with you. Gotta run to class.” or “Nice to hear from you. Have a great day!” But this is someone you’re interested in potentially dating, so use your best manners. Don’t forget: You’re also setting a standard of respect that will carry into the relationship.
5) Don’t wait too long to return texts
There’s a lot of awful advice out there about how much time should pass before you respond to texts. Of course, you don’t want to hover over your phone and respond to every ping within five seconds. But don’t wait too long, either. Be a grownup and give someone the courtesy of a response, even if it’s “Got your text. Would love to chat more when I’m done with this work project.”
6) Cut the boring texter some slack
You might cringe when you get the text “How was your day?” Take the initiative to liven up the exchange. Not everyone is a natural texter. But most people are trying their best and making a legitimate effort. And they probably really do want to know about your day.
7) Don’t be scared to move the conversation off texting
At a certain point, it can be overwhelming answering so many texts, especially if you’re involved in several exchanges a day. Your recipient might need a hint that you’re ready to move the convo to the next level.
So if you’ve been texting for a while, and you hear yourself groan involuntarily when you receive the message asking about your top three retirement locations, it’s perfectly reasonable to reply: “Would love to tell you more over a drink.”
Now you’re on your way to a real date!
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.