I RECENTLY HAD A PRETTY LAME CONVERSATION (if you could even call it a conversation, you’ll see why) with a man from a dating site with whom I’d been emailing for a couple of weeks. The emails were pretty good: witty, interesting, perfect spelling and capitalization, and no text/chat speak (LOL or tons of emoticons), so when he asked if he could speak to me by phone I said yes. We arranged a time for me to call him in a few days. At the appointed hour, I called and the phone rang and rang. He finally picked up on the 6th or 7th ring (um, we had an appointment; was he playing the hard-to-get-I’m-too-cool-to-remember-our-call card? Cause that’s just rude. First ‘hmmm.’)

We said our hellos and I waited for him to start the conversation. This is an important point for both sides to know. Let the woman start and she will talk and talk and no connection will be made because the guy won’t get a word in edgewise. We’re both nervous, and talking is how most women deal with that nervousness. So ladies – be quiet and let the man get things going. In this day and age, with all this equality and partnership (both good things, don’t get me wrong), there’s very little left of the romantic, old-fashioned courtship rituals. Let him court you a little, even if it means something simple like starting the conversation!

Well, he didn’t. Start, I mean. So I had to. Or it would have been radio silence for a full minute, which is a long time on the phone. And so it went. He had one question for me, ‘How were my holidays?’ (since it was just after the new year), which doesn’t really count because I asked him first and he piggybacked. That was it. He had no other questions for me or topics of conversation or stories to share. It was my show or no show.  (Second hmmmmm.)

He also mumbled. I could barely understand what he was saying. He started off strong, then his voice would drop lower and lower until he swallowed the end of his sentences and I was lost. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I’m sorry?” “Pardon?” “I didn’t catch what you said,” and finally: “What?” If I'm talking to someone who doesn't care enough about what they are saying to speak clearly, why should I care? Eventually, I got the impression he’d been napping when I called and was still lying on his couch half-asleep (not cool). And it was a beautiful sunny day outside!  I was sitting in the park while I talked to him, to take advantage. (Third hmmmm. Three strikes. You’re out.)

After 20 minutes I’d had enough and wrapped up the conversation. I was exhausted and bored.

So here are some tips for both sexes that will hopefully salvage the start of what could be a promising relationship:

1)      As the title says:  bring your A game to the call! Don’t be asleep  or in the middle of work or just back from the dentist. Set aside a time when you know you will be awake, alert, and available. No distractions. So if you have a dog and he hasn’t been fed and walked yet – don’t make the call until he has! DO NOT call from the car.

2)      Call on time.  Period. Don’t be early! That’s just as annoying as late. You’ll catch someone not quite ready and then they’ll be flustered. Calling early is about you, not them. Don’t do it.

3)      Have questions ready. This is so easy it’s ridiculous. Print the person’s profile and highlight what interests you and what you have in common. Write down 3-5 questions based on these interests, including some things you want to know for your own peace of mind (this mostly applies to women), at the bottom of the sheet and be ready to ask them:  IN A CASUAL WAY. This is not an inquisition (ladies). It’s not a job interview. It’s a conversation.

4)      Listen. Really listen to what the person is saying. It’s okay to pause to think about what they’re saying before you respond. Don’t just jump right in to say what you want to say. That’s not a conversation. Men usually do pause before speaking so don’t rush in to fill the gap girls. And don’t interrupt! If you do, apologize and let the person continue.

5)      Speak up and speak clearly! This is the other person’s first impression of you. Make it a good one. Phone chemistry is just as important as chemistry in person.

6)      No eating and drinking or smoking or peeing, or including a roommate or friend who might be present in the conversation. Better yet – be alone! No one else should be listening in.

7)      Keep it short. 20-30 mins. I once talked to a guy on another dating site who went on and on, even after I said three times that I was tired and needed to go to bed. I finally had to say, “I’m  sorry but I have to go. It’s very late. Thanks so much for your call” and hung up. I emailed him the next day to say ‘no thanks.’ He clearly wasn’t listening or respecting my needs. He was into hearing his own voice and telling his ‘story.’ Leave them wanting more.

8)      Send an email the next day to say that you enjoyed the call and to thank the person for their time (only if you enjoyed the call!). Keep it short and say something funny, something sweet, and something from the conversation that stayed with you. If you want another call – say so! Guys, if you want to ask her out – do so. This goes for both women and men. Girls, don’t do ‘The Rules’ thing – just send an email. It’s plain old good manners. If he doesn’t reply ever again, then he’s not the guy for you. The one who is will probably have already emailed you, but he also won’t be put off that you did first. That doesn't mean do it that night or 6 am in the morning. Wait a decent interval.

9)      P.S.  Now that you have their number, don’t call all the time because you’re bored or in traffic or even if you’re really excited about them. No matter how great you are, it will become annoying and make you seem clingy and self-centered. Especially if you haven’t even met in person yet. Then you seem like a stalker. At the very least someone without boundaries. And no one wants that.

Good luck LFWs!