Safety in online dating is a topic that is commonly overlooked. Many people who use dating sites to meet people are often advised to be more cautious than they might be when dating someone they’ve met in a more conventional way. Have you ever wondered why?
While the Internet is a source that is frequently used by unscrupulous people to troll for vulnerable individuals, the other main reason that safety is talked about more in online dating than in traditional dating has to do with nonverbal communication and natural instincts.
You’ve probably heard some statistics stating that nonverbal communication – things like visual cues, tone of voice, and eye contact – accounts for 60, 70, or even 90 percent of total communication. Opinions vary on the exact percentage, but there is no doubt that nonverbal signals have a stronger affect on the message received than the words someone says.
Without the benefit of the signals you can only get from being in the same location as another person, a large part of our interpretation of that person’s message is missing. You can read someone’s online dating profile and learn a lot about them, such as their hobbies, likes and dislikes, occupation, age, relationship history and other statements. However, you can’t always use the instincts you were born with and those that you’ve developed over the years to get a sense of someone’s personality, intelligence or level of honesty.
When you meet a potential dating partner in person, you learn most of what you need to know about them without being aware of what you’re learning. In addition to the words you are hearing and the words you are planning to say in response, your brain is busy processing a constant stream of information to help you make a good judgment. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “He seemed like a good person, but I just didn’t get a good feeling about him.”? Most of what we refer to as “chemistry” in a relationship has to do with these underlying feelings and instincts.
When you meet a person for the first time after interacting with them online, the only information you have is a simple exchange of words and perhaps a few photographs. At this point, you haven’t had the opportunity to use your instincts to weed out dangerous and undesirable people. Whether you’re male or female, it’s a valuable idea to commit to a few absolute safety rules before you meet someone in person.
- Never give out your home or work address, or phone number. Use a cell phone. When communicating back and forth via email or text messages, be sure to remove any “auto signatures” that contain personal information.
- Meet at a public place with others around. Tell someone where you’re going and for how long.
- Never get into your date’s car, even for a minute.
- Don’t drink alcohol until at least a few dates have transpired. This will help you determine whether a person is trustworthy.
During the first several dates, pay special attention to nonverbal cues you get from your date. Absentee nonverbal signals always mean the same thing in each person, but certain clues can be a red flag. These include things like aggressive intrusion into your personal space or body language not matching the tone of the words being said. The important thing is to listen to your gut. If it tells you something doesn’t feel right, listen to it, even if you’re afraid you might be wrong. Feeling embarrassed later on is easy to get over, but the alternative might not be.