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It’s only a few years ago that Online Dating was something gentlemen never did – never needed to, never wanted to. How times have changed.

Nowadays ‘online’ is not only respectable. It’s also the answer to a gentleman’s prayers. For in these days of long hours, short leisure time, and less and less personal contact, dating success can be a numbers game; quite simply, you need to meet enough potential partners to have even the chance of a match. Hence online dating – with its vast pool of possibles – offers the solution.

That said, it also poses huge challenges. It’s a new dating approach and society is only just mastering the craft; in short, to make it work, you need to work the etiquette.

To begin with, make your online profile gentlemanly. The best profiles hint at humility, majoring not on you yourself but on the relationship you could create with the right partner. So paint a picture not only who you are but of what you and a dream partner could do together. Far more subtle and effective than the hard sell.

When it comes to what you want of a partner, be equally subtle. The online dater who specified his perfect match as a woman aged 23-25 with blonde hair, blue eyes and an 18″ waist may have been reflecting a male ideal – but he came across as insufferably arrogant. Yes detail your deal-breakers: children (or not), smoker (or not), religious or cultural background. But a gentleman realises that long-lasting compatibility lies not only in physical desire but in the nuances of personality and life values.

The biggest male error in online dating lies in the photo, all too often choosing one that looks like a jail shot. To attract, one needs to look attractive; to welcome, one needs to look welcoming. So get your profile photo taken professionally – or at least by a photography-savvy friend – looking directly to the camera, relaxed and smiling. (If your high-profile job means you don’t want to show yourself publicly, post photos privately then release to those with whom you’ve built up trust.)

Choose, carefully and strategically, which site/s you join. Google ‘online dating’ and check out at least a dozen sites to see which offer the kind of partner you want. On each, also browse not only the profiles of the gender you are attracted to but also the male profiles to see whether they contain perfect gentlemen; if so, it’s likely the site will attract partners looking for someone like you.

When you find a contact who pleases, remember that your initial email (and phone call) will create a lasting impression. Again this is about dazzling not with your wealth or achievements, but with the sense that a relationship with you would contain the gentlemanly virtues of respect, care and attention. So refer to your potential partner’s profile. Ask questions to discover more. Seek and point out common interests, mutual values. Make it clear that while you are happy to open up about yourself, you can be eagerly attentive to your partner.

Taking it further? It’s tempting to dismiss anyone whose profile doesn’t exactly match your criteria; but the online persona is only the tip of the iceberg and someone who seems unsuitable on the surface may well be ideal for you. Get a sense of the real person behind the profile, the photo or the emails before you spurn.

That said, don’t try to convince yourself someone’s suitable when they’re not. If there’s no fit with what you each value… if interests are neither mutual nor fascinating… if you have nothing to say to each other during a phone call… then move on.

When you do move on, be polite. Don’t just ignore or drop the connection; write briefly explaining that you won’t be making contact again but wishing good fortune in the love search. And, accept rejection politely, without arguing or sulking; someone who dismisses you is not being personal – they don’t know you. Again, wish them all the best.

As with everything, the rules are simple: be self-effacing, be genuine, be courteous. Master thèse basics of online conduct and not only will you have been the perfect gentleman, you will also have much more chance of finding the perfect partner.

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