Text messaging has been around for just a few decades, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a relationship of any kind that doesn’t involve some form of texting. While texting is convenient, it has its drawbacks, including misunderstandings that may arise from not being able to see the other person’s body language or hearing their tone. Learning how to be a better texter can have a huge payoff for all of your relationships, especially when it comes to dating.
How to be a better texter
Despite the popularity of texting, a big mistake many people make is they don’t provide value to the person they’re texting. Instead, they “ask, ask, ask,” according to Connell Barrett, a dating coach and author of “Dating Sucks, but You Don’t.”
“Most people suck at texting because they make the texting about what they want versus what the other person wants,” he said. “If you want to get, you’ve got to give first.”
With the idea in mind that the point of texting is to give value, here are some of Barrett’s tips for how to become a better texter.
Texting has an undeniable logistical component to it—you’re often messaging to organize when and where to meet up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the person excited first, especially if you’re trying to meet for a first date. “Think of a first date as a movie, and the texts that lead up to it are the coming attractions,” Barrett said.
To do that, it’s good to do some old-fashioned flirting and, most importantly, keep yourself on their mind. “People don’t hand out their numbers that easily. So when you do get a chance to text somebody, it’s an opportunity to be a source of good romantic emotions in their life,” Barrett said.
Make them smile
We all lead busy, meaningful lives (hopefully), so when you’re texting someone, especially someone you want to date, give them a break from all the seriousness and make them smile. “If you make the other person laugh, smile and feel good, they’re going to want to have a date with you,” Barrett said.
For example, Barrett likes to send a fun message or link on Monday mornings to get them in a good mood for the week ahead.
Spice up those general questions
A big mistake people make when texting is they ask general—boring—questions like “Hey, what’s up?”
If you want to know how to be an interesting texter, Barrett said your questions will resonate more if they’re more witty and clever. “Instead of ‘how is your day going,’ you might say: “How is your day going on a scale of have just got evicted to won the Powerball?’”
Don’t force it if you don’t have “the funny gene,” Barrett added, but text in an authentic and conversational way that sounds like you.
Make texts relevant to the other person
It’s important to share information about yourself and show that you’re a cool and fun person—but you’ll definitely need to focus on making the texts relevant to the other person as well. For example, Barrett was seeing a girl who was very nervous for a job interview. So, “I sent her a text message with rainbow, and star and unicorn emojis, saying, ‘sending good vibes today, wishing you good luck on the interview,’ because that interview is really important to her.”
Other relevant things to chat about include someone’s pet(s), how tasty their lunch was, etc. “If it’s relevant to them, they will be much more interested in your text messages, and much more likely to write you back and to keep those good vibes going,” Barrett said.
Use gifs/emojis/memes/videos—but not too much
People who know how to be a good texter know that to keep things fun, it’s a good idea to send gifs, emojis, memes and videos. For instance, Barrett shared that viral gum commercial about coming out of lockdown with someone he’s dating.
That said, you don’t want to be sending cat videos with every message. A good balance to follow is to make sure just one out of every three messages has something like an emoji or a meme. “You want to use a ‘less is more’ approach,” Barrett said. “Otherwise you just come across as a weird gif/meme generator.”
Keep it light
According to Barrett, text messages aren’t for deep existential talks—save that for when you meet or a phone call. “You want to keep it light and playful,” he said.
Some light topics include movies, silliness, what you did on the weekend, for example.
Be mindful of different texting styles
Some people respond well to more old-school flirtatious text messages, like compliments. Others, not so much. So it’s a good idea to be playful but cognizant of the other person’s “texting love language.”
For instance, Barrett likes to show off his “silly, adolescent humor." “Some women love that, and some women don’t,” Barrett said. “I’m always noticing what works and what doesn’t and then tweaking my conversation to what I feel will resonate with their wavelength, but also still being myself and not changing.”
Respond as quickly as you want
Pop culture has shown people that being aloof can be cool, and in texting, many people think if they respond too quickly they come off as desperate. But that’s a “huge myth,” according to Barrett. “It’s not about the speed of the response, it’s the quality of your text messages,” he said.
Don’t leave someone hanging too long
That said, if you’re busy with work or your studies, you don’t have to respond right away. The important thing is to not hold back messages just to try to come off as aloof. If you do that, it’s not only an unattractive form of game playing, but it also simply won’t work.
“If I don’t write a woman back right away when I’m interested in her, and she’s a really desirable person, 10 other guys are going to be writing [to] her, and she’s going to be focusing on that,” Barrett said.
Keep it 50/50
While your response time doesn’t matter, you don’t want to be writing six messages for every one the other person sends. That can come off as too eager and may be a turn-off.
If you want to know how to text better, a good rule of thumb is to look at your message thread and see about half of the messages by you, the other half from them. A ratio of 60/40 is fine, too.
Respect their boundaries
If the person you’re texting told you they’re studying for a test or on a job interview, don’t be sending them a flurry of messages while they’re busy doing that. Respect their time, and they’ll respect you, Barrett said. “That will help you in the end because it kind of raises your stature in their eyes because they realize, ‘Oh, this person is empathetic and paying attention to me. They’re paying attention to boundaries,’ and that’s an attractive trait.”
Give more than one-word answers
If you’re always responding with brief answers like “sure,” “k,” and “sounds good,” don’t expect the person you’re texting to want to open up to you. Short answers show a lack of interest and lack of investment in the conversation, Barrett explained.
However, don’t write a huge paragraph essay or novel, as you should save the deep answers for in-person or over the phone. “Two to four sentences is a good ballpark length for a text,” Barrett said.
Send audio messages
If you have the capability on your phone, sending audio messages can be a great way to become a better texter. It will give the person you’re texting an opportunity to get to know you better and makes the conversation much more intimate.
“This gives them a deeper imprint of who you are as a person and, when they hear your voice, they can hear your intonation and just get a better sample of you,” Barrett said. “It also shows confidence … makes you stand out, and it’s also fast and efficient.”
Before you know it, you could find yourself sending voice messages back and forth and that’ll make them more likely to meet up. “If you’re invested in the process, that helps to make sure that date happens and then nobody ghosts and flakes.”
Pro tip: If you don’t like your message, try recording again until it comes off as confident and authentic.
Just like audio messages, sending photos and videos can take a relationship to the next level and give you something to talk about—just make sure to keep the pics G-rated.
“Maybe you’re at a fancy, cool lounge having a gin and tonic, overlooking a beautiful cityscape—feel free to take a shot and send that photograph to your crush or to your potential date with a little teasing: ’fear of missing out,’ ‘wish you were here,’ something like that,” Barrett said.
In particular, sending photos of food can be a great conversation starter. “Taking a photograph of something delicious that you just cooked is great, because pretty much everybody would like to date someone who’s good in the kitchen, right?”
Knowing how to be a better texter might sound complex, but it really isn’t.
Your goal throughout the text exchange is to get to in-person meetups and get to know them better. To do that, be a fun, cool person who’s offering value to their lives. And most important, keep it light and fun.
“The concept behind texting should be to put a smile on the other person’s face,” Barrett said. “Give them something, give them a good emotion, give them a smile, a chuckle, a flirtatious comment. Give them something of value.”