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Nine Tips to “Give Good Phone”

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In online dating, first impressions are crucial: usually people focus on having a good photo or writing a clever profile. But have you ever thought about what kind of first impression you make by telephone? This is a tricky mating stage that comes after exchanging emails online, but prior to meeting face-to-face. What I’m seeing as a matchmaker in this new dating decade of 2010, is that many first dates never happen because the guy or girl had a negative impression of you via phone. Note that I used the word “impression” because it’s not about who you really are: it’s about someone stereotyping you before they get to know you, based on little things you might say, or not say, that usually don’t reflect who you are deep down. But not to worry! After interviewing more than 1,000 single men and women for my new book, Have Him At Hello, I have nine tips to help you shine on the phone:

1.  Use a Land Line: Try to speak on a land line whenever possible. There’s nothing more irritating than spotty reception and always saying, “What? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you….”

2.  Be aware of your tone: Always use a cheerful voice, even if something he/she says annoys you, or if you’ve had a bad day. People are drawn to an upbeat vibe.

3.  Give intentional responses: If he/she says something vague such as “How are you?”, remember that is not an inquiry about your health or your mood. In the early stages of getting-to-know-you, everything you say is used to project what type of person you are. “How are you” is actually a Rorschach test! Use that vague question to give an intentional response, to share something about yourself that you deliberately want him/her to know. For example: 

He/She says, “How are you?”

You say, “I’m great! I just returned from an exhilarating run in Central Park with my best friend from college.”

What does that tell him/her about you? It says you are fitness oriented (you run), you’re the type of person who has sustainable relationships (you’ve maintained a friend for 20 years since college), and you’re an energetic, positive person (“I’m great! The run was exhilarating!”).

Obviously don’t make anything up (i.e., don’t say you went running if you really didn’t!), but proactively think of something positive about yourself that you want him/her to know whenever you are asked a mundane question.

4.  Turn the tables (casually): Follow up your intentional response with a related question that lets him/her talk about him/herself, such as “So, do YOU run, or what kind of exercise do YOU like?” or, “How about YOU, do you have an old friend you spend time with?”

Finding a “conversation bridge” from something you said (“So, speaking of running…”) also helps you evaluate the other person in a casual way to see what type of person they are, without making him/her feel as though this is a job interview where you’re ticking off  a checklist of requirements (Do you exercise? Check! Do you have long term relationships? Check!).

5.  Don’t grill: Getting someone to talk about him/herself is not the same thing as peppering him/her with frequent or mundane questions. There are two elements here: quantity and quality. Don’t ask more than one question per minute (inject comments and reflections in between questions to minimize the quantity of questions, making it a real conversation, not Q&A session). Also, don’t ask boring questions, even if he/she asked you a boring question first (Avoid: How are you? What are you doing? How was work? Was the traffic bad?).

6.  Be fun: If there’s a lull in the conversation flow, try to be fun and spark some banter. Pick a neutral, third-party topic, and make a comment (or ask a question) about it. For example, “Hey, did you happen to see David Letterman last night? He did the Top Ten Reasons for things overheard waiting in line to see Avatar…. Guess what number one was?”

Asking someone to guess something is a great way to flirt and keep things interesting. And raising a third-party topic (e.g., Late Night with David Letterman) will make you seem easy-going because you aren’t like all the other girls or guys probing to find out if someone is Mr./Ms. Right (Avoid: What do you for work? Tell me about your parents? Do you golf?).

7.  Relax him/her: Make the person feel relaxed and confident by acting happy that he/she called and giving positive feedback on their conversation skills (even if his/her phone skills aren’t great – the initially shy or awkward ones usually make better partners in the long run than the instantly slick, charismatic ones!). For example, tell someone, “I had a rough day at work, but your call cheered me up!” or “Oh, that’s an interesting question…”

8.  Know when the party’s over: End the conversation quickly when you sense the energy level drooping. But blame it on an external factor rather than sounding bored. For example, “Oh, I just realized it’s Saturday and I didn’t call my grandma yet to say Shabbat Shalom! So sorry about that, I was really enjoying our conversation…. So sorry about that, I was really enjoying our conversation…But good luck on that big presentation tomorrow, and I hope to talk to you soon!” This says four things: you’re a family-oriented person (you’re calling your grandma, awww: that’s sweet!), you’re boosting his/her confidence so the person feels good being around you (you enjoyed the conversation, you hope to talk  soon), you’re a good listener and thoughtful person (you remembered his/her big presentation tomorrow), and you’re not too needy (you said “hope to talk to you soon” rather than “When will I see you? Will you call me tomorrow?”).

9.  What never to do: While talking on the phone, never chew food or gum, never go to the bathroom or flush a toilet, even if you mute the phone (don’t risk a malfunction!), and never multi-task while you’re on the phone by checking email, loading the dishwasher, etc. (give the person your full attention, it makes a huge difference!).

Once you’ve intrigued him/her by phone, and you arrive in person for the date, find out the top ten reasons why men and women said they either fell in love with you, or never called you back. (This comes just in time for Passover, when friends and relatives gather for Seder and might think of someone intriguing to fix you up with!) The candid reasons revealed from my 1,000 interviews are surprising and counter-intuitive, based on your small comments or gestures that usually do not reflect who you really are. First impressions are very tricky, online and offline! To find and attract the mate you really want, read Have Him At Hello: Confessions From 1,000 Guys About What Makes Them Fall in Love… Or Never Call Back.

Rachel Greenwald (The WifeMaker) is a famous matchmaker responsible for 762 marriages, and the best-selling author of the new book, Have Him At Hello: Confessions from 1,000 Guys About What Makes Them Fall in Love… or Never Call Back (voted “Top 4 Best Beach Books” by Cosmopolitan). Rachel has been featured on The Today Show, Nightline, CNN, Oprah Magazine and many more.

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12 Comments »

  • Ephraim says:

    The example “Oh, I just realized it’s Saturday and I didn’t call my grandma yet to say Shabbat Shalom!” is just plain silly. If it is Shabbat and you care about it a bit you do NOT call on that day at all. Now, why would your grandmother even pick up a phone on that day? Talk about jewish assimilation and extinction.

  • Kevin says:

    “How to Give Good Phone?” Sorry, hon, but this sounds provocative in itself. “Keep it clean,” you say? If you are going to give advice, maybe you should try to lay off the innuendoes.

  • Miles Trevor says:

    Umm I don’t have landline. Does that mean I won’t meet someone?
    i guess that is why i am single

  • sheryl says:

    Rachel, your tips are all great and sure to work!!

    And, i have always tried to do these things at the initial phone call and would say that i’ve had great success in getting the “first date”–and have had many relationships….

    but, down the road, conversations cannot always be quite so “fluffy” and light and sometimes you need to deal with real issues….
    that is where it becomes more difficult……
    because you want your partner to feel all those good feelings, but it can be difficult to express your needs in ways that keep those good feelings afloat, as much as one might try!!

    everyone wants the euphoria and positives–but life gets in the way:(

  • Kevin says:

    This is all very well but in many cases the lady on Jdate won’t even give you her phone number, even if meeting for a date. It’s like she don’t want to be stalked by the guy if she doesn’t want to see him again!

  • kathy says:

    Your advice is good, except the comment about getting off the phone becuase you need to call your grandmother or need to do somthing. That is so obvious that the person does not want to talk to you anymore. Better to say it is getting late and I need to go to sleep, or we have been talking for awhile, while don’t we continue where we left off on our next conversation.

  • Val says:

    I have made three contacts through JD all of whom live in my general (OC) area.

    One meet for lunch, three grown kids, lots of drama; I paid for lunch. yikes! Guess shhe had no one to unload on and guess who was in line? Not hard to figure out why her husband left her.

    The other two, one of whom contacted me first, suggested a meet for dinner at a place I had not been to…tried to schedule her twice, three phone calls and nothing further.

    The last one seemed 50/50 and it never happened. Called her twice,
    ‘I’m busy, call me later?’ this after sending her my email and phone
    number twice.

    All three of these seemed a lot like high school nonsense and I got over
    that many many years ago.

  • David Long Beach says:

    “Oh, I just realized it’s Saturday and I didn’t call my grandma yet to say Shabbat Shalom!” Are you kidding? What a poor example. This is a nominally Jewish dating site, a little respect for the tradition is in order.
    Other than that, thanks for the advice!!!!

  • McCellan says:

    I will get a little philosophical here…

    1. There are reasons why people get bored and want to end the conversations, there are reasons why people don’t call back… Don’t ponder upon them – move on.
    2. To the comment where you’ve been searching for your prince charming, seems like all you’ve been attracting are ‘the ones that don’t want to get married’… and sounds like that’s all you want to do, not find a partner BUT to get married. What you get is the opposite – it’s all in your mind, and you attracting the opposite of what you want, so you gotta let go of it, stop thinking about it completely. Yes it has to do with time and luck, but more with your attitude and your thoughts… Read any book on “power of thought”
    3. Sometimes even if the phone conversation isn’t going to well, don’t immediately dismiss the idea of meeting, think about it… you just never know. You got nothing to lose!!!

    Have fun!:)

  • Simone Canada says:

    I must admit that I find some of your “give good phone” tips (even the name) a little bit cutesy, a little bit folksy, and sometimes a touch nonsensical (if someone never calls you back, how do you find out one – let alone the ten top reasons they never called, when you arrive for that first date? Or did I read that wrongly.

    Still, Rachel Greenwald, you must be doing several things right to have matched so many people. – So, well done, you.

  • a. nony mouse says:

    Wow. I fear for these people’s relationships if this basic conversational knowledge isn’t already known. You mean I shouldn’t sit mute, grill the person or flush a toilet?! Geez! No wonder I’m still single. (all sarcasm) Please give your fellow jews some credit and not condescend towards us. How about some advice on what to do when all you do is ‘give good phone’ and have to deal with the ones that NEVER ask questions or lob the conversation back and forth?

    ps- If during the first conversation you find you have to create a reason to excuse yourself because you are bored (#8) you might want to not bother meeting him/her for a date.

  • Sharon, Israel says:

    762 marriages, wow!!! Miss Greenwald, you probably have your own heaven estate by now :-). I’ve been searching for my one for the past ten years, and I do believe in the advice you have to offer us singles. I can’t argue with your success rate, but timing & luck are also big factors. If a person doesn’t aspire marriage, you can’t bring them to that point (it’s like a sickness here in the Holyland).

    Also, everything contains it’s opposite & sometimes, it’s best to avoid an active search.

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