Dating etiquette

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I've posted hundreds of articles, including a couple on online dating advice, but this particular article might be the most difficult I've ever written. I spent over three years debating whether to create this wiki page before I finally did. My only real qualification in writing this article is that I've lived in the San Francisco bay area for just over three years. That might sound like a lame "qualification", yet here, more than anywhere, the dating world can be very cold and you will experience and hear from friends about reprehensible behavior both on physical dates and on online dating applications. Bad behavior from girls and from guys.

I was raised with some very different values in small town Australia, I would like to think some of this advice I've collected here can help make online dating a fun experience, rather than a cold experience.

If I have sent you this article, it's not necessarily because I think you are rude. I think all of us, myself included, can benefits from reminders to be kinder to each other. Furthermore, I might think you'll enjoy these intellectual thoughts, and the small potential that it changes the outlook on dating etiquette to something more warm. :)

Online Dating Advice

If you are interested in online dating I suggest you start with one of these articles:

  • Online dating - some basic advice on setting up your profile and reaching out to people. Most importantly,
  • Online dating sites - some website/app recommendations.

This article focuses on how to keep your interactions positive after initial contact and/or a first date.

Online Dating in a Big City

Big cities are mostly the same, but I've been told San Francisco is like nowhere else on earth. I've learnt the hard way that this is a place where you can expect most people you meet, to be dating multiple people at once. Even if you make it to the "exclusive" talk and become boyfriend, girlfriend, you seem to have to worry about your partner cheating, because it is so common in the culture here, especially with the millennials, that they think it's the norm. Yes, this is coming from someone who was burnt, and hopefully a little wiser now.

In this article, I do not focus on relationships, but more the early stages on online dating - even just the initial back and forward chatting.

Due to the sheer number of people, and the cultural phenomena of apps like Tinder, online dating in big cities already lends itself to the easy dismissal of people - just the swipe of a finger really, but here I'm concerned about what guys and girls can do to be kind to each other in rejection. It's far too easy to become disenchanted and jaded with dating, or the opposite sex altogether after a few bad experiences. Those people in turn might pick up similar bad behaviors to the ones they've seen and it just makes it horrible for everyone. It's supposed to be fun!

Protecting Yourself

So let's be selfish and think about protecting ourself from disappointment first.

Adjust Your Attitude

The smartest thing you can do with dating is to enter into it with the right attitude. You want to be positive and excited to meet interesting people. If you have hopes that the first person you date or chat to on Tinder is your sole mate, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I love romantic dreams and optimism, but even with the ability to filter people by height and all those other properties, you can't anticipate chemistry. What if instead you had hopes that the person you meet might be a lovely human being. That you might become friends. That, even if you don't have wonderful chemistry, there's a chance they will like you enough to refer you to their friends.

Think of Meeting As Friends

The idea of meeting as potential friends, versus lovers, I want to emphasize. Suggest something like coffee to be less "date like". Lots of women these days are intimidated about meeting for something more intimate because they've met lots of creeps. Flirting is great, but if you lower expectations before you meet, there's a greater chance of a pleasant surprise, and maybe the next date can be a little more "traditional".

Think Networking

Think of dating like networking. The more people you meet, click with and maybe add to Facebook, the more you might be invited to parties and so on. Sometimes that's difficult, sitting across from an attractive person, you might want more than friendship, but adjusting your mindset to friends might actually make you more attractive to that person. You can be the one to suggest that hey "maybe if we're not compatible, you'll still see that I'm a cool person and we can hangout or you might think me suitable for a friend".

Be Wonderful to Yourself (Protecting Your Own Heart)

Even if you want to meet as friends, when attraction occurs it's hard to ignore. Now you are slapped with the reality that this person you like might not like you back, or, depending where you live, might be dating around a lot without the intention to see you exclusively.

Reduce Expectations

Whatever your expectations: short term, sex, long term, marriage, kids, try to be realistic. People in big cities are flakey, and you might even like to try the honest approach and tell someone how you feel early on, but be prepared for a rejection.

Find the Joy in Vulnerability

If you do open your heart up, it might be a little easier to handle if you think of the joy being in the asking. Wether he or she answers "yes" or "no", just smile at the fact you have the bravery to ask for what you want. Exclusivity, the possibility of exclusivity, a second date, a first date... whatever. Hopefully they will see your bravery, and if they say no, be proud of their bravery.

An amazing trick I learnt from a friend: when someone says "no", you answer "thank you for taking care of yourself". If someone says no to you, then it means if they ever say "yes", then it's a full yes. You might leave such a question to the end of a date, but actually, with the right attitude, you might be surprised that you get to readjust to more friendly terms and enjoy yourself in that context.

Never Assume You Know Your Date

Another think to help you feel less rejected, is the fact that it takes months to get to know someone. For some people years. Have you known them that long. I have been very guilty of this in the past - that even after a phone call or a few texts I feel like I know that person. In reality I have no idea if they are a horrible human being or not, if they were a bully in high school - if they still are. In the context of an online profile, anyone can smile for a few photos. Enjoy the mystery of not knowing, but try not falling deeply until you know.

Falling for someone is easy when you are a romantic or when you are just really lonely. Recognize if you are in a place of desperation, and take a step back... hang out with friends and try to take things slowly with a person who you realize is falling much slower for you, or not at all.

Be Wonderful to the Other Person

Now we've taken care of ourselves, let's try to make the person you are chatting to online, or going on a first date, feel wonderful about themselves. Even if it doesn't work out, is it possible to leave them with a positive smile and sense of hope. I like to think it is.... and by doing so, you will cause yourself to smile too.

Be A Gentleman or a Lady

I've had mixed results giving flowers to girls in America, some of them see it as me coming on too strong, versus the lovely gesture which it's supposed to be. Opening doors and lending the girl your jacket if it's cold - these gestures are almost always appreciated. If you think to yourself that you are a gentleman, it should follow. If you are a woman, to be a lady mostly means to receive any gentlemanly gesture you get, and voice your appreciation. I doesn't mean you have to dress or behave immaculately if that isn't you... but certainly you probably shouldn't be too crass or rude if it upsets your date.

Always Be Kind

It seems obvious that you should be kind to your date, but sometimes you might realize difference early on, different views, and they suddenly get snarky with you. How dare they. Or maybe you feel cheated in some way, and you instigate the snakiness. Please don't! Be the bigger person. Let your voice get gentle, and find a way to smile at them if you are dating in person. If you are chatting online, then it should be extra easy to write some kind words - something about their profile or their smile caused you to chat to them in the first place. Most people have something wonderful about them - maybe they are kind to animals, or family, or donate to charity, recycle.... and all people love compliments.

Never Write Angry - Sit on It Overnight

Most people who try online dating get to a point where they become bitter. Often it's some nasty words someone has said to you, and you might be tempted to retaliate: If you are chatting online, give yourself a moment to breath. It should be easier in in text to be kind because even if you are caught up in the moment, you can still go for a walk outside. Lets say your date has just said the most awful thing to you. Sleep on it... then the next morning, be the bigger person, and don't write back with passive aggressiveness. Realize you genuinely want them to be happy in life. Even if you've never met, you are the kind of wonderful person who wants everyone to do well.

Don't Get Sexy Quickly

I would say guys are mostly guilty of that... if your opening line is sexual and contains a word like the alternative word for cat - then you deserve an ear bashing!

However, I think all guys at one time or another feel like it could be fun to text a little naughty. Guys are pretty bad at reading the situation, but advice I read in a dating book was to be really subtle about being naughty. Don't use words about sexual organs unless she takes it there. You might think Tinder is all about dirty language, but in fact, it has changed... there are all types on Tinder and you'll upset many of them if you assume tinder is an excuse to talk dirty without testing the water.

Instead, why not use a little imagery with fruit, or just test the water with some clever words. Clever flirting is sexy... the suggestion of something sexual without resorting to smutty language. If you escalate quickly you'll look like a creep! It's a fine line many guys have crossed accidentally I'm sure. Have I. Well yeah, of course I have! Not often, but I apologize for when I do. It's really hard to read some girls and we tend to think naughty stories will help keep us interesting. We know for a fact, the second we seem boring we will get dropped. So hey - why not stand out and just say that. It might be refreshing.

  • Hey look, I really enjoy flirting with you, and I want to use some naughty words, but I'm afraid you not like them. What do you think... do you have any boundaries on naughty talk?!

On the girl's end, be a little forgiving! Try:

  • I know you didn't mean to offend, but these are my boundaries: xyz.

Whether you type it or say it in person, the word boundaries is very powerful. It puts you in control, and minimizes the chance he will do it again. Just using this word will make you feel more powerful. Try it!

Appreciate that the Woman Usually Hold the Cards at Dating

I have a female friend who pointed out the huge inequality we still have with males and females. We've made progress sure, but it's still men who mostly run companies, mostly hold CEO positions, start wars, control wealth, and often get it easier.

So in a way, it's a wonderful balance that women are typically behind the wheel when dating. Guys usually approach, and women get to look at hundreds of males profiles online, and chose. Or, hopefully you get to the point where you ask girls out in everyday life, but they are still likely to reject you. Considering men have so much other power, I hope men can read this and smile, and appreciate that this control they have brings the genders back into balance.

To be rejected many times by women can be upsetting sure, but imagine yourself in their shoes and hopefully you will feel a little bit better about rejection - it is a woman taking care of herself. Take a rejection well, and suddenly you stand out from other men, to the point where you might be reconsidered one day, or at least get referred to one of her friends.

Appreciate that Girls Cannot Always Reply

Following on from the last point, hopefully you now realize that girls get a lot of requests from guy. If you have a female friend with on online profile, she may, depending on the photos she chose, and the website or app, get hundreds of messages a day. That really does happen. Would you be able to type a nice thoughtful reply to that many messages. Absolutely not! To even try would be exhausting. So yes, it's difficult to type a bunch of well thought out messages, and see none of them replied, but either do one of three things: (a) get some some self amusement out of trying different things, and learn to love writing, (b) consult a female friend to help improve your profile, (c) give up on that dating app/website for a while if it's not yielding any replies. Try your efforts on a different site, or try to meet women salsa dancing. If you want something you've never got, try something you've never done. Right now you might be fishing in the wrong hole... don't be angry that you are not getting any nibbles on your line, be smart and try somewhere else, or at least mix up the bait!

Appreciate That Men Have Feelings Too

On the flip side, if you are a woman, realize that men get rejected a lot! You've just read how hard it can be... if you are getting hundreds of messages and only get to reply to a couple... there are guys out there who are putting a lot of effort into their correspondence with no reward. If one of them is really nice, send them to this website, or reassure them that they are awesome, but you are just at capacity. Hopefully they will understand.

Gracefully Letting Someone Go

With dating multiple people at once getting so common, it's getting more and more common to let people go in a heartbeat. It's sad, but obviously it doesn't always work out, else we'd marry the first person we meet. But there are polite ways to let someone go, and a rude way.

No Ghosting

This is probably the most important section in this whole article. In a polite interaction, when you lose interest in someone, or even get super busy, you tell people that. That was how things worked in old times. Sadly the mentality of people is shifting towards just ignoring someone without a single word. Texts are sent from a concerned or confused person, with zero reply. Ever. At this point they are probably blocked and don't know it.

This is actually so common it has a word: "ghosting".

Ghosting is probably the most obvious indicator out there of how disposable we feel other people are in dating. It can happen to both guys and girls. Part of me, understand. You look at the text message and think: "this will take energy to write something thoughtful to reject them, or another excuse to let them down easy". If you hesitate, even a few second, you suddenly won't reply. They'll send another text, and again, you won't reply, because it feels harder that you ignored them the last text message. And if they had any feelings for you... or thought they did, suddenly a polite "where are you" might turn into them being angry. In their shoes you might be angry too.

Now there might be rules here about how long you've known that person... if it's two messages on tinder, you can be excused for letting it go. On the other end of the spectrum, you maybe dated months, and then no word. And there's a spectrum in between.

My best advice is to put yourself in their shoes. Are they worried about you. If you've dated a while, they honestly might think the worst, that maybe you are dead. That actually did happen to a friend of mine, and although it seems unlikely the human mind can go there. So why do that for a person who you liked enough for a second date. If you met them in person, even once, ghosting is just rude. If someone you liked once did it to you, then you will realize it can really hurt not to know what happened, if you did something wrong, or anything in between.

Honestly, I have *slightly* ghosted before... just in the context of online dating.. I went a little quiet, or was very slow to reply to a text message. It happens. Life gets busy sometimes. But I try to redeem myself and think, well it's only a few people I'm ignoring, maybe in one big swoop I just tell them all... I'm too busy to date at this moment. That they were wonderful enough that I reached out in the first place, but that I can' continue.

Never Stand Someone Up

Standing someone up is far worse than regular ghosting. It can destroy a person a little bit. I've been stood up a couple of times, and I feel like I know exactly how it happens. It's not necessarily a terrible person. Just a lazy one or forgetful one. I called up one girl after I was left at a restaurant. My voice was very calm... I said, hey, it happens that you need to cancel dates, but why no little text to say you couldn't make it. She admitted that she was about to, but she left it later and later, and then it felt difficult to send the text. She was genuinely sorry, so I thanked her for at least answering my call, because there was some bravery in that.

I said she was lucky that I was understanding and lived close to the restaurant, because generally this can really, really hurt a person. Guy or girl, you get stood up a couple of times and you'll want to stop dating. Of all the things to make you bitter, this is the worst. So if it's not obvious already, just don't do it. Don't ruin people, because that will, in turn, make them more likely to treat the opposite sex poorly. Break that cycle!

Having said that, I almost stood someone up once.... a busy week, I setup a couple of dates, and I simply forgot till an hour before. The second I remembered I called. Why? I know how awful it would have felt! None of us are perfect.... a small part of me was nervous to call, but I knew I owed it to this girl. I was too embarrassed to organize a second date, and have decided I need to keep track of my calendar better. Not that I its' normal for me to organize more than one date a week... sometimes you just have a busy month with other stuff.

Letting them go Gracefully

So what's the alternative to ghosting? It is simply telling them you can't continue chatting or dating them, plus some lovely words of encouragement.

If they come back with a desperate attempt to win you back, that is on them... but if you type your message nicely enough - or even call them - or even be brave enough to tell them on a date (if you've been on multiple dates), then they should understand and it could be a really pleasant parting of ways. Maybe there will be possibility in the future to randomly reconnect... but either way you can feel good about yourself.

I encourage honesty here, but I also think tis' okay to embellish a little big in the one single case, in order to protect their feelings just a little. For example, you probably don't want to say "you seem wonderful, but there is no physical attraction - I was disappointed that you cat-fished me"!

Maybe what you want to say is along these lines:

  • Hey, I've had lots of fun chatting to you online, but my life is getting really hectic right now, I think I'm going to cut back on dating. Hope you understand!
  • I really enjoyed out date. I wanted us to have chemistry, but sadly I didn't feel any - it's rare for me to find chemistry, so I'm going to keep search... and I hope you keep searching too, because you are a catch!
  • Wow, you have such a lovely energy. I don't think we are a match, but before I go, I wanted to list three things I appreciate about you: (1) x, (2) y, (3) z. Best of luck!

I hope that seeds some good ideas! If typing more than five words seems exhausting, and you have a cue of people waiting for replies, anything is more kind than nothing, so maybe just try:

  • Sorry I can't chat anymore. Life just got busy.
  • Hi, you seem nice, but some personal stuff going on right now. Best of luck. :)

Copy and paste... anything is better than nothing. :)

Never Resort to Anger

In some cases, you might feel like a person deserves rejection form you. Maybe they did something obnoxious on a date. Instead of ghosting them, you want to say something mean, to the effect:

  • You really pissed me off when you were rude to the waiter. I never want to see you again, goodbye.

What possible good does that do?! Maybe you have a flaw too, and if you send a message worded this aggressively they will come back with your flaws, and nasty words to make you feel bad. Perhaps it was just something they said nervously, a joke that failed. This is an example I thought up because I was with a girl who seemed rude to a waiter once, but there are a myriad things which might push your buttons. Give some benefit of the doubt, try an alternative.

There's the short version:

  • Thank you for our date, sadly I don't think we are right for each other, and I wish you well! :)

The smily face help I think. Me personally, I think a few more words go a long way:

  • Thank you for our date - you are such a fun unique and good looking person! I really appreciated your sweet story about your mum - you should tell that story on every date. Sadly I don't think we are compatible. I wish you the best of luck. If I think of any single friends who are a good match I'll let you know.... One thing that I noticed one or date is that you made a comment to the waiter that some people might have interpreted as a tiny bit rude. I'm sure it wasn't meant that way. :)

Again, smily face. You might leave off the bit about the waiter unless you absolutely want to give the person some constructive criticism on something that bugged you!

After your polite reply, I hope you are pleasantly surprised they they reply politely. If you chose to go out with a gentleman or a lady - someone of high caliber - they will reply politely... they might ask briefly for one more chance, because they are not used to this level of niceness, but you can be firm without being mean.

Refer Friends

This represents a page the author has not finished yet, but hopefully will finish soon! As a wiki I can't guarantee the accuracy on any of these pages, but pages with this logo I can almost certainly guarantee DO contain errors and/or big omissions.

Gracefully Being Let Go

Now that you read a little about the principles of ghosting, and what prompts people to anger, and loneliness, you might already be a bit better at understanding things from the other side. If you have been ghosted, or rejected, hopefully it was done in a nice way, but even if it wasn't, realize that this is a blessing in disguise. That person was not for you, and if they were nice enough to send a message, then tell them you appreciate it! You now have more space to message someone else. You might be cheeky and ask if they have a friend - that's quite okay and will help you reframe from your though "I really like them still though". You don't know them probably, so see the blessing! :)

What do you reply? If they've ghosted you, you can send them this link.

Hopefully this will encourage them not to ghost on the next person... it will encourage new behavior. You are helping make the dating world better for others. If they did something nice however... reinforce their incredible behavior!

  • Oh wow, what a lovely reply to hear! Thank you for being honest and true to yourself. I sincerely wish you well - you seem like an amazing person.
  • Thanks for letting me know! As a guy I really appreciate it. Any feedback is most welcome here, and do let me know if you either change your mind or think of a girlfriend who might like me?! :)

Ask for Feedback

This represents a page the author has not finished yet, but hopefully will finish soon! As a wiki I can't guarantee the accuracy on any of these pages, but pages with this logo I can almost certainly guarantee DO contain errors and/or big omissions.


Hopefully by now you are getting the picture. It's a basic human kindness!

I hope you have enjoyed this article. We are all human, we all make mistakes, but if I happen to have sent this article your way it's because I feel like little efforts like this can help make dating a more pleasant experience for everyone.

Feel free to email me any thoughts.


PS: If you want to know more about me... I have a strange video dating profile here: []. It's something I'm trying to stand out a little.

See Also