In Online Dating, Remember The Golden Rule

By Erika Ettin Tribune News Service.

It's funny how many people reference The Golden Rule in their online dating profiles: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

So why is it that, especially in the world of technology, people often don't practice what they preach? At least once a month, a client tells me that he or she was stood up. Not cancelled on at the last minute (this is more like an everyday occurrence), but actually stood up. I even got this email recently from Emily, the associate writer who works for me, who is in her mid- to late-20s:

"A couple issues that my single/dating friends have been talking to me about are related to being stood up. They've been connecting with these guys on Tinder who agree to meet up and seem totally into them, and then bail at the very last minute with the WORST excuses (literally one of them was told that the guy couldn't make it because his parents were coming over to go over their taxes). And others have shown up on dates that have been planned and confirmed... and the date just isn't there."

Let's talk for a minute about how most of us like to be treated:

1. Our time is valuable, so if someone is going to cancel, we would prefer a day's notice.

2. If there is a last-minute cancellation, we would like at least to have an apology.

3. If someone changes his or her mind at the last minute about meeting at all, a short and simple explanation would be appropriate.

4. If someone doesn't like us, we'd like to know rather than being left in the dust wondering if we'll ever hear from him or her again. If you're the one who needs to cancel or otherwise change plans, here are some simple solutions to make sure you're treating the other person with the respect with which you'd want to be treated:

The day before the date, a nice text or email

"Hey! I am so sorry to do this, but I was just informed of a business dinner I need to attend tomorrow. I wanted to reach out as soon as I heard so I didn't leave you hanging without plans. Can we reschedule for Monday or Tuesday next week? Again, I really appreciate your understanding."

The day of, before about 1 PM, a nice text or email early in the day

"Was really looking forward to seeing you tonight! Unfortunately, there's been a change of plans on my end that I can't get out of, and I wanted to let you know as soon as I heard. I'm really sorry about that. Can we reschedule for Monday or Tuesday next week? Again, I really appreciate your understanding."

"Was really looking forward to seeing you tonight! I hate to do this at the 11th hour, but I recently started seeing someone else, and the more I thought about it, I realized it wouldn't be fair to him/her to still meet up with you. So sorry to have waited until now. I hope you understand, and I wish you the best!"

The day of, after about 1 PM, a nice call

Yes, a call! Even though it took me a while to adapt to the fact that people "date" over text now (and it is admittedly much more convenient), if you're cancelling within a few hours of the date, the courteous thing to do is to call. Texting is the easy way out because you don't have to deal with the repercussions of seeing or hearing someone's reaction, often disappointment. While I know not everyone will heed this advice, I'd be remiss if I didn't put it out there.

"Hey Jess. This is Joey from OKC. I know it's probably weird that I'm calling, but I wanted to sincerely apologize for having to cancel at the last minute. Something came up that I can't get out of, and I just wanted to say that I'm sorry."

I once had to do this to someone. It was 5 p.m., and I had a first date at 6:30 p.m. I had just received an email from a long-term ex-boyfriend informing me that he was in a new relationship. (Jerk move? I think so.) At any rate, I was in no place to put my best foot forward on a first date, so I called the guy I was meeting from OKC or Tinder (who could remember?), told him I was really sorry (and was actually honest about what happened), and rescheduled for a couple days later. He actually thanked me on the date for handling things so maturely and for calling him. Even though it was the only date we went on, it's nice to know that I handled it in a way that I can be proud of. And that's what I want for all of you. Obviously the reasons will differ, but the sentiment is the same.

The day after, a nice text or email

Let's say you went on a date on Tuesday night. By Wednesday, you already have a text expressing interest in seeing you again.

"Hey, Joey. Thanks for a fun time last night! Unfortunately, I just didn't feel a romantic connection (or insert your preferred synonym: click, connection, spark, etc.) that I was hoping for, but I wish you only the best!"

Just because it feels like you're incognito on these dating sites doesn't give you license to deny others the same respect that you'd want to be shown. People are not things. You can't just throw them away like garbage or treat them as if your time is more valuable than theirs.

Just keep this in mind when making, planning and canceling dates. Let The Golden Rule live... one date at a time. ___ (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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