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What Makes A Truly Compelling Dating Profile: A Language Strategist Explains

Lee Hartley Carter
July 25, 2019
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
July 25, 2019

When we think of persuasion, we may think of that glossy-lip Instagram ad that got us to click through and purchase. Or we may think of all those presidential candidates crisscrossing America in the summer heat trying to make their case. But we are all actually persuading every day. We want the assignment, the promotion, the position. We want Mediterranean tonight, not sushi. We want the 7 p.m. movie, not the 10 p.m.

And we want love. (Whatever the definition of that may be to us at the moment.) Yet nowhere do the wheels come off the persuasion wagon faster than in a dating profile.

The psychology of dating profiles.

Oftentimes in designing our dating profiles, we lead with things we want to show off about ourselves—our impressive vacation photos, a flattering bikini shot, some witty joke in our self-description.

But persuading someone to give you a wink or a nudge or a swipe is no different from persuading a customer to try your brand of aloe juice. In both cases, to get the results you are looking for, it is essential to start with what is most important to them rather than what is most important to you.

That doesn't mean, though, that you aren't true to yourself. But it does mean that you need to begin by thinking about what is important to the type of person you want to meet that you can authentically deliver.

This philosophy is not just based on marketing. It's based on the science behind what I call active empathy. So many people fail to get on the same page with others because they are solely focused on what they want rather than on what the other person needs. This is about effective, two-way communication that prioritizes listening and empathizing with the other person, not just pushing your own desires. And so when you think about it, there's almost nowhere that this is more important than how you push yourself in online dating.

How to create a persuasive dating profile.

First, instead of trying to appeal to everyone, think about the person you are trying to attract. What are they looking for? Remember, you are not trying to appeal to everyone. Think about who the person is you actually want to spend time with. Not just a "guy" or a "girl" or "someone queer like me" but a specific person.

What do they need? A dance partner? A travel companion? A chili cook-off compadre?

Then ask yourself, which of those needs can you authentically fill? (Don't say you like to see live music just because you think that makes you sound more attractive if you actually hate live music. Nothing will kill your prospects faster than not being able to deliver on what you promise in your profile.)

The next step is to identify the things that will support the story of who you are. In marketing, we call those proof points. If someone lists 20 hobbies in a dating profile hoping one of those is the spaghetti that sticks, they come off as indistinct and unmemorable. You like reggae and cats and Game of Thrones and snorkeling? What are you leading with? Which are the qualities that make you unique? For brands, we make sure to lead with the three top qualities that will most authentically fill a need for the consumer. So if you are looking to spend time with someone who loves yoga, say that holistic health and mental and physical openness are important to you. This way, you'll be meeting each other's needs, and that's when you have a win-win.  

Once you know who you are going after and how you can authentically meet their needs in a way that is mutually beneficial, then you can tell your story. Are you new to the city? Newly on the market? Looking to make new friends? Looking to try new things? Pick the qualities that support that story. Don't say you're looking for adventure and then neglect to mention your travels or exotic meals. Don't say you're a homebody who likes to sky-dive. It doesn't make you eclectic—it makes your brand muddy.  

Ultimately your profile is your slogan. Taking the time to craft and curate yours can give you a wonderful opportunity to think about where you are in your life, what you're looking for, what you genuinely have to offer, and who your target "audience" (i.e., the person you're trying to meet) really is. Then you can take the confidence that exercise gives you out into the real world, where—who knows—that person you have been looking for might just be waiting. 

Lee Hartley Carter author page.
Lee Hartley Carter

Lee Hartley Carter is president of maslansky partners, a language strategy firm based on the single idea that “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” Carter oversees a diverse range of communication and language strategy work for Fortune 100 and 500 companies, trade associations, and nonprofits in the United States and globally. As a television news personality and researcher, she doesn’t rely on traditional polling for her unique insights into U.S. politics; rather, she analyzes voters’ emotional responses to help understand and empathize with them on a more visceral level. The reaction matters, but the “why” behind it matters more. It was this approach that allowed her to accurately predict the results of the 2016 presidential election and primaries.