For most of us, texting multiple people throughout the day is as normal as brushing our teeth or fixing dinner after work. We don't necessarily think about the thousands of tiny bubbles we've sent between loved ones over the years—we just continue building on them, one response after another. That is, unless, we've received a new number and the message screen is blank.
"Starting a text conversation depends on the scenario," Carmelia Ray, an online dating expert and advisor to the WooYouApp, says. "You want to be really mindful of the personality type and communication preference of the person."
We all know that the ease of texting makes it the preferred choice for simple conversations or for multitasking, and it can also be a way to keep nerves calm when discussing sensitive subjects. Most of us are experienced with the downsides of that convenience, too, which Carmelia calls the "misrepresentation and misunderstanding" that occurs when tone and context are lost. Either way, typing out what to grab at the grocery store or thoughtfully composing a paragraph-length response to an argument has to start somewhere. And it's hard to know if a simple "hey" at the very beginning can eventually lead to a level of intimacy.
"It takes some time getting to know someone's communication style and may be best to ask in the beginning, 'So are you a texter, or do you prefer to talk on the phone?' or 'Can you text at work, or when is the best time to text you?'"
If you just scored someone's digits—whether it's platonic or romantic—Carmelia has offered up some examples of conversation starters. We've also asked her what not to do in this situation because we all know the unique frustration of an unanswered text, too.
How should someone text a new friend?
"Texting a new friend should be light and all about getting to know the person," she says. "Similar to dating, meeting someone new involves back-and-forth dialogue about shared interests, finding a common ground, and learning about who they are."
Example: "Hey Sapna, it was so great meeting you the other day. I'm really glad Rebecca thought to connect the two of us. I'd love to get together with you over coffee. What does your schedule look like over the next week? I'm open on Thursday or Friday."
What should a text to a new co-worker look like?
"Texting a new coworker should also be very light. Maybe you've exchanged contact information to car pool together or plan to see each other at a company function," Carmelia says.
Example: "Hi Gary, it's John from the accounting department. It's really great to meet someone who can carpool with me. Let's grab lunch today or tomorrow to discuss our travel schedule and any upcoming company events."
What should someone text to an online dating match?
"My formula for messaging an online match involves a simple four-step process," she says. "First, introduce yourself. Next, share what you like about your match's profile and include something flattering. Then, share something about yourself that is not obvious on your profile. And finally, use an open-ended question or invitation to continue your conversation."
Example: "Hi! I loved your photos, especially the one of you jumping out of a plane. It's on my bucket list of things to do, and I would love to hear about your experience. Is it something you would do again, and where would you recommend I go?"
How should someone start a text conversation with someone they met in person?
"This would follow a similar format to the online match," Carmelia notes.
Example: "Hi Jamie, I'm really glad I bumped into you at the event last night. You mentioned that you loved sushi, and I know a place downtown I've been meaning to try. What does your week look like to get together for dinner?"
What should a person definitely not say to start a conversation through text?
"It's always best not to discuss any sensitive or gray-area subjects that could be controversial," she says. "You also want to absolutely avoid statements that are sexually explicit in nature, unless that is your only goal. Initial texting conversations should always be light-hearted, inspirational, inquisitive, and fun to create a friendly and engaging open dialogue."
"You also want to keep in mind when a conversation is better to have over the phone or in person, rather than text," Carmelia continues. "When you are texting back and forth and think to yourself, 'Why are we not talking on the phone?' then this may be the time to ask if you can call."
"Lastly, be mindful of your tone, your use of emojis, and when the text conversation is over," she says. "Some people like to text forever and you may not be in a space or time to do that. Always have a plan to politely end your communication."