The Dating Doctor's advice for meeting people, online pitfalls and surviving Valentine's Day

Swipe life doesn't have to be miserable. - DEREK HARRISON PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
Derek Harrison photo illustration
Swipe life doesn't have to be miserable.

"You will not find the right person until you become the right person."

Before fielding Spokane Community College students' questions about their online dating profiles, how to date as a single parent and more, the "Dating Doctor" David Coleman starts his presentation by asking his audience for some introspection.

"Would you date you?" he asks.

Having enough self confidence and agency to look in the mirror and say, "I would so date me," is key, he says, if you want other people to be interested in you.

"Before you start the process, for real, of looking for someone else," Coleman says, "try to have yourself in the best mental, physical, emotional, spiritual shape you can."

Coleman is a relationship consultant who offers humorous and direct dating advice around the country, and at this lunchtime presentation in late January, he offers the Spokane students and community members some of his best tips for putting themselves out there.


How do you meet someone in the modern age? Is it best to search online? To try to meet someone through your circle of friends?

Genuinely, Coleman tells the Inlander, he doesn't really care how you meet, as long as it wasn't illicit or at someone else's expense.

"People seldom remember who broke the ice, they're just happy to be standing in a puddle. I really believe that," he says. "It's not the moment they meet, it's the moment they connect."

He encourages people to think about expanding their sphere of influence, like ripples around a stone thrown into a pond. The more rings you can add, the more opportunities you'll have to meet someone great.

So, in a healthy way, try as many avenues as you can, Coleman says. Try online dating, participate in activities that interest you, volunteer, get out of your routines, and don't be afraid of rejection.

"Rejection is like a bridge, you'll get over it," he says.

Painfully shy? Try his "three eye contact" method. Of course, not in a creepy way, make eye contact, then look away. Make eye contact again and hold it for "one, one thousand," then look away again. Then the third time, maintain eye contact until they look away.

"Then you change your position dramatically," Coleman tells the audience. "In just a minute, they're going to look back at where you were, and when you're not there, what are they going to do? They'll scan the room until you lock eyes and then you can go, 'Ha ha ha! Gotcha.'"


Coleman warns against four common pitfalls he sees people commit on dating apps/sites.

First, the proximity error. You see someone who interests you, who you would date, but you can't stop comparing them to the next profile and end up saying no to a date.

Second, using the "bet 'em all" strategy, where you swipe right or match with every person you can, in hopes anyone will write back. That doesn't offer any assurance that the person who writes will be anyone you'd be remotely interested in, Coleman says.

Third, what Coleman calls the "bigger better deal syndrome," where you won't date someone seriously because you might find someone even better the next day. You could be missing out on someone perfect for you because you can't stop thinking of what else could be out there, he says.

Last, "the cut and paste disgrace," where you copy exact text to send to many people, but the clearly impersonal details don't match up and wind up losing you the chance at keeping those folks interested.

One audience member asks, "What if I don't hear anything? Just crickets?"

Maybe some detail in your profile seems innocuous to you but stands out as a red flag to others. Maybe your attempt at humor isn't landing well.

"There's this adorable 75-year-old man I'm helping right now, and his profile was atrocious," Coleman says. "He had the wrong pictures up, the things he was writing were not going to attract anybody except possibly police. He wasn't familiar with online dating, he was old school."

So Coleman helped him choose better photos, and write a bio that better showed who he was.

Basically, it helps to be real, and be yourself. And if you really feel like you still need help, there are people like Coleman who help people improve their profiles for a living.


Generally speaking, Coleman says he thinks Valentine's Day gets more haters than it deserves. For busy people in relationships, it can often be the one time a year they intentionally focus on having a nice date and spending time alone together.

Coleman encourages those already in relationships to try to shake things up by giving their partner a gift the day before Valentine's, since romance is really just performing an ordinary act of love or kindness in an unexpected way. Avoid gifts that seem like they'll ultimately be used for you, and instead opt for activities or something edible aside from candy.

For singles, he recognizes Valentine's can be a hard time. Everything seems focused on couples or dinner for two.

It's a common misconception, Coleman says, that if you go out, you'll be the only single person around. If you and a group of single friends go out, isn't it likely there'll be other singles just a few tables away?

He also encourages people to throw a S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day) party.

"Bring a dish, a snack, a beverage, you throw a really nice party, it's a happy, joyous occasion and you have to bring another single friend to get in," Coleman says. "People have a blast." ♦