Congratulations! You’ve done it. You made it through the process, someone liked what they saw and now you have a bite. But, the initial excitement of receiving an email is quickly overcome by concern. How quickly should you reply? Forget your words, what will the timing of your response say to your person of interest?
The speed of your response may drastically affect the flow of conversation. If you reply immediately, will you be viewed as too eager? If you put it off, will your match lose interest? With the stress building, writing a simple email starts to feel like diffusing a live bomb—one mistake and your whole relationship can blow up in your face.
While it may feel like there is a fine line to walk, the reality is far less scary or fraught with danger. Response is not a time-sensitive issue. The timing, it turns out, is less about when and more about if. If you reciprocate, return the email at your convenience, your chances are good that matters will proceed favorably.
The Berkeley study Who’s Right and Who Writes: People, Profiles, Contacts and Replies in Online Dating found that response times were very similar between genders. Men took an average of 19 hours to reply and women an average of 16 hours.
The study measured what choosing to wait would cost a respondent. Researchers found that the chance that your initial contact will respond with another message drops by less than one percent per day that you delay (on average). After a month, you have about a 20 percent less chance that the person who made contact will continue to stay in touch.
Those numbers aren’t bad considering that, over the course of a month, the interested party will have been sending out and receiving other emails. The risk you take by waiting is that your interested party will move on in the meantime and find another, equally suitable but more attentive option. Or that he/she will feel slighted by the amount of time you took to get back in touch. Either way, unless you have a valid reason to delay, you are only compromising your own chances by playing hard to get.
The study found that there is no such thing as too rapid a reply when it comes to the dating scene. Think about it. Nearly all of us, no matter where we are, check our email and messages at least once per day. The person on the receiving end doesn’t know if you were multi-tasking, efficiently responding as the message came in or desperately hovering over your inbox.
The person who writes you knows you’re looking, so why play coy? By all means, take the time to gather your thoughts, re-read what your contact said, perhaps peruse the profile before you hit send. Beyond that, breathe deeply and relax, reply with confidence that you will not be perceived as desperate or overly eager.
By responding without delay, you show the other person that his/her reaching out to you meant something, was valued enough to garner a well-timed response. You are more likely to be seen as a caring, thoughtful individual, even if at heart you are acting as a wise consumer, someone who knows better than to let an opportunity pass by.
Who’s Right and Who Writes: People, Profiles, Contacts and Replies in Online Dating
University of California, Berkeley: School of Information/Department of Psychology
Fiore, Taylor, Zhong, Mendelsohn, Cheshire
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