I am not a subtle human being. I talk loudly; I wear bright colors; and I have exactly zero filters between my brain and my mouth. And while I like to think that my complete lack of subtly is charming, I know that sometimes it can come off as abrasive or pushy. I’m OK with that — but I also get how it doesn’t work for everyone. So when I started thinking about subtlety and online dating, I had to bring in some outside help.
While my method of communicating my interests when I was online dating trended more toward “Hey, I’m Emma and this is everything about me, ever”, Demetrius Figueroa, founder of the dating advice blog and podcast Tao of Indifference, suggests a softer approach. The key, he says, is communicating your interests without bashing your prospective dates over the head with them. So, for example, instead of saying, “I’m just here for the d*ck!” maybe say something like, “I love going out and having a good time!” (And while I can definitely think of a site or two on which that first one would be totally effective, on most mainstream dating sites it’s probably not going to fly.)
So what can you do to let your potential partner know what you’re into? Here are Figueroa’s top seven tips for subtly communicating what you’re into when you’re online dating.
1. Drop Hints
“Your first instinct might be to just state your interests directly, whether in your profile or in your messages, and hope for the best,” Figueroa says. “It’s a solid instinct, but you might be better off hinting at your interests. Once you say something outright, you’re dealing with the connotations of the words, rather than the complexities of your interests. Be a bit vague and leave room for questions.”
2. Discuss Your Interests Hypothetically
“Ask questions related to what you’re into and do so in a way that is more hypothetical and general than specific-answer seeking," Figueroa says. "So, for example, ask, 'Do you have siblings?' (because they'll probably tell you their thoughts on building a family and give you insight into their own family) or 'Who do you consider the closest person to you and why?' (because it gives you perspective on their social relationships. i.e. If they struggle to pick one person out of dozens, they're probably more social) or 'Did you have pets growing up?' (most people tell you about past pets, current pets, and/or plans to get a future pet plus what types of pets they like) or 'What is one place you've always wanted to visit?' (you get an idea of where they've traveled, and where they'd like to go, or even if they like travel at all)."
3. Focus On What You’re Into, Not What You’re Not Into
“While it’s quicker to mention the things you are into in relation to the things you aren’t into, the lack of subtlety usually comes off as crass,” Figueroa says. “Make sure the focus is on what you prefer, rather than what you dislike. Like chivalrous men? That’s awesome, but that doesn’t mean that you have to compare them to f*ckboys to get your point across. Saying that you like chivalry gets the point across without the negative comparison.”
4. Steer The Conversation Toward Your Interests
“I know it might seem a little manipulative, but if you want to be able to talk about what you are or aren’t into, the best way to do that is to have conversations about it,” Figueroa says. “During the getting-to-know-you phase of online dating, try to steer conversation toward your interests in a way that feels natural.”
5. Ask Them About Their Interests, Too
“If you want to share what you’re into in a subtle way, the best way to do so is to ask the questions you would want to answer,” Figueroa says. “You’ll get to find out what they’re into, and answer your own question without it feeling like you’re giving a sermon about your own preferences.”
6. Create A Space For Dialogue
“It’s easy to make assumptions about what people are or aren’t into, but people can surprise you,” Figueroa says. “I’m not saying you need to wear a button that says ‘Ask me about my kinks,’ but at the very least if you’re into something, create a space to discuss it. Leave room for questions, even if they seem silly to you. Some people might be into what you’re into, but just don’t realize it yet.”
7. When All Else Fails, Abandon Subtlety
“There might come a point where you find that people just aren’t getting the message about what you’re into,” Figueora says. “Don’t be afraid to abandon all subtlety and say ‘Hey, listen, this is what I’m into; what do you think?’ Not everyone can read subtle clues, and if you want to date online in a way where you meet people you’ll connect with, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and put yourself out there.”
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