Five Lessons – From Online Dating

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 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.

Visuals Matter

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.

Vulnerability wins

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!

Sara Price
Sara Price
Sara has spent over 20 years in PR and lobbying working for some of the biggest brands in the world. Her focus now is on supporting visionaries to change the world through the power of great communications. Sara’s career began in the UK Parliament developing an in-depth understanding of the corridors of power. She then worked as a political advisor to UNICEF where she witnessed the power of individuals and organisations to effect global change. Sara sat on the UK Board of one of the world’s largest PR agencies, H&KStrategies, and in 2010 co-founded the award-winning independent communications agency: Pagefield. Over the course of her career, Sara has developed communications programmes for some of the most famous brands in the world from Kelloggs to Airbnb; she has advised organisations as diverse as Lunar Mission One and SheDecides; and created multi-national campaigns for Global Peace Ambassador Prem Rawat. Sara is also a coach, mentor, trainer and soon-to-be published author. Her vision is a world in which everyone with a big dream to make the world a better place feels inspired and empowered to do so. Sara’s enterprise, Actually, exists to fulfil this vision: offering training, advice and support to social entrepreneurs, charity leaders, campaigners and businesses with a social purpose enabling them to change the world.


  1. This article is very instructive and should be read especially by some young people who have not yet gained the ability to truly control their emotions or, on the other hand, do not have sufficient self-esteem. Interesting. Thanks for sharing it.
    I have no chat practice, social networks, dating sites, so-called cyberflirt. But I understand that now more and more frequently we come across virtual ties that slowly can take the turn of flirting. Not being a face-to-face relationship it is, I think, more complicated to manage the relationship. Finding a friendship on the web is probably fun and can also be good for you on a mental level. But this only happens when you can live such an experience with a certain mood. In fact, those who only want to receive small enticements without any emotional involvement, find an excellent solution in the online meeting. The risk is that when you enter the virtual flirting circle, you need to be careful and not think that everything you are doing is just a virtual game and therefore will not bring any change in your feelings. Even if physical contact is lacking, the emotional involvement could become very strong to make the disappointment or the feeling of betrayal real if something goes wrong. So if you only want to maintain a friendship online without going further, it is important to stop and keep emotions at bay. You don’t have to think that you have everything under control, and go on until you find yourself involved, or run into disappointments and misunderstandings.

  2. This was an enjoyable read. I can say so I joined a site out of curiosity , and shut it down within 24 hours…I couldn’t deal with the “crap” or I just didn’t give it a chance. I’m stuck in the old school when it comes to dating I guess but thought I’d have a go at this new way… lol. So I’m entertained with the affirmation here as to why it didn’t go to well. Some people.. I get more proposals on linkedin but totally off the wall, I’m straight up and have a laugh really. Oh the wide webbed world….so many do deceive…..or they are just totally upfront…not sure what to think these days… happy new year… that was my bedtime read …first one this year! Lol. Thank you Sara. Enjoyed it! All the best. Paula







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