I received three related questions recently from JDate users, so I figured if these three people had them, then the response could help countless others as well:

“I have been on JDate a little more than a month.  I have gotten a few emails when the man asks me for my phone number right away.  I feel more comfortable emailing first. I received my first chat last night, and he sounded very nice.  My computer froze so he emailed me with his number and told me to call.  I’m not so sure I’m ready to talk on the phone yet!! What do you think is the general rule?”

– – – – – – – – – – –

“So I have a question for you about some of the guys who are contacting me online.  I get it; guys want to get to the date as quickly as possible.  But I get a lot of guys who just ask me out in that first email, without much other chatting.  I need a little interaction beforehand, be it on the phone or email, to assure me that we’ve got some kind of basic rapport.  Is there some way I can encourage these guys to chat a little beforehand?  I’ve tried asking them to call me (under the guise of setting up the date) or emailing them back with questions… but they just disappear.”

– – – – – – – – – – –

“Just curious… in email correspondence back and forth, at what point is it appropriate to ask for a number? When is it an appropriate time to call her?”


I want to thank these users for asking a question that so many people have about online dating: How Quickly Do You Move from Behind the Screen to Being Seen? More specifically, what is the course of action from moving online to offline—email, phone, or something else?

The general progression of online dating is this:

  1. Email someone of interest (or receive an email)
  2. Send a couple notes back and forth
  3. Talk on the phone*
  4. Meet for a date

* I don’t actually recommend talking on the phone before a first online date, unless that is the only way you’ll feel comfortable with meeting someone in person. Someone might be great on the phone and a dud in person, or a bore on the phone and fabulous in person. The point is that you never know whether you’ll have chemistry until you actually meet, and no number of emails or calls will change that.  It’s also very easy to judge someone based on his or her voice or lack of phone skills (a dying art, sadly!).  It’s much better to find out how this person behaves in real life.  I do, however, recommend exchanging numbers a day or two before the date because you’ll want to be able to contact each other if some unforeseen circumstance comes up, or even if you’re just running late.

Now that we’ve gotten the phone business out of the way, let’s address what happens when someone either asks for your number or gives you his or her number and requests that you call. You have two choices in this case:

  1. Simply suggest meeting if you want to get to know this person better.
  2. Say that you prefer to email a few times back and forth before meeting/talking.

Remember that this is a much better “problem” than what usually happens—the “e-lationship.”  By trying to maintain an email exchange for too long (more than about three emails back and forth), the person at the other end may think you’re looking for a pen pal or simply not that interested, so he or she may just give up.  I’d use your discretion—based on his or her profile, pictures, and that first email—to decide whether to go on the date.  Also, remember that a first “date” is only going to be coffee or a drink, so there’s no need to have a marathon meeting.

The last thing I ask the first user to consider is whether you’re simply not ready to talk on the phone yet because you don’t know this specific person well enough or because you’re not ready to date… two very different things.  Take the time to reflect on this, because—phone call or not, more emails or fewer—the goal of online dating is to meet in person, no matter the process of getting there.



Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of acclaimed Love at First Site. Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more. To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.
  1. A golden rule girls..DO NO GIVE OUT YOUR PHONE NUMBER TO ANYONE ONLINE! You do not really know who you are dealing with and nowadays men can find out everything about you thru a legal search online including your address. Predators and abusive men can appear to be very nice on a dating site! Do not feel obligated ever to give out your number even though a man might be very insistent.

  2. I’ve had experiences where the guy insists on a phone number and once he gets it, I never hear from him again.

    I also have had guys ask me for the phone number outright, and the first thing they do when they do call is ask me out on the date. No rapport has been established at this point, and I have no clue about this guy at all.

    And then there was the guy who was adamant about getting my phone number to the point of mocking me for wanting to e-mail for a while, then once we exchanged numbers, he NEVER called me. Instead he continued to e-mail me for weeks, never asked me out, and kept asking me to call him, which I stupidly did until I finally said, “Enough.”

    So, yes, I prefer e-mailing for a while for those reasons above.

  3. I agree with Lillianna. The reason for the slow go from online email & chat to phone number is because you need some time to feel comfortable that the man you’re about to meet is safe, sane and worth meeting. Yes, you can’t truly know until you meet and feel the chemistry (or lack thereof). But I have had enough really bad experiences – rufe in my drink (well-known community figure), stalked (yes by a JDater), a couple of guys who felt that the date was a competition, and verbally bullied me the entire evening (I got up and walked out in both cases), two guys (dentist on JDate, Israeli businessman on Match) who had a steady girlfriend but didn’t bother to tell me until the other woman figured it out and informed me, and more than a couple of guys – despite my fairly clear profile and their misleading early conversation – who announced early into the first date that were looking for benefits first and then maybe, who knows, something can grow from that.

    You can’t weed out all the bad ones, but why give a creep a phone number if you can ferret him out and avoid it? And you have better odds if you communicate more rather than less before you meet. Occasionally, I make an exception to my rule, and those are almost always the bad guys.

    I’ll stick with my plan: email & chat for a week or maybe even two, depending on how it goes. Three or so phone calls. If I’m still hanging in, then I’ll make a first date, in a public place. If their attention starts to wain or it annoys them, I tell them honestly why I’m doing it. Good things are worth waiting for.

  4. I usually want to hear a person’s voice – but I usually must drive at least an hour. Also, talking on the phone first breaks the ice since you can continue the conversation in person. As for safety…. If you preface a call with *67, on most systems it blocks the caller’s phone number. Or, you could use any of the voice over IP (VOIP), such as Skype, where all the person sees is Skype caller on the phone. Again, you can talk without divulging any information.

  5. Thanks for starting the discussion on this topic. I enjoyed the responses form everyone. As a guy I can say that if I am truly interested to get to know a particular woman, then I would not mind a few emails before talking on the phone. Having said that, I can also add why it can be frustrating. As a busy self employed professional, I spend so much time on the computer, face to face with clients, business associates etc. What little free time I have to look at JDate or some other site, I don’t want to rush a response. I need time to compose and type clearly, then edit. If I could chat on the phone I could cover a lot more background very quickly, and both of us could decide if more phone time, or a coffee date is next. Those are my thoughts….Thank you.

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