How to Start a Tinder Conversation

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Internet dating has arguably been around since the early days of “chat rooms,” but when Tinder first hit our smartphones in 2012, there’s no question that it revolutionized the game.

From the swipe feature to the geolocational algorithm, the seminal app made online dating easier and more accessible than ever. These days, it’s almost strange to meet a couple (or throuple—hey, we don’t judge) that didn’t meet on Tinder— one of the many apps it’s spurred. But even if you were still, miraculously, managing to meet people out and about the old fashioned way, the new reality of social distancing has made digital dating tools even more essential if you’re looking for love (or, shall we say, companionship).

But even though swiping and chatting has been a thing for almost a decade, some people still haven’t quite gotten the hang of the most crucial part of Tindering: The opening line. Not only does it build the foundation for a good conversation, but it also serves as the hook to get noticed and actually get someone chatting. You’ve already matched, so the object of your dating desire saw something they liked—now it’s time to form the ever-important connection.

What not to do

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If you’re looking for what not to do when it comes to starting the convo, you only need to head to an Instagram account like @tindernightmares, which chronicles the worst of the worst conversational fails.

Spoiler alert: No one likes an overtly sexual opener or an attempt at “negging,” i.e., insulting someone as a way to flirt. With over 2 million followers, this IG should be reason enough to work on your pick up line skills. The goal, of course, is to not end up on here, or worse—get “left on read.”

Producing the perfect opening line may be a delicate art, but it and it doesn’t have to be so stressful. Often it just requires confidence, a little intuition, and, most importantly, a genuine interest in the other person. So how should you go about it without getting lost in an inbox full of generic “Heyyyys”? We’ve tapped some experts (and applied some of our own firsthand experience) to help get you started.

“I think it’s common knowledge by now that you should start a Tinder conversation with some witty banter,” says Zachary Zane, Sex Advice Columnist at Men’s Health and Brand Ambassador for Promescent, a sexual health and wellness brand.

“But here’s the thing, if you’re not naturally clever, then don’t force it. When guys who aren’t that witty attempt to be, they often fail, and the message comes off as confusing or downright creepy. Don’t be that dude.”

Finding something in common

Nevertheless, with great risk comes great reward. Speaking as a cishet woman (who also happens to be a Geminiyes, this is important, and we’ll get to why shortly!), some smart, slightly sarcastic back-and-forth has always piqued my interest in someone. Echoing Zachary, though, such an attempt requires a natural gift of gab.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. But if not, Zachary recommends the classic failsafe of scanning their profile and finding something you two have in common. “I’d go ahead and comment on one of their interests that they have listed in their bio. If it’s a shared interest, all the better. If they say they love scary movies, and you do too, you’re golden, my friend. Ask them what their favorite scary film is, and then you can share yours.” Boom, instant conversation.

Along those same lines, you can also scan your match’s photos for any distinctive activities you may both enjoy, say hiking or snowboarding, or surfing. Ask where the photo was taken and add an anecdote about your own experience with said sport or activity. And if you haven’t done it before, you can always ask, “Can you teach me?” Now you even have your potential first date plans sorted!

Getting a good response

According to sexologist, author, and relationship authority Dr. Nikki Goldstein (with whom you can chat and find dishing out dating advice live on webcam-based site, “When you are trying to start a Tinder conversation, you want to launch with something that requires an interesting response. The name of the game is to keep the conversation going long enough to find out things about each other or start to get an idea of who each other are.”

“Writing, ‘Hi, How are you?’ can often respond in ‘Good, how are you?’, which really gets the both of you nowhere. I also feel that this shows a lack of effort. Are you really keen to get to know this person or just sending this same message to everyone who looks hot?”

Like Zachary, Dr. Nikki suggests finding something that stands out on their profile to talk about, including the ever-popular pet pic. Not only is it a total bonus in general that they have an adorable fluffy friend, but it also invites an excellent entrance for a conversation. People love to talk about their pets. Ask what their cat’s name is or what breed their dog is. If you’re also a pet owner, you can talk about your own fur baby. Later on, perhaps, you two can plan a dog-walk together or a day at the dog park! Let’s just hope your pets get along.

Astrological signs

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Now, as for those aforementioned astrological signs: love ‘em or hate ‘em, plenty of people mention them in their profile. Whether or not the personality-defining science of the stars is legit, it’ll be useful for you to know your own sign for Tindering purposes alone. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the whole astrology thing, you can always slide into their messages and say something like, “So, you’re a Gemini, I’m a Leo. Do the stars think we’re compatible?” Usually, anyone who goes so far as to mention their sign in their profile will be more than happy to launch into a whole explainer. The same approach can also be applied to Meyers-Briggs types, which is basically astrology for psychology majors. Go take the quiz now. You’re welcome.

Being random doesn't hurt

Your Tinder match should typically have something interesting to go off of in their profile, but occasionally you’ll come across someone who seems a bit elusive; barely a detail in their bio and a few unremarkable mirror selfies (as in, there’s literally nothing to remark on besides, of course, their looks). While there’s always a chance that that person is a catfish (be careful out there, folks!), you can still attempt a more evergreen opener.

If they’ve got a particularly vague profile (or not!), “You can also start the conversation with a random funny question,” says Dr. Nikki. “You might want to know what their favorite ice cream flavor is or their most embarrassing dating experience. With your line of questioning, you also want to stand out from the crowd, so don’t be scared to make your first line one to remember.”

Dr. Nikki certainly has a pointthe random really works! After scanning my own Tinder inbox, it appears I’ve most often replied to some of the most ridiculous (but hilarious) messages. Here’s a real example: “Ever think about how far [redacted celebrity] has fallen off in their career and just get sad? Like what happened?” I suppose I do have lots of opinions on said celebrity’s career trajectory, but it was also just so out of nowhere that I couldn’t resist responding. 

Similarly, tried-and-true “this or that” questions—Pancakes or Waffles? McDonald’s or Taco Bell?—often elicit a response simply because they don’t require a lot of time or energy to answer. However, they can be useful when segueing into cheekier conversational ground: “So when can I take you on a Taco Bell date?” or, if you dare, “So do you take your morning pancakes with eggs or berries?” (OK, best to really feel the other person out before going there, but you see what I mean). Questions based on fun hypotheticals can also dig deep into someone’s interests, like “Which five albums/snacks/DVDs would you bring on a desert island?” C’mon, everyone likes music, food, and movies.

Some final tips...

If all else fails, though, you can never go wrong with trying to make someone laugh, whether that involves a corny pickup line, a funny GIF, or just a straight-up joke (no one with a sense of humor can let a “knock-knock” attempt go unanswered). If you’re feeling really creative, you can even try turning their name into a pun or a poem. Per Tinder’s own blog, Swipe Life, some of the most successful icebreakers are the ones that bring on the LOLs. One user submitted this punny gem: “So I’ve been trying to come up with a good psychology pickup line for you, but I’m aFreud I couldn’t come up with any,” while another took a more direct route with, “Do you like raisins? I’m all out, can I offer you a date instead?”

Some other tips to always keep in mind? According to Zachary, “Use full sentences. It shows that you’re not just spamming every single person ‘Sup?’”

And while it may be your first instinct to compliment someone on their appearance, Zachary advises against it. “[If you’re messaging a woman], don’t comment on her body or say how ‘hot’ she is. She’s not going to take it as a compliment, trust me. A woman on Tinder gets a million messages like this, and it’s a huge turn-off. But if you want to say you love her fashion sense, now that’s a great opening line.”

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