Erika Ettin column: The ‘talking phase’ turn-offs that may stop a potential match in its tracks

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

There’s an important period in a relationship that’s often overlooked in online dating: the point between finding an interesting profile and actually meeting in person. While there is an art to crafting an interesting opening message — although anything more exciting than “Hey” or “How’s it going?” will often suffice — keeping the conversation going can often be a challenge.

Recently on Reddit, the online forum where people can anonymously chat about practically anything, someone posed a great question: “What kills your attraction in the ‘talking’ phase?”


Some of the responses were:

“Not talking enough. The entire point of a date is to get to know each other which is pretty hard if I may as well be talking to a brick wall.”

“When they’re incapable of making full conversations. People who constantly ask hru/wyd again and again make me lose interest VERY fast.” (Text speak be gone!)

“Not asking me questions. It shows me they’re not genuinely interested in getting to know me. I ask questions. I like it when it’s more conversational.”

“If I’m putting in more effort than the person to keep the conversation going. Especially if I always have to initiate or say, ‘Hi’ first.”

“Mind games. What I loved about my husband is he didn’t care how much he texted or called, just because he enjoyed talking to me and wasn’t afraid to show it.”

Five different answers that make different points but come to very similar conclusions: it’s all about putting effort into the conversation.

While online dating, it’s expected that you may be talking to multiple people at once, getting to know each other and seeing if meeting for a date is in the cards. However, the same conversation won’t work for each of the people you’re texting with. You have to give each person special attention, asking them information based on their profile or pictures that show you paid attention … and you’re not confusing them with another potential match.


The other consistent feeling is that no one wants to carry the conversation on their shoulders. Make sure you’re starting the conversation at least half of the time, showing that the chat is not one-sided and you’re interested in getting to know them better. Man or woman, everyone loves to see a text or email come in from someone they’re interested in — and not worry about if they have been ghosted.

Some other turn-offs listed on the Reddit thread included “being boring or being negative” and talking poorly about an ex — both completely understandable objections. After all, if someone you are just getting to know can’t be excited to get to know you, how can you ever build a meaningful relationship? The lesson here is simple: stay positive.

Another person replied that a turn-off was “taking way too long to actually meet after weeks of texting/calls.” You can only get to know a person so much without physically being together, so why wait? (Or these days, at least a video call.) If you’re excited about messaging someone, don’t wait too long before asking them out on a date.

Of course, the “talking phase” has been extended for many potential couples due to coronavirus. While not being able to go on an in-person meetup provides a great chance to communicate and get to know each other without worrying about what to wear on your first date, there’s a challenge in keeping that chat interesting. As the dating scene returns to normal, just remember the basics: be interested, stay positive, and don’t go into a deep dive (or even a shallow one) on your ex.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

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