Why Men Shouldn’t Ask For or Offer Their Phone Number Too Quickly

Photo of a woman with pouting her lips

Hi Evan,

I’ve enjoyed both your books and your blog, and have two questions regarding the email process of online dating:

1) If a man writes in his first email that he wants to meet and/or talk on the phone, is there a way to suggest a few emails first? Moving to phone right off seems to be the kiss of death.

2) In emails with men, at times they forget to ask any questions, so responding to their emails is a challenge. Is it best to just let those go – or is there a polite way to say “If you would like to keep communicating, a few questions from your side would help”?



Dear Joanna,

Let’s take this opportunity to talk to men, shall we?

Dear Men,

You’re bright. You make a decent living. You’ve been around the block once or twice. You’ve certainly been socialized well enough through school and work to know how people act.

So why would you think that a smart approach to charming women online is:

“Hey, great smile. Loved your profile. Think we have a lot in common. Call me at 323-555-1212.”

Could you imagine doing this in any other arena? Going up to a strange woman at a party and giving her your phone number before you got her name? Asking her for personal information before you’ve exchanged pleasantries? This is the equivalent of sex without foreplay, fellas, and women HATE it.

And rightfully so.

Any woman who has an ounce of self-esteem should value herself enough to turn all of you tactless, impatient, schmucks down. And you KNOW this. Which is why it kills me even worse that you don’t learn.

Seriously. Picture some woman coming up to you and asking you how much you made for a living. Or perhaps quickly trying to gauge your penis size. Her defense? “I don’t want to waste my time.” Which is pretty much your defense for offering to go to the phone before she’s comfortable.

And if simple courtesy isn’t enough reason to heed my advice, how about this: your way is ineffective. In fact, 80% of the men who put their phone number in a first email do NOT get emails back. You know why?

In fact, 80% of the men who put their phone number in a first email do NOT get emails back. You know why?

Because women want to be courted, needed, valued, and charmed. And just because you’re artlessly writing to dozens of people doesn’t mean that any of them want to feel like a piece of meat. Yet how else can one of your prospects feel? You’re not getting to know her, you’re not showcasing your wit, you’re not laying the groundwork for a great first date. You’re simply trying to secure her phone number with the minimal amount of time and investment.

Newsflash: women WANT you to invest time in them. That’s what shows them you’re serious.

I can’t believe I have to explain this to you!

Class dismissed.


So, Joanna, how do you deal with men who are clueless and pushy?…

First, by realizing that they’re probably just doing what makes sense to them. It’s not that they’re bad people; they’re just oblivious to how their methods are coming across.

It’s not that they’re bad people; they’re just oblivious to how their methods are coming across.

Remember: if they’re asking you out, they DO want to please you. So give them a road map. Start by playfully writing something encouraging — yet leads them down the path that YOU want.

Dear Fred,

What a charming email. It should come as no surprise from a man who works as a bartender at Winky’s Beer Shack. And, although you’re awfully cute, I just don’t give out my number to any ol’ Freddy who rings my bell.

So if you’re up for it, how about you answer these four questions and come up with a few of your own:

Boxers or briefs?

Ginger or MaryAnn?

Longest you ever traveled to go on a date?

Your favorite place on Earth.

Tag. You’re it. Impress me.


I just cranked that out, but you can finesse it with your personality and your questions. As long as your tone is upbeat and playful — instead of stern and lecturing — he’s going to WANT to play along.

Lead him from dating site email to regular email to phone, and you will have accomplished your goal (him investing in you) and he will have accomplished his (getting a phone number).

To take a step back, as much as it’s fun to rip into foolish guys, it’s important to remember that they’re doing the best they can. They just rarely consider how inconsiderate it is to try and rush you into a date.

Oh, and to address your other concern – if you want to get men to write questions, try asking questions and offering stories of your own. Just like a regular conversation. Keep it interesting and lively and see if he can keep up. If he can’t – if he gives you nothing back from your email masterpiece – you have every right to move on.

Successful online dating is all about proper screening. So if guys are too lazy to ask you anything about yourself, they’re just screening themselves out.

I go much further into proper email technique on Disc 4 of Finding the One Online — my comprehensive, 7 hour audio series (with a transcript and workbook), that shows you every single thing you need to learn to have success in a medium where so many others fail.

Click below to learn more about how to manipulate men to do what YOU want them to do…


Join our conversation (40 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    Since this is an online dating situation my guess would be that the cryptic emails JoAnna is complaining about are the result of some men thinking that they don’t need to write about themselves in an introductory email since they already wrote about themselves in their personal add, which JoAnna has a link to.

    Logical, but it still comes across as disrespectful and cold.

    JoAnna, as a social slob trying very hard to reform himself my opinion is that if a guy sends you an email without the basic social pleasantries you can pretty much expect more experiences of social illiteracy in your future with him.

    There are plenty of nice guys out there who will bother to talk to you like a person.

    I would simply not respond to the emails that you are complaining about.

    1. 1.1
      S Benjamin

      Hi Steve. It’s been my experience that these men say very little about themselves in their personal ad. They seem to think that details of their race, age, weight, height, and perhaps occupation and a photograph along with their indication of an interest in you are to garner a phone number from you. Even when you seek more information to get to know them, they ignore those questions, and instead focus on getting your phone number.

  2. 2

    In defense of the male gender, many women offer nothing in their profiles that would allow a guy to say something interesting beyond, “what’s your number?”… A generic profile will result in generic spam-like emails. If Joanna has an interesting profile that doesn’t include lines like “I work hard and play harder,” and she’s still getting the “what’s your number? emails, she should delete them, and wait for the email from the guy with something interesting and clever to say….Or take the initiative, and contact a guy with a well written and interesting profile.

  3. 3

    I agree, when a guy sends his phone number without any thought it tells me he’s not really trying and I’m just another gal in the ‘numbers game’. And I don’t know of any self-respecting woman who would call him sight unseen.

    That said, the opposite is annoying, when you’ve been emailing for a while and the guy doesn’t seem interested in speaking on the phone. To me that’s a red flag that he’s not really serious, probably married or involved with someone.

  4. 4

    Although I’m generally pretty good at the e-mail thing, from time to time even I will forget to throw a question in a return mail. Throw a guy a bone. If it keeps happening move on.

  5. 5

    I’m a guy who has had a lot of success in online dating. Every time I send a girl an email, I make sure each paragraph has at least one question mark in it (ok, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point).

    Sometimes I get emails from girls that just have *nothing* in them to reply to. No funny sentences. No questions. I can only make up witty things by myself for so long. So girls are equally clueless sometimes. Also, ladies, put something UNIQUE in your profile that a smart guy can hook on to. EVERY girl likes beaches, shoes, and hanging out with their “awesome girl friends”. Be a little different.

  6. 6

    oh no guys…I have written a whole lot of personal ads (its almost entertaing) and I make a point of telling lots of info, and making it as interesting as possible (its my way of weeding out the guys looking for a date tonight, stupids, etc — though it doesn’t really work, and that is my point). I have been able to whittle my responses down to manageable numbers by being creative and interesting and professing that I am not looking for sex partners OR to talk on the phone tonight. However, I still get at least 10 e mails from guys that say “hey I am fit, heres my number maybe we can talk to tonight” or maybe its just hey I am a single male, interested? here’s my #” or “hey I am a married and my wife is out, I can fulfill your needs, here is my #”

    It is almost entertaining, as much lenght as I go to, even to weed them out from the get go. Men, this is a serious problem in online dating. If you really are good at writing, and you know these basic principles outlined by Evan above….you are already about 200 light years ahead of your competition. No, truly, you cannot even remotley make me believe women are even nearly as close to as bad as men here….maybe some are self centered and dont know how to ask questions….but really. I’m shocked every time my barrage of emails start to come in.

  7. 7

    Joanna: If he’s emailing you a number right away and not playing the game, ie flirting and asking questions, it’s not serious and you can ignore the email. There are a fair number of weirdos doing the online thing and you have to be wary of them. It’s one of the drawbacks of online dating.

    When I play the online game, I ALWAYS wait until a natural and obvious point in the dialogue to exchange contact info, and lately I’ll flirt until SHE asks to exchange info. Then I know it’s on. This is usually after several exchanges or maybe an hour or two over IM. I’ll usually test also, like say, “how do I know you’re not a psycho?” after she asks for my phone. If she comes back with a witty answer then I know she’s fun and interesting. If she comes back with a cold answer or totally misses, then I know the connection isn’t right.

    Online game is all about wordplay and flirting, so it’s important to not discount the importance of this.

    1. 7.1

      That sounds like PUA stuff. Many self-respecting, hard-working women don’t have 1-2 hours daily to IM. “How do I know you’re not a psycho?” Self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ve met too many psychos. Water seeks its own level.

  8. 8

    game? online game? oh no…..that is not the answer either my friend. And I have never ever asked a man for his phone number.

  9. 9

    Lance’s post was good up to a point. I appreciate that he takes the time to make some effort into his email exchange. However, for a woman, it takes some courage to be the first to ask a man for the phone number. If he came back with the comment “how do I know you are not a psycho?”, I might feel hurt. If you are with a person, and can see their eyes, that can come across as a joke, but cold on paper or not, it can sound like the man is trying to say that you are too pushy or desperate for asking for his number.

    I know this is not the subject of the question, but I’d like to see a future thread about how to deal with men who simply want to email back and forth forever. Either they’re lonely, bored, unavailable, and they use online dating sites as a way to enjoy conversations with women, but never have to commit to actually meet them.

    Usually this type of email starts with the man wanting you to “open up about yourself” and tell him something personal. Of course, you, on the other side, have absolutely no idea who he truly is, having never met him. If you don’t open up, he then complains that he needs you to open up before he can decide to meet you. This is mirrored on the TV Bachelor shows where the Bachelor generally complains of the 30 girls vying for the rose that they don’t “open up enough”.

  10. 10
    Evan Marc Katz

    Actually, Li-Ann, the primary reason men email you back and forth without meeting you is because they’re busy dating other women. They’re just keeping you in the bullpen until their rosters get depleted.

    1. 10.1

      Thanks for brining up the man not offering a phone number, even if you say you’d be interested in talking. Women (especially older than 40) have been socialized to not ask for a man’s number, and if the men she is seeking are the same age they should no this. The possibility that they are in no hurry because they are having great success never occurred to me.

  11. 11

    I’m going to throw a few things into the mix….whether I truly believe them or not, you be the judge.

    There is a fine line between flirting online and typing yet another email. After how many is it time to actually talk? You know, how people used to communicate in ancient times (1990).

    There is also a fine line between asking questions and interrogation. When a reply email to me had 12 (yes 12!) questions listed, I checked out.

    Opening up or not opening up….hooey. No one’s asking another to divulge their innermost secrets 9.9 times outta 10, they just want to know more than “I like to travel. I like puppies & kittens. I like a man/woman with ambition..” Blah, blah…

    Also, ladies also need to be aware that most men know you have another 15 emails in your box tonight, so forgive them if they want to also jump ahead of the line and actually talk. It’s the dating version of being in auto phone hell (press 1, if you have a question about widgets, press 2 if you have a question about midgets, press 3 if you have a …), unable to actually talk to a person.

    This whole exchange begs the question, “If you met a nice guy in a coffee shop and talked for some time (15-30 min), would you make him email you 5 times before agreeing to see him for coffee as a ‘date?'” I sure hope not.

  12. 12

    Evan, thanks for the answer. I appreciate it. But, it’s not me. I think I explained on another post that I don’t use online dating. I’m over 40 which means I will unfortunately not meet the criteria for most men. I am seeing someone now – it works better to meet in person for me, as I don’t look as old as the number says. Actually, I shouldn’t criticize online dating as I haven’t personally used it, but my thoughts on the situation lead me to think it would be pretty difficult for someone my age. Maybe others have had better experiences. I get my ideas from chats with girlfriends as it can be a hot topic to discuss.

    It is my friend at work with the problem. She’s pretty frustrated. I agree that many men probably do “keep you in the bullpen”, but I think there is a small percentage, definitely not most, but some, who entertain themselves with a back and forth conversation. They could be married and hoping for a bit of an emotional romance. They think that it isn’t really cheating if you never meet.

    Recently she had a guy asking her to tell him more intimate details about herself. He persisted, and she tried to give polite responses. Finally he began sending emails with insults, profanities, accusing her of being stuck up. She blocked him. Now she’s got others she’s been chatting to for upwards of 3 months. I will tell her your theory about the bullpen Evan. Thanks again.

  13. 13

    to trent,

    ..as a general rule, most women are “chatter boxes”,…the ones that aren’t, mostly, have been recently hurt, abused, going through a divorce,..etc…

  14. 14

    Don’t know if anyone is still reading this thread, but I’d like to respond to CP. Women prompt the exchange for contact info all the time, and it’s as simple as her saying, “Hey, we’re having a great conversation, let’s get coffee…” That’s your cue to exchange digits and set something up. I’ve even had women ask me to TAKE their number. In fact, this is the point that I try to reach purposely, because I know we’ve made a great connection then.

    The key is having built up a great connection via email and IM and the two people getting to a point of comfort and trust. Once you reach that point, exchanging contact info is a completely natural progression.

    The situation described in Joanna’s query to Evan is that there was ZERO comfort and trust, ie, no previous connection, and the guy was just throwing it out there. Don’t trust those guys. If you poke around the ‘net you’ll find plenty of online dating horror stories.

  15. 15

    Email number 5 or 6 is the best time to offer your phone number to a woman: that should be enough time spent exchanging *meaningful* emails (ideally proffering information about yourselves, I hope, not just monosyllabic “hi” and single sentence messages like “whazzup?”). Each email should: contain a few CHATTY paragraphs, disclose some information about yourself, and ask the woman some question(s) about herself to show you’re interested in finding out more about her. Still, don’t wait much longer after email number 5 to offer your phone number. I dump the instant messenger/email junkie types quickly; I suspect most are married men or are in relationships already. Giving out your phone number on email 5 shows both a willingness to invest time sharing information about yourself to make her comfortable, and it is also soon enough that she won’t start to suspect you’re just another computer-addicted married guy with no life…

  16. 16
    Michael Ejercito

    In defense of the male gender, many women offer nothing in their profiles that would allow a guy to say something interesting beyond, what’s your number?
    I have observed such profiles on Match.Com and Date.Com.

    Some of those profiles are still there after five years. I wonder why.

    1. 16.1

      That means you’ve been on those dating sites yourself for five years.   I wonder why that is.

  17. 17

    Recently I’ve had the problem where we’ve had some back and forth e-mails, but the guy isn’t asking any questions. It started off when I e-mailed a guy, and he e-mailed back a paragraph or two answering my question but didn’t ask me anything back. I assumed he wasn’t interested so sent back a short e-mail. He e-mailed back, again without a question. In all, we’ve had 3-4 of these exchanges where he keeps on sending back decent-length replies, but with no questions. I would assume that if he’s not asking questions, he’s not interested, but why does he keep replying, and quickly? And his responses aren’t 1-2 liners either. And today I e-mailed a guy, he responded back within 20 minutes, and no question in his reply! Should I give these guys the heave-ho, or subtly give them the hint that they should start asking questions?

    1. 17.1

      If the other person (male or female) doesn’t show an interest about learning about you I would guess they are self-centered, or clueless. Having spent ten years with a diagnosed narcissist I would move on. If the man/woman is clueless or immature, you could coach them. It’s up to you if you want to start a relationship that way. When you’re 40 people don’t change as easily, so it depends on where you are in life.

    2. 17.2

      Don’t assume. Some people have more experience and stronger social skills than others. The guy may have spent years of his life e.g. building successful business rather than learning how to get more women into his bed (which is also an admirable goal).

      He may not understand that he needs to ask a question (though a few sessions with a good life/dating coach/therapist may be all that he needs). He may also not understand the online dynamics.

      If you want to give a hint, don’t make it subtle. Make it direct. Write “I would feel more comfortable if you asked me some questions about myself. This would make me feel that you are interested in me, and would give us something to talk about. Then I’d get a sense if I want to meet with you in person or not.”

      Then see what happens.

  18. 18

    To A-L

    Man may be clueless, doesn’t know he is supposed to ask questions…

  19. 19
    Max Garcia

    “women WANT you to invest time in them. That’s what shows them you’re serious”, wow good advice for me.

  20. 20
    Michael Ejercito

    The only time a man should consider asking for a phone number upon first meeting is if he meets a woman somewhere and he is unlikely to meet her again unless the meeting is arranged.

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