The Ottawa Citizen, Style Weekly
December 27th 2003
THE DATING COACH
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.
Dos and Don'ts from
* Use open posture and gestures:
Turn your body toward the person you're chatting with,
relax your palms, look them in the eye and smile frequently.
* Watch the other person's
body language to get clues
on how they feel.
to see someone's open body position
before you ask them on a date.
* Take the adjacent seat at
a table to encourage openness
forward to show you're interested.
* Nod frequently - it's
a sign of approval.
even if it's an effort. You'll
realize that not only you become
more accessible to others, but
you also like yourself more.
*Don't stand too close to a
person. Keep a distance of 1-1.5 meters
between yourself and a stranger. Anymore
than that, though, will tell them you're
* Don't cross
your arms or legs - this indicates you're
tense or not interested.
* Don't grip or pinch yourself,
or play nervously
with your car keys.
Don't fidget with pens
or cutlery or tap the
avoid eye contact. This is the
most important signal. If you
can't look straight into someone's
eyes, pick another spot on their
*But don't stare either. Eye
contact that lingers, without
chat, may be interpreted
as a show of superiority,
or a desire to threaten
At best, it's
make your mobile phone obvious.
If you must carry one, turn the
ringer off and keep it out of
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
this party season. The seminar included eats and a drill session
where the six women and three men could put some of her suggestions
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
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
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.
Montreal Gazette, Life section
December 20th, 2003
DON'T JUST SAY "HI", TURN A
HOLIDAY ENCOUNTER INTO A DATE
Turn off the TV and get out
there - for Pete's sake,
Special to the Gazette
You won't meet the man - or woman - of
your dreams if you're sprawled on the couch watching re-runs
of Sex and the City.
'Tis the season to party,
so dust off your dancing shoes and get out there.
But, says Ottawa-based dating coach Irene Yarkoni, attending
parties isn't enough. Singles looking to hook up with someone
special need tools for turning casual encounters into dates.
Go for a hair-cut, put on some new lipstick. More important,
make sure you feel good about yourself. Focus on your positive
qualities. "If you're in a negative
mood, who'll want to meet you?" Yarkoni says.
Consider your body language once
you're at the party. Slouching or standing with your arms
crossed are no-no's. "Keep
your wine glass at chest level, not covering your mouth. This
shows you're open to conversation".
Identify someone you like. This usually takes
about 20 seconds. If your eyes lock with someone else's and you
look away, you've missed an opportunity to connect. The right
thing to do? Why, smile of course.
Start a conversation.
For most people, this is the hardest part. Don't just say "hi".
Ask a question. Better still, pay a compliment.
Keep talking. Now's
the time to move from general to more personal topics. "You have to get personal if
you're aiming for a personal connection", Yarkoni said. Avoid
what she calls taboo subjects: religion, politics, death
and sex. This also isn't the time for bragging or venting
about your ex.
End the conversation.
It's a party, so you can't monopolize someone all night.
Give them a chance to mingle. But before you part ways, say "I really enjoyed talking to you".
Watch for the other person's reaction. If they make eye contact
or smile, chances are they might be interested in you, too.
Suggest getting together to continue your conversation, or
ask for their phone number.
Leave a lasting impression.
There's no one way to do this, Yarkoni says. Be funny or
charming or just plain nice. "There's nothing wrong with flirting. It's a way of creating
personal communication", Yarkoni said.
To learn more about Irene Yarkoni's
visit her Web Site at www.canadiansingles.com
The Ottawa Citizen, Careers
Saturday, July 20th, 2002
Entrepreneurial Spirit / Successful Small Business
THE SINGLE OPTION
Irene Yarkoni puts a
new spin on matchmaking.
Iris Winston reports
dating game was often tough for shy people to play even
when the rules were clear. As rules and expectations change,
These days, if Jack is interested in Jill,
he is more likely to give her his telephone number and hope
that she will call him than simply ask her out.
And Tom is unsure if Mary will be insulted
if he picks up the restaurant tab or consider him stingy
if he does not.
In some ways, when parents and chaperons
set up the meetings for their sons and daughters. It was
even more practical to deal with a formal matchmaker in the
fashion of the hit musical, Fiddler on the Roof. (Remember
a trio of marriageable women singing "Matchmaker, matchmaker,
make me a match"?)
And now it seems that a modernized yenta
(matchmaker) is back in fashion as dating services become
The Single Option was
set up to provide an avenue for singles seeking partners
to meet and take the
stress and uncertainty out of dating. But, emphasizes founder
Irene Yarkoni, the seven-year-old company is not a traditional
dating service. Rather, she sees it as part education, part
socializing and adapts programs to suit current trends and
Beginning with a weekly discussion group
in 1995, she soon added guest speakers and a series of special
"The idea was to organize
events for singles where they would not feel the stress of
meeting and dating," says
Ms Yarkoni, who emigrated to Canada from Kenya with her son
in 1995, after her husband died. "When the focus is on learning
about something else, people are less stressed than if they
just go to meet each other. There's a great need for people
to educate themselves before jumping into relationships."
Starting small without a major capital
investment in "small business that relied on myself only" was
also less stressful for her, she adds, as well as being a
marked contrast to managing 1,600 employees, as she had in
Offering venues where singles could meet
proved popular but "it was sometimes hard for people to overcome
their fears and ask for a date or a telephone number. I would
often get calls after a dinner event or a workshop asking
for a contact number of someone they met," Ms. Yarkoni says. "Apart
from being a lot of work for me, that missed the point of
them communication directly."
Therefore she decided to take The
Single Option in a new direction. After reading
about "speed dating" during
a trip to Israel, she decided to adopt the principle of mini
dates to create the opportunity to meet several people in
a short time in a non-threatening environment.
Calling her version Spin-dating, she pre-screens
groups of 16 to 20 people, matched for age, education and
interests, and brings them together for two hours.
"I knew that people would like the idea," she
says, pointing out that the modest cost of $24.50 adds to
the comfort level. "They know they are in a safe environment
and they like having me there."
Following a general introduction ("the
only time when people might feel awkward") women are seated
at tables around the edge of the room while men "spin" from
table to table at 10 minutes intervals.
"They are not allowed to ask for phone
numbers or last names. At the end, they give me a sheet with
the names of any people they are interested in", she says.
Then I check the matches afterwards and put them in touch.
There's an average of 70% of people who choose and are chosen
by the same person."
The track record for the business, which
now has some 3,000 names on its data base, and for individuals
finding long-term partners is good, she adds. "Although people
don't always get back to me with the good news, I know that
there have been at least three marriages and many lasting
relationships so far."
Currently, The Single Option runs an average
of two spin-dating sessions a week. "The hardest part is
to make sure that people coming back for a second spin don't
meet a second time, but it's not usually a problem as new
people sign up all the time." She also runs higher priced "personalized
spins" for individual clients not comfortable in the group
The company still runs a number of special
events. For example, as well as sessions such as golf or
dance workshops, relationship education is still high on
the agenda. On July 24, for instance, Ms. Yarkoni hosts a
one day conference on new approaches to dating.
"I'm very much gearing special events
to educating people. I'm a very practical person," she says.
So I am always looking for ways to help people to re-evaluate
and give them tips and tolls on what to do."
This, she adds, is how the dating coach
section of her business developed. During one-hour consultations
with clients, she suggests ways that they can improve their
dating and relationship skills. "I also redirect people when
necessary. I'm not a psychologist or a lawyer. I'm a business-woman.
And it's not good business to advise someone to start a relationship
if they're not ready. You have to love yourself before you're
The Single Option is
at Suite 447, 1568 Merivale Road. The telephone number is
596-6533, the fax
number is 226-6913, and the email addresses are Spin@CanadianSingles.com or Irene@CanadianSingles.com.
The singles conference,
registration fee is $15, and is on Wednesday, July 24
Dick Bell Park, on Carling Avenue.
Please call in advance
Don't look now,
lovelorn singles, here it comes ...
By Denis Armstrong,
ROMANCE isn't just for
But how do you meet your
soulmate when you're living on Palm Pilots, breakfast meetings
and mutual funds?
Irene Yarkoni is a romantic
entrepreneur who has come to the aid of lovelorn singles.
Spin Dating, a new non-denominational
dating service, is setting up singles aged 20-70. The concept
was devised by a rabbi a couple of years ago for single Jews
interested in meeting other single Jews.
He configured women in
a circle with a corresponding number of men.
If the process works,
it's because it's designed to be safe and sincere. Spins
are held in neutral environments such as a parish hall or
community centre. Every participant is screened to ensure
they are, indeed, single.
"Instead of meeting one
person for two hours, you meet eight prospective matches
in two hours," says Yarkoni. "It's very focused, you don't
That might not sound like
a lot of time until you realize you can tell if there is
chemistry in less than a minute.
The spin is meant merely
as an introductory service. The romance begins afterwards,
when dates to talk further are made.
With a database of 2,500
singles categorized by age, Yarkoni holds up to four spins
a month, with as many as 10 potential couples attending.
"If you meet someone you
are attracted to on the street or in a coffee shop, you are
embarrassed to approach them. This is a missed opportunity
for romance," she explains. "The spin matches people, so
there are no missed opportunities."
LOTS OF VARIETY
In the spirit of 'missing
no opportunities,' I volunteered for my first spin.
It's a balmy Indian Summer
night and I am riding to the Sandy Hill Community Centre,
where 10 women are waiting to give me and nine other guys
the once over.
Seated at desks which
circle the perimeter of the room, colourful cloths hang from
the institutional-issue desks as if to remind all that what
we are bartering on these surfaces will be several dozen
They come in all shapes
and sizes. There is a stunning Russian with gray eyes and
a curious nature; the woman with the census-form list of
questions so long we got halfway through before time was
up; the athletic francophone woman with gourmet tastes; the
cute red-headed property manager who couldn't stop smiling
at me; the MBA who wouldn't smile at all and left me feeling
like I was interviewing for a job; the army brat who laughed
at every joke I could think of and the tall divorcee who
scolded me for being commitment-phobic.
Nervous and reluctant,
I force the questions like a game show host -- whoever asks
the most questions wins. She looks at me in horror, expressing
a preference for men who aren't "control freaks."
Learning the ropes the
hard way, I relax, introduce myself, talk casually, listen
patiently and laugh easily.
Once I got the hang of
it, the nerves calmed and the spin turned out to be slightly
These micro tete-a-tetes
were exhaustive fun. A couple of times it felt like being
on trial defending your life, but because the people are
matched by age, the experience was a pleasant sense of cheery
The first spin costs $50.
Subsequent spins are half that, but be sure to bring throat
lozenges if you enjoy talking. This is two hours of intensive
relating, which requires stamina and charm.
While I did not make a
match, I could have and perhaps should have.
Two women did indicate
That is about the average,
according to Yarkoni.
And I bet I know who they
For more information on
Spin Dating, visit the website at www.canadiansingles.com or
IRENE YARKONI is the matchmaker
behind Spin Dating in Ottawa. The business offers singles
a unique and safe way of meeting several other eligible people
interested in dating.
The Ottawa Citizen,
October 12th 1997
SINGLES NEED HELP SORTING NEW ROLES,
CLUB OWNER SAYS
Convention to offer
weekend of self-help seminars, social events
By Graham Hughes
The Ottawa Citizen
Singles looking for mates
today are confused by the increasingly mixed roles men and
women play, says Irene Yarkoni, owner of The Single
Option, a social club that promotes large-scale
activities for singles.
The women's liberation
movement has given women the power to act in a manner once
reserved for men. Similarly, Ms. Yarkoni says, New Age philosophies
have made it fashionable for men to be sensitive and express
"So," she asks, "is it
any wonder a single man hesitates to approach a woman he
likes, or wonders whether he should let her act?" And, Ms
Yarkoni continues, "is it any wonder that more and more women
do take the initiative without feeling any less feminine,
but rather, entrepreneurial?"
The Single Option
will stage a two-day singles convention in Ottawa on Friday
Men, today, have become
shy, Ms. Yarkoni says, while women are bolder, but "new rules
as to what each has to do are not yet established and practiced." Men
who are not shy may turn women off, she says, because they
appear aggressive and insensitive, while a woman without
initiative may be perceived by a man as having no interest
"The problem lies in deciphering
behavioural codes. Do I know what she really means? Does
he understand my gestures?" To overcome the uncertainty,
Ms. Yarkoni says, men and women "must become more aware of
who they are, and feel more secure with their own personalities".
The seminars will help
break the ice, Ms. Yarkoni says, while giving participants
some insight, so that when they get together for the wrap-up
dinner and dance, they will not be in the shy stage that
characterizes firt-time meetings.
Seminar speakers include
image consultant Lynne Mackay, who will discuss first impressions
and how to improve them through the selection of clothes
Jack Fault, a True Colours
and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, uses a quick quiz to help
participants identify temperament, and then discuss how various
temperaments interact and influence mating styles.
Betska K-Burr, an inspirational
speaker, trainer, performance coach and author, will help
participants learn to use their "inner power" to help them
be happier while single. Those ready to meet a partner will
learn how to prepare for a long term relationship.
A Saturday-morning stroll
in the Gatineau Park is also scheduled so conventioneers
can mingle and chat.
Events are individually
priced, although all but Saturday's seminar can be attended
for a package price of $60. The seminar is an additional
$39.95. For information call 596-6533.
Oh, yes. For those who
find Mr. or Ms. Right during the two days, Sunday has been
Convention held at
The Chateau Laurier, Ottawa.