Finding the right match on Tinder is like a card trick. It seems really hard until you understand how it works. Then it’s surprisingly simple.
The secret to online dating is that it should be fun, not frustrating. And guess what? It’s YOUR JOB to bring the fun.
If becoming a playful Jedi Master of the online dating game sounds daunting, don’t panic: I’m about to teach you how!
This list of common mistakes made by well-meaning dudes on Tinder is not intended to humiliate anyone.
It’s a teaching tool, designed to let you in on secrets I’ve collected over the last decade as a dating coach, so you can avoid these totally normal pitfalls and get a leg up on the competition.
Look, they don’t teach Tinder etiquette in school (YET), so it’s no surprise that blunders happen. A lot. Everybody is just doing their best to get their needs met with their limited toolset, so be patient with yourself, and with your fellow Tinder users. They’re learning as they go, just like you.
And remember: The more things you recognize on this list as the stuff you’ve been doing, the more potential you have for a better experience and better matches moving forward!
Blunder 1: Not putting your best face forward
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the most important part of your online dating profile are the photos you choose to put up.
Case in point: when you look at a girl’s profile, what do you look at first? Right. And if you don’t like what you see, do you even bother to look further?
You MUST have at least one truly stellar pic on your profile. No need to invest in a professional photoshoot — that’ll come off as try-hard or worse, fake. All you really need is a phone and some halfway decent lighting.
Now then, gentlemen. Here is how it’s done.
Wear something that makes you feel like the you that YOU like best, the one you think is smokin’ hot. Go somewhere that makes you feel like yourself.
Yes, your bedroom counts, but I recommend going out into the world and capturing some of the things you enjoy doing as well.
If you’re a bibliophile, snap a few shots in the book stacks at the library, or at your favorite bookstore.
If you love rock climbing, have a friend take some pics of you hanging off the wall. Love movies? Snap a photo with a favorite movie poster as the backdrop.
The idea is to give the viewer an instant feel for not just what you look like, but what you are like.
The whole point of online dating is to find someone with whom you are compatible, and who is into YOU. So make it as easy as possible for them to see your personality in your photos. Make sure you are the central focus of the shot. Group photos are confusing at best and obnoxious at worst.
Don’t leave any question in her mind as to who she’s supposed to be looking at.
Some coaches will advise you to demonstrate your preselection, i.e. the fact that chicks dig you, by taking a photo with your female friends.
The trick there is to make sure there is more than one woman in the shot (otherwise she’ll just assume that’s your ex, which is a massive turn-off), and that everyone appears to be having a great time. For example:
The first photo has a fun, flirty vibe. It looks natural and relaxed, and like the women are genuinely enjoying themselves.
The second photo looks staged and creepy. The women look like they were paid to be there, are not having fun, and are going to bolt as soon as the camera is off.
Other dudes might find that hot, but unless you’re here to turn on other dudes, that’s a big fat NOPE.
Let there be light
One of the most common mistakes I see in profile pics is a lack of adequate lighting. If the photo is too dark, or overexposed, or the color is off, then you look “off” too. The viewer may not even realize why they’ll just get a weird feeling about you.
If, on the other hand, you are bathed in warm, inviting light, you will give the viewer a positive, sunny feeling about you.
One of the best ways to ensure that your photo has good lighting is simply to go outside. Natural light gives a natural look.
Ironically, though, overcast days make for better photos than sunny ones. Too much sunlight makes for harsh shadows and squinty eyes.
Highlight a favorite feature
We all pretty much know what our best feature is. Maybe you’ve got good cheekbones, or nice, wide shoulders. Maybe ladies are always commenting on your mesmerizing eyes, dazzling smile, or sexy hip-bones. Or maybe you just have nice hands. Whatever it is, make sure that a portion of you is featured in your photograph.
Remember, though, that less is more when it comes to showing skin. As Sophia Loren said, sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what they think you’ve got. An incidental glimpse of a cut chest mid-Frisbee-catch, an exposed chiseled calf above a hiking boot, or a bicep pushing back against a tight T-shirt is generally more effective than a Mr. Universe-style Speedo-clad show-off shot.
Although giving the camera an appealing come-hither look or a sweet smile is a time-tested technique for women, it tends to backfire for straight men. A photograph of a man looking straight back at you tends to communicate one of two extremes:
- Aggression/desire; a look that says “I want you.” Works well for women, but shows too much interest when a man does it right out the gate. Also, a direct stare can feel threatening or dangerous coming from a strange man.
- Passivity/appeal for help; a look that says, “I need you.” Again, often appealing in a woman, but seldom so in a man. Most women are looking for (or believe they are looking for) a man who is strong, whole, capable, who is not in need of rescue. A hero, not a victim.
The way to avoid triggering either of these responses is to look away from the camera. This gives viewers the impression that you are active, in-demand, focused on important matters in the distance. It makes them want to turn you toward them, to capture your valuable attention.
The more interesting/unusual your photo, or the activity portrayed therein, the more likely someone is to want to ask you about it. Your pics are your best chance at a conversation starter, so use that to your advantage!
You can create intrigue in any number of ways.
- Feature yourself performing an ambiguous activity, so that someone will wonder “What is he doing?”
- Wear something unusual in the photo, for example, a leather top-hat or a grass skirt, particularly if there is a good story behind it.
- Hold an intriguing object
Anything that begs a question will work. Just make sure you have an interesting answer at the ready!
Blunder 2: Not putting effort into your profile or messages
If your profile and/or messages are obviously half-assed (i.e. unfinished, riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, painfully generic, or straight-up plagiarized), she’s going to assume that’s how you’re going to show up. And nobody wants a half-assed lover.
Remember, women will assume that how you do anything is how you do everything. So if you’re already cutting corners before she’s even met you, she’s likely to jump to the conclusion that an in-person encounter would leave her frustrated and unsatisfied.
For example, I once got a message addressed to the wrong name. Dude was obviously using a cut-and-paste pickup line and couldn’t even be bothered to double-check the name. I rolled my eyes hard but then politely pointed out his error and invited him to try again.
He came back with: “Sory, u so hot u got me cnfused.”
Blunder 3: Not being proactive
Only swipe right if you intend to follow through and start a convo with her. Don’t just swipe on every gal you find moderately attractive and hope they’ll get back to you.
Trust me, Bro, it don’t work like that.
Be picky. Only swipe if you think she could be a real match for you, and only if you think she’s worth the effort of composing a message worth responding to.
If she’s not a HELL YES, she’s a no. Period.
Don’t put the onus on her to get the ball rolling. It’s your job to engage her, so your first message had better be engaging.
Assume that she has, at any given time, a good 10-20 messages sitting in her inbox, and make sure you give her a good reason to respond to yours. Mention something specific she says in her profile. Ask her a question about something she’ll be genuinely interested in talking about.
Be playful. Be clever. Be original. Be authentically yourself.
Have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, neither will she.
And if she doesn’t play along? She’s not the girl for you. Move on.
Blunder 4: Not reading her profile
If you’re using the same pre-packaged line on every gal you write to, without making mention of a single thing she said in her profile, surprise! She can tell.
No matter how clever you think your opening line is, if she doesn’t find it compelling, you’re going to end up in an echo chamber. Alone.
If you’re going to swipe right, take the time to read through her entire profile first.
This will not only save you time and hassle later on by helping weed out gals who are not a good match for you, but it will also give you everything you need to succeed in making a real connection with her.
If you don’t think you have the time to read through every profile you swipe right on, then you are swiping right too much. Slow down. Be selective.
If you can’t find anything in her profile that inspires you to write her a message, then she’s not the gal for you, no matter how hot she looks in her pics.
Let her go, man. Let her go.
Blunder 5: Being creepy
I hope this is self-explanatory, but just in case:
- Don’t open with a compliment on her physical appearance
- Don’t even MENTION her tits and/or ass
- No blatant sexual propositions
- No asking for naked pics
- No sending naked pics unsolicited
There is nothing more stomach-churning to a woman than the text equivalent of a cat-call.
I once had to put my account on hold for a week after a proposition so graphic I felt mentally assaulted. Please don’t do this to innocent strangers.
Aside from making women feel slimed, creepy messages are counter-productive. They let a woman know that you:
- Are desperate to get laid
- Are rude, disrespectful, and immature
- See her as a means to an end, not a full-fledged human being
- Feel entitled to sexual gratification without effort
If you just want to get your rocks off, Bro, no problem. There’s plenty of porn on the internet.
If, on the other hand, you want to create mutually enjoyable sexual tension, you’re going to need to create some intrigue.
In other words: pique her interest, and then leave her wanting more.
Innuendo is encouraged. Double-entendres? Twice as much. A bit of sexy banter is expected. But make it too blatant and you suck all the fun out of it.
If you’re not sure what the difference is between innuendo and a proposition, let’s clear that up right here and now.
Innuendo is a playful, indirect sexual reference. For example:
“I hear you make a mean milkshake. If I bring a straw, will you give me a taste?”
The implication is clear, but still leaves something to the imagination.
More importantly, it gives her an opportunity to play along and set the pace of escalation to her own level of comfort.
Sexy banter is enjoyable because you’re in on the same joke. It’s a game of wink-wink, nudge-nudge you play in partnership. If she’s not responding in kind, that’s not banter. That’s just you hitting on her.
Blunder 6: Being dull
It says right on my profile: “You can do anything except bore me.”
Being dull is the unspoken cardinal sin of online dating. Attractive women are absolutely inundated by messages from men, and most of them aren’t worth replying to. Sometimes because they’re rude or gross, but mostly because they’re just. So. Freaking. BORING.
Please, for the sake of all involved, stop contributing to the tedium! This includes, but is not limited to:
- Opening with something uninspired like “hey” or “what’s up?” And no, adding “Gorgeous” or “Beautiful” is not an improvement.
- Rambling on about personal stuff she never asked you about. For example:
- Dominating the conversation, showing no interest in her as a person
- Using lame pick-up lines she’s heard a million times before
The secret to being interesting is to be genuinely interested. Let your authentic personality shine through while you’re making a sincere attempt to get to know her.
Making a connection with someone is far simpler than most people realize. All you have to do is find the overlap.
Yes, opposites attract. Yes, tension is important. But first you have to establish that you are like her in some way. That’ll put her at ease and let her know she’s talking to a kindred.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be a shared opinion, something similar in her background, or just a song you both like. Ask her about whatever it is you share, and go from there.
Blunder 7: Being fake
You know how everyone advises you to “just be yourself”? There’s a reason for that.
Even by stretching the truth a smidge, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Women are often intuitive and can sense when something is amiss.
Yes, you want to grab her attention, but your story had damn well better check out, or I promise you the fallout will not be worth the initial attention spike.
This also means letting the ladies know up-front what you’re looking for.
If you want an LTR, say so on your profile.
If you’re just here for a bit o’ the fooling around, make that clear in advance.
It saves everyone so much headache and hassle if you’re communicating directly about what you want!
Blunder 8: Being pushy
If you chase, they will run. Guaranteed. That’s just the law of nature.
Likewise, any behavior that comes off as pushy, aggressive, or disrespectful will only result in her feeling uncomfortable, retreating, and ultimately pushing you away.
To get closer, be patient and respectful. To get her to chase you, use the Tao of Steve.
That doesn’t mean ghosting her. It means giving her the space to give chase once you’ve got a bit of momentum going in the conversation. Let her take the lead.
As Hitch recommends, go 90% of the way, and wait for her to close the gap.
Blunder 9: Assuming she can read your tone of voice via text
Spoiler alert: she can’t.
This was probably hilarious in this dude’s head. But with no tone of voice cues, it comes off as bitter and patently un-funny.
Yes, a sense of humor is important. Yes, cleverness and witty banter will always win you points. But err on the side of caution when it comes to jokes that are better delivered in person.
Stick with puns, pop-cultural references, and silly or absurdist humor. Sarcasm just doesn’t play well over text, especially when she doesn’t know you and your sense of humor yet.
Blunder 10: Being a time-waster
Everyone is busy. Be respectful of her time. That means:
- Keep your messages short, snappy, and to-the-point
- Once you’ve got some good momentum going in the conversation and established that the chemistry is there (usually 1-3 days of chatting), suggest an in-person meeting instead of dragging the banter on for weeks before making a move
- Plan a quick (around 40 minutes), casual first date in a public place
- Show up on time
- DON’T GHOST. Be clear with your intentions: if you want to see more of her, ask her for a second date. If you don’t, thank her for her time and let her know you don’t think it’s a match.
Again, if it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a no. Ain’t nobody got time for maybe.
I hope these tips help you find the woman of your dreams or at least make your online dating experience more playful and less painful.