How do I respond to this Bumble opener?

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 bellpeppersandhummus asks:

A girl on Bumble started the conversation by asking me ‘If you can ask me one question. Any question and I promise I won’t be offended in any way. What would you ask?’.

Not sure how to respond here. Advice?


Demetrius says:

As much as I love Bumble, and the concept behind it, I’ll freely admit that every once in a while I get stumped by how to respond to an opening message. Inverting the prevailing messaging dynamic is awesome, but I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a straight guy who has been online dating for a little bit of time, you’re way more comfortable with sending first messages then responding to them. Or maybe that’s just me?

First let me just, she sent you a terrible first message for starting an actual conversation, but a great first message to weed out guys who are going to immediately make the conversation about sex. If that’s her intent, which I think it is, she’s probably using that question to weed out the guys who are going to take that as a green-light to be crass. Smart strategy for filtering out dirt bags, but maybe not the easiest message to respond to. So, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking that this is a great first message, it ain’t. What she’s doing here is using this question to put you in charge of sending the first real message, which defeats the purpose of the “Ladies go first” ethos of Bumble. Let’s say that you respond by asking something like “What’s one place you’ve been dying to visit”, and then she replies, and you start a proper conversation. If you removed her first message from your conversation, it’d look like a completely normal conversation, right? PRO TIP: If your first message can be removed from a conversation and that conversation is still coherent, you sent a bad first message. Just something to keep in mind.

If you’re trying to suss out whether or not a guy is going to start being vulgar, don’t worry, you’ll probably find out without even trying. The sort of guy who is going to ask a stranger for nudes after messaging them once doesn’t need an invitation. If you want to use your first messages to filter people out before you start a conversation, by all means go for it, but don’t be surprised if  people struggle to have meaningful conversations with you. Instead of asking open-ended questions, try asking the sort of questions that actually contribute to a conversation. “If you could ask me one question, what would it be” is so broad it’s rarely going to get you an answer that helps you get to know someone. “If you could ask a future version of yourself one question, what would it be?” would be a way better question to ask, because it’s specific and will start a (admittedly quirky) conversation. Oh and while we’re on the subject of facilitating conversations on dating app by giving people something substantive to address or respond to: It’s cool that you’ve lived in three different cities, or that you’re new to whatever city you’re in and looking for someone to show you around, but your profile content should also contribute to a conversation. “MSP>ATX>NYC” is cool and all, good for you for bouncing around the country, but that tells people absolutely nothing about you that can lead to a meaningful conversation. If you’ve got a profile that lists where you’re from, and nothing else, please don’t complain about only getting messages that ask about why you moved. Also, avoid saying things like “If you want to know something, ask”. Are you Google? Stop being lazy and trying to disguise it as being deep. Do Better.

Anyway, how do you respond to this message, or any opening message that sort of sucks? My strategy has always been to respond to mediocre messages in a way that opens up a conversation I want to have. It’s a bit handhold-y, but that’s okay with me. Some of the coolest, most interesting women I’ve ever met through online dating were not the best at sending opening messages, to put it politely. That means I’ll reply to a “Hi” or “Hey, how was your weekend?”
message because sending first messages is hard for people, and sometimes a lame first message can actually lead to a meaningful connection. I dated someone for 2 years after she sent me a first message that said, and I quote “I like your swag”. I like to cut people some slack, even if it doesn’t seem like they put much thought into sending a first message, because sometimes it pans out in a surprising and awesome way.

Anyway, here’s how I’d respond to her message:

That's a tough one! Hmm, I guess I'm curious about what you're passionate about. What do you love to do? 

If she answers in a meaningful way, that’s a conversation I want to have, which should be the goal of your response. I’m passionate about something, my blog and podcast, and I love talking about both of those things with people, and I’m always interested to hear about what people are passionate about. I could care less about what your day job is UNLESS you absolutely love your job, so I rarely ask about what people do for a living. Now, if you’re the sort of person who isn’t super into talking about your passions, you just go with what you want to talk about. Are you big into cooking? Cool, ask them about cooking. Obsessed with reality television? Fine I guess, ask about that. It’s really not that complicated, to be honest. If you’re given a mediocre message, it’s a great opportunity to turn it into a conversation you actually want to have. The one thing to remember is that you need to leave them room to answer and build on their responses.

Good Luck Out There.

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