Yes, I know it’s the modern way to meet people. And yes, I know lots of people have met their soul mate on Guardian Soulmates or their match on match.com. But I LOATHE internet dating. Truly. Loathe. It.
Nonetheless, every now and again I give it a go. And after my latest round of hideous encounters, I thought I’d try and make lemonade from the lemons of the online dating world. I figured I would turn my experiences into something more constructive than yet another anecdote about the man who was 5 inches shorter than he claimed or the one who asked me for my ‘statistics’ in his first-ever message (yes…really). So here’s a blog about the five lessons we can all learn about communications from the world of online dating.
Swipe right and enjoy.
Oh dear God! The endless photos of men with fish; men in bathroom mirrors; men in cars; or with other women just cropped out of the picture. Take a new photo. Take a selfie (without using a mirror). And SMILE. They say that a picture paints a thousand words. Well think about the words you are painting with an image of you and a large trout. I am a woman of words. Words are my passion and I believe that words have the power to change perceptions, to change minds and to change the worlds. But we live in a visual world and images matter. So whether it’s your online profile or your professional website, think about the images you use and what they say about you. And choose carefully. Here’s a clue – avoid fish.
Show don’t tell
People say that the first rule of communications is to know your audience. And I agree, that’s important. But for me, the first rule of communications is ‘show don’t tell’. In the world of internet romance – don’t tell me you’re funny. Make me laugh. If you tell me you’re hilarious, you are still the only person in that exchange who thinks you’re funny. I’m still waiting for the evidence. Similarly, I talk to my clients a lot about demonstrating the guiding principles that underpin their businesses. Don’t just tell people that simplicity is important to you. Use simple, clear, language and create simple offers and pricing plans.
Engagement is key
The art of great communication is to use words (yes…and images) to start a conversation. To create engagement. So ask questions. Open up avenues of discussion to explore. Don’t just send me a one-word message ‘Hi’. What you’re doing is putting all the onus on me to then get a conversation going. Now I could start a conversation in an empty room, but it helps to have more to go on than ‘Hi’. Ask a question. Share an opinion.
Similarly, your interactions with your clients and potential clients should all be the starting point for a conversation. Engage. Interact. Don’t broadcast. Broadcasting is the equivalent of shouting. It makes people step back, move away, stop listening. If you want people to lean in and listen, whisper and ask questions.
Talking of shouting, remind me one day to tell you the full story of Mr Angry who took umbrage at my belief that change is possible and spent 24 hours spewing conspiracy theories at me via text message in an attempt to persuade me that I am wrong and his twisted, cynical and misanthropic view of the world is right. A funny story. And a great example of how pointless ‘broadcasting’ is. He wasn’t engaging. He wasn’t asking questions. It wasn’t a conversation. He was shouting. Not whispering. Net result: he is blocked and I still believe that we can change the world.
Make an effort
I was chatting to an acquaintance not so long ago who was bemoaning the fact that nobody ever engaged with him on whatever dating site he was on. We looked at his profile. He hadn’t bothered to complete it. His one and only photo was 5 years old (it was date stamped). And his ‘headline’ was ‘Get in touch’. Way to go lover boy. The message he was sending out was: I can’t really be bothered with this; it doesn’t really matter to me; and you’re going to have to do all the running. Appealing huh? My advice to him? Make an effort.
The online dating scene is highly competitive. There are quite literally tens of thousands of people on any one site. If you’re going to stand out; if you’re going to be heard or seen above the noise – you’re going to have to make an effort. And the same holds true in the wider world of media and communications. There is a lot of chatter. There are a lot of channels. And the public have a lot of choice. If you want them to hear your message, you’re going to have to do some work. It’s not complicated. But it does require effort.
Oscar Wilde once said ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Great advice. But it can be hard to be yourself. It can feel scary to open up, to share who you are, to let down your defences even a little and to allow yourself to be vulnerable. But here’s the thing: vulnerability wins. Authenticity wins. You win.
My amazing friend Kate Wolf runs a special day-long workshop called Story School – in which she helps her clients to find the courage (and the words) to share their unique voice, their story. I’ve read some of the stories that have come out of her work. They have uplifted, inspired, transported me – and the ring of authenticity is unmistakable. If you can be yourself. If you can share your magic. You will attract a partner – or a client – who is right for you. And why would you want anything else?
Let’s change the world!