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The first date

Online dating etiquette – a user’s guide

A little courtesy really can make life easier and more pleasant. But do the old-fashioned rules of etiquette apply on the Internet?

Online dating etiquette – a user’s guide

Would you know how to address the Pope? Would you manage a plate of snails with more panache than Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? Those aren’t questions you need to wrack your brains over, but when you’re online dating, little points of etiquette really can make a difference. Not only can they keep things running smoothly, but, more importantly, they can show your respect for other Parship members.

Striking the right tone

Before you make contact with one of your recommended partners, take a careful look at his or her profile. If, for example, a man who has a moustache gets in touch with a woman who says she doesn’t like beards, he needs to play things carefully! Generally, putting things in writing demands greater care than spoken communication - and the speed and ease of email can be both seductive and deceptive. Always read through your messages before you send them - keep an eye out for slips of spelling and grammar and make sure that what you have written reflects what you really want to say. It’s also important to strike the right tone: you don’t want to sound formal or cold, but, equally, you want to sound relaxed rather than over-familiar.

Irony can also be risky in emails and, though most people like a sense of humour, take care with jokey comments - certainly in the early stages of a correspondence.

It’s also a good idea of avoid projecting into the future and saying things like “We could do this together …”, and when it comes to the sign-off, ‘Yours sincerely’ is obviously out of place, but ‘Love and kisses’ can seem a bit premature. ‘All the best’, or maybe something like ‘Cheers’ is probably closest to the right sort of tone.

The first date

Well, it’s worth making an effort to be on time and to have the other person’s mobile number - and the number of the place you’re meeting at (if it’s a bar or restaurant), just in case you get lost or stuck in traffic. Certain topics of discussion should be out of bounds - your ex, your weight, your illnesses, your losses on the stock exchange … anything that could darken the mood. And avoid making comments that could be taken amiss …”Your hair looked much blonder in your photo,” or “You don’t really mean to say you believe in astrology, do you?”, or telling the other person what they ought or ought not to do …”You shouldn’t put so much salt on your food. It’s bad for you.” Focus on the other person when you’re with them (switch off your mobile for a start), but don’t invade his or her personal space.

The bill, please

Perhaps surprisingly, in a survey of Parship members about 30% of respondents thought the man should pay. That being said, 40% were in favour of splitting the bill. If you would like to take over the bill, then let the other person know beforehand, so that he or she can either suggest otherwise or just enjoy the treat. Whatever the case, the man should budget for two people, just in case the woman is working on the assumption that she won’t by paying; this will help to avoid embarrassment. And if the other person absolutely insists on paying, don’t engage in a prolonged and heated discussion about it. It’s polite to put up initial resistance, but after that you should go with the flow. And if you decide to split the bill, don’t quibble about details or ask for a VAT receipt - neither is a very courteous (or romantic) stance to take. As a woman, if the man doesn’t suggest treating you, don’t take it amiss: he might be concerned that you don’t like the idea of conventional roles or that you might think he will automatically expect something in return.

Good-byes

Old-fashioned gallantry might possibly be interpreted as politically incorrect, but good manners never go amiss. It is still highly acceptable for a man to help a woman on with her coat, or at the very least to hand it to her. He should also offer to walk her to her car, bus, train or whatever. If she accepts, then he should not see that as a come-on. And when the two of you say good-bye to each other, read the signals carefully: if you are unsure what’s going on - and if you want to, of course - you can ask the other person if a parting kiss is in order. Again, neither of you should read anything into this social gesture.

Say ‘No thank you’ nicely

Good manners also make a difference, of course, when you are turning someone down – even if it’s at the initial stage of a contact request. Online, you are never under any obligation to engage in any kind of contact with someone, but it’s only polite to say ‘No thank you’ rather than simply ignore the other person. Mark (29) tells us that: “On several occasions I found that email correspondences which were going really well were suddenly brought to an end by the woman in question …” Remember that the person on the other end of your emails is not some kind of virtual being … It can be too easy simply to disappear into Internet anonymity or to behave in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable in ‘real life’.

Online, as in every aspect of life, it’s best to treat people as you would wish to be treated … it makes a positive difference for everyone.

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