In honor of Valentine's Day, I tried speed dating with my colleague, Adam Lukach. Afterward, we called up Bela Gandhi, founder of the Smart Dating Academy, to get tips on navigating the dating scene. She shared three major pipelines to meeting other singles:
1. LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY ...
Use the convenience of technology to your advantage, but don't overdo it. Gandhi suggests limiting dating app usage to one or two apps or websites, and quality profile pictures are a must — stay away from the selfie!
Post five or six good photos that aren't car, gym or bathroom selfies, and include a mix of head and body shots.
Avoid "Where's Waldo?" shots that make it hard for people to identify you. "Everyone knows you have friends and that you have family. I think about this as cyber marketing. This is your personal marketing in cyberspace, so it should be of you and only you."
Stay away from negative profiles. "When somebody's negative in their profile or critical or judgmental, that tells you where that person is. ... It is a harbinger of bad things to come."
Once you've matched online, prescreen your date by making time for a quick phone call beforehand. "Think about a job interview. ... Nobody's gonna be like, 'Hey you know what? Your resume looks great; come in and meet the president.' You're gonna do a phone call with HR because they're gonna screen you and make sure that you sound normal, that you can put a cogent sentence together, that you sound positive and warm before they bring you in for a face-to-face interview. Dating should be no different. ... If you hear something negative or that's red flag-y, you can get off the phone and not waste your time on a date."
2. ... BUT DO MEET PEOPLE IRL
"All human beings are afraid of rejection, right, and that's why starting conversations with a stranger elicits so much fear in us because we're afraid of being rejected."
Use your environment to start a conversation. If you're on the train and the person next to you is reading a book about Italy, ask them about it. "Don't overthink it, just do it. Give yourself three seconds and go. If not, your monkey brain takes over ... and it talks you out of it. ... If you are shyer, talk to your doorman, say something to the barista — just start slowly."
Reduce personal "Do Not Disturb" signs in public — take your headphones out and put the phone down. Try speed dating, meetups and talk to three new people each day.
3. UTILIZE YOUR PRE-EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS
Create a relationship "team" of extroverted super connectors who won't be afraid to approach seemingly eligible dates on your behalf. This is the type of outgoing person who likes introducing people to each other, and they don't have to be your BFF to do so. "Sometimes our stronger connections can come from our weaker links," Gandhi said.
We know firsthand how hard it can be to stay optimistic, but try to keep a positive, open-minded outlook. "Anybody that wants love and is willing to do things in a different way can find love," she said. "Love exists for every person on the planet that wants it. Be inspired by that."
RedEye is a publication of the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.