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The Ottawa Citizen, Style Weekly

Saturday, December 27th 2003



Yarkoni’s main message is the Boy Scout mantra: Be prepared


By Jennifer Campbell


She cheers, she counsels, she puts them through drills. Irene Yarkoni is the Jacques Martin of Ottawa’s dating scene. She spends her days teaching singles how to, well, score.


A self-professed dating coach, she uses her observations to deconstruct the art of eventual intimacy. She breaks it into charts, flash cards and seminars on everything from body language to “effective dating”.


Yarkoni embarked on a second career eight years ago when she founded The Single Option, a speed-dating service that continues today. Here, in dating’s fast lane, clients take in the singles’ equivalent of the Molson Indy. In less time than it takes to get across town in rush hour, each suitor has eight mini-dates with eight people.


While watching these encounters, Yarkoni has gained a wealth of knowledge about the fine art of getting asked out. And now, in addition to writing a book, she’s branding herself as Ottawa’s dating doc. She holds one-on-one sessions and has a website ( where singles can go for advice.


So, Style asked the coach, what’s the number one mistake people make when they’re on the make? Turns out, they don’t figure out what they want from the opposite sex. Singles spend time and money considering academic ambitions and professional priorities but spend little time, and less money, determining what they’re looking for when it comes to romance. They think love will take care of itself. Yarkoni is there to tell them that just ain’t so.


Earlier this month, in time for New Year’s Eve, she held a three-hour seminar on turning parties into dates. The coach told a small group of singles, each of whom paid $29 to attend, how to wow fellow martini-sippers and canapé-noshers this party season. The seminar included eats and a drill session where the six women and three men could put some of her suggestions into practice.


The singles themselves identified their problem areas: How to establish eye contact, how to approach a stranger, and how to seal the deal establishing the contract. They also asked her to address the dicey subject of a conversation, if say, you’re cornered by someone who insists the antennae on the U.S. Embassy is emitting low-frequency waves to pacify the population.


Yarkoni’s main message was the Boy Scout mantra: Be prepared. Once you’re prepared you can afford to be brave.


To be an effective dater, invest in your image. Beyond making sure your clothes are flattering, your hair stylish, and your complexion fresh, examine how you carry yourself. Good posture is key. Walking around like an advanced osteoporosis patient (assuming you’re not) won’t impress. Keep an eye on what you do with your limbs when you’re not using them. Crossing your arms, for example, indicates you’re closed off.


“Open body language reveals to the other person you’re relaxed, secure, and interested in making closer contact,” Yarkoni said.


With open body language, you’re more approachable, she said. But if singles aren’t approaching you at a party, be brave and go on the offensive. Start a conversation with something light and then engage them. Ask questions. Listen to what they’re saying.


When you end a conversation with a good prospect, leave an impression. Smile, tell them it was nice meeting them, or tell a joke but make it a good one or they’ll remember you for the wrong reason. You don’t want them thinking: “Oh – he’s the one who told the groaner clown joke.”


Overcoming shyness goes back to the first point she made: Figure out what you want and set mini-goals. It sounds a bit Dr. Phil, but tell yourself you’re going to speak to five strangers tonight. Then go to the party and do it. At the next party escalate your goals: Ask someone out. If they say no, don’t lose your confidence. Not everyone’s going to like you, and you can’t take that personally.


And what about that sticky question about ending the conversation? It seems you must keep it simple. Don’t give any indications you’re interested and then bow out carefully. When in doubt, head to the washroom, or better, the bar. It is, after all, New Year’s Eve.


Jennifer Campbell is an Ottawa writer.  

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