First impressions are crucial in dating, as you probably know. But most initial communication is done today via text, email, or Facebook. So when a guy actually calls you on the phone, you might not realize that voice exchange could end a budding relationship before you even meet face to face. What I’m seeing as a matchmaker in this new dating decade of 2010, is that many first dates never happen because the guy had a negative impression of you via phone. Note that I used the word “impression” because it’s not about who you really are: it’s about someone stereotyping you before they get to know you, based on little things you might say, or not say, that usually don’t reflect who you are deep down. But not to worry! After interviewing more than 1,000 single men for my new book, “Have Him At Hello,” I have 9 tips to help you shine on the phone:

  1. Use a Land Line: Try to speak on a land line whenever possible. There’s nothing more irritating than spotty reception and always saying, “What? Sorry I couldn’t hear you….”
  1. Be aware of your tone: Always use a cheerful voice, even if something he says annoys you, or if you’ve had a bad day. Men are drawn to an upbeat vibe.
  1. Give intentional responses: If he says something vague such as “How are you?”, remember that is not an inquiry about your health or your mood. In the early stages of getting-to-know-you, everything you say is used to project what type of person you are. “How are you” is actually a Rorschach test! Use that vague question to give an intentional response, to share something about yourself that you deliberately want him to know. For example:

He says, “How are you?”

You say, “I’m great! I just returned from an exhilarating run in Central Park with my best friend from elementary school.”

What does that tell him about you? It says you are fitness oriented (you run), you’re the type of person who has sustainable relationships (you’ve maintained a friend for many years since elementary school), and you’re an energetic, positive person (I’m great! The run was exhilarating!).”

Obviously don’t make anything up (i.e., don’t say you went running if you really didn’t!), but proactively think of something positive about yourself that you want him to know whenever you are asked a mundane question.

  1. Turn the tables (casually): Follow up your intentional response with a related question that lets him talk about himself, such as “So, do YOU run, or what kind of exercise do YOU like? “ or, “How about YOU, do you have an old friend you spend time with?“

Finding a “conversation bridge” from something you said (“So, speaking of running…”) also helps you evaluate the other person in a casual way to see what type of person they are, without making him feel as though this is a job interview where you’re ticking off a checklist of requirements (Do you exercise? Check! Do you have long-term relationships? Check!)

  1. Don’t grill: Getting someone to talk about himself is not the same thing as peppering him with frequent or mundane questions. There are two elements here: quantity and quality. Don’t ask more than one question per minute (inject comments and reflections in between questions to minimize the quantity of questions, making it a real conversation, not Q&A session). Also, don’t ask boring questions, even if he asked you a boring question first (Avoid: How are you? What are you doing? How was work? Was the traffic bad?).
  1. Be fun: If there’s a lull in the conversation flow, try to be fun and spark some banter. Pick a neutral, third party topic, and make a comment (or ask a question) about it. For example, “Hey, did you happen to see David Letterman last night? He did the Top Ten Reasons for things overheard waiting in line to see Avatar…. Guess what #1 was?”

Asking someone to guess something is a great way to flirt and keep things interesting. And raising a third party topic (e.g., The David Letterman Show) will make you seem easy-going because you aren’t like all the other girls probing to find out if someone is Mr. Right (Avoid: What do you for work? Tell me about your parents? Do you golf?).

  1. Relax him: Make the guy feel relaxed and confident by acting happy that he called and giving positive feedback on their conversation skills (even if his phone skills aren’t great—the initially shy or awkward ones usually make better partners in the long run than the instantly slick, charismatic ones!). For example, tell him, “I had a rough day at work, but your call cheered me up!” or “Oh, that’s an interesting question…”
  1. Know when the party’s over: End the conversation quickly when you sense the energy level drooping. But blame it on an external factor rather than sounding bored. For example, “Oh, I just realized it’s 9:00pm and I didn’t call my grandma yet to wish her happy birthday! So sorry about that, I was really enjoying our conversation…. But good luck on that big presentation tomorrow, and I hope to talk to you soon!” This says 4 things: you’re a family-oriented person (you’re calling your grandma, awww: that’s sweet!), you’re boosting his confidence so he feels good being around you (you enjoyed the conversation, you hope to talk soon) , you’re a good listener and thoughtful person (you remembered his big presentation tomorrow), and you’re not too needy (you said “hope to talk to you soon” rather than “When will I see you? Will you call me tomorrow?).
  1. What Never To Do: While talking on the phone, never chew food or gum, never go to the bathroom or flush a toilet, even if you mute the phone (don’t risk a mute malfunction!), and never multi-task while you’re on the phone by checking email, loading the dishwasher, etc. (give him your full attention: it makes a huge difference!)

Once you’ve intrigued him by phone, and you arrive in person for the date, find out the top ten reasons why men said they either fell in love with you, or never called you back. The candid reasons revealed from my 1,000 interviews are surprising and counter-intuitive, based on your small comments or gestures that usually do not reflect who you really are. First impressions are very tricky, online and offline! To find and attract the mate you really want, read “Have Him At Hello: Confessions From 1,000 Guys About What Makes Them Fall in Love… Or Never Call Back.”