“Are you too shy to talk to that guy? Don’t doom yourself to failure — take a chance and strike up a conversation.Polka Dot/Jupiterimages/© Getty Images/Thinkstock
Although you may find it depressing that four out of five Americans feel women aren’t treated with the same level of chivalry as they have been in the past, women are taking control whether men hold open doors or not [source: Harper]. In 2010, women made up half of the U.S. workforce — a remarkable achievement because this is the very first time that’s ever been the case. And nearly four in 10 working moms are the breadwinners for their families [source: Center for American Progress]. Women are even gaining ground in one of the most controversial areas of a relationship: control of the TV remote.
But what about the dating scene? Are we still to believe the adage that women are at home waiting for the phone to ring? Or is that changing, too?
"While traditional gender roles still lurk where women are expected to be less forward than men, many men often find it nerve-racking to be the ones who always have to do the approaching," says Dr. Kimberly McGann, assistant professor of sociology at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.
There are almost 97 million unmarried Americans — and when we dig more deeply into those numbers, there are only 88 men for every 100 women [source: U.S. Census Bureau]. Regardless of age (and gender), the dating game can be tough. Although more than 900 dating services have sprung up in the U.S. (including Internet dating sites), dating is still a challenge. While dating difficulties may differ depending on your age, one thing doesn’t: making a first impression. Hold your head high, take a deep breath and follow our tips for approaching that guy who caught your eye.
- Overcoming a Fear of Approaching Guys
- Things to Say When You Approach a Guy
- Tips for Approaching Guys
Overcoming a Fear of Approaching Guys
In a 2004 sex survey conducted by ABC News "Primetime Live," researchers found 51 percent of sexually active women prefer to have sex with the lights off. If a woman can’t be comfortable with her sexual partner in the light, how will she ever get up the nerve to approach a guy who’s caught her eye?
What’s at the heart of both of these problems is fear of rejection. Overcoming your fear is tricky, but with anything that’s worth pursuing, practice makes perfect. Even if you’re not especially attracted to the man across the room, make a point of going over to talk to him. By practicing walking up to a stranger, introducing yourself and turning your introduction into conversation (without relying on any tired pickup lines), you begin to build your confidence — and that means more smiles and less blushing, stammering and sweating.
Insecurity is a turnoff, but so is overconfidence. The sweet spot here is to be yourself — a calm, self-assured version of yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?
While rejection might make you feel like crawling head first into a container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, remember that if your approach doesn’t work, it’s not you that he’s rejecting — he doesn’t even know you yet. Perhaps you two don’t have much in common, or maybe he’s just having a bad day.
The best case? You’ve accidentally stumbled upon your soul mate. But the most likely scenario is that you get to enjoy good conversation and maybe make a new friend.
Methods of Modern Love
For those of you who doubt that your approach makes any difference, consider this: A study conducted by Northwestern University found that regardless of whether a man or woman approaches a potential mate — in this instance, during a round of speed dating — the person who did the approaching felt a greater level of attraction and chemistry with that potential partner afterward.
Things to Say When You Approach a Guy
Be kind to yourself and to your interesting stranger: have something prepared before you find yourself asking, "So, what do you do?" If you must rely on that old standby at least rephrase it. "Tell me about your job," asks the same question without the immediate whiff of cliché. Talking about the weather or a job is an easy way to open a conversation because there’s no wrong answer — these are safe. But there are better topics, and better approaches.
Let the conversation flow naturally. Share your name and ask for his. Give a detail about yourself, but turn the conversation spotlight on to him. Ask open-ended questions rather than anything that can be answered with a yes or no, and listen to what he’s saying rather than waiting for your turn to talk. Look for topics aside from the weather, and work to kick off a conversation. If there’s a game on, talk about sports. A band playing? Remark on it.
Dr. McGann says, "Commenting on someone’s T-shirt is a simple one — if you notice someone with a music festival T-shirt that reads ‘North Forks Music Park,’ a great opener may be, ‘Is that in Rochester?’ It poses a question, which obligates the other person to at least respond. After the initial exchange, someone who is interested is likely to pick up the conversational thread and go someplace else with it."
Remember: If you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it. You don’t want to seem desperate or overbearing, but if you want to ask for his phone number, then ask. Getting his number isn’t demanding commitment. Let him know you enjoyed talking and that you would love to chat again sometime. If you still aren’t comfortable asking for his number, offer him yours.
Tips for Approaching Guys
We all have our social fears — public speaking, for example — and even the most confident woman may feel she can’t approach a guy. But you won’t get what you want until you ask for it. Since even flirting takes practice, get things started with these five easy-to-remember suggestions:
1. Talk to strangers
Contrary to the rule that kept you safe as a child, talking to strangers opens up a world of new possibilities — new people and experiences — and also offers risk-free practice for perfecting your approach, your handshake and your flirting skills. Speaking to a stranger may make you nervous right now, so practice by speaking to several people each day. Before long, it won’t be a big deal. You’ll be surprised at the reactions a simple hello can elicit.
2. Break your own ice
While you may be tempted to break the ice by sending a friend, don’t do it. Having a friend test the waters will only show that you’re insecure and immature. Instead, before you make the walk over to introduce yourself, make eye contact with your man-of-interest and smile at him. This not only shows him that you’re interested, but that you’re confident enough to let him know you’re interested. Did he smile back or send a drink your way? It’s time to introduce yourself.
3. Time your approach
You’re nervous enough before you approach a guy you’re interested in, so be sure you don’t add awkwardness to the situation by approaching him at a less-than-perfect time. Are you with co-workers? Consider flirting with him when your colleagues aren’t around to see. The same is true for a guy in a medium or large group of people. Approach when he’s alone or in a small group to ensure the best reception.
4. Be confident
Be confident when walking up to a man, as if you know he’s already interested and has been waiting for you to come over and introduce yourself. Chances are you have something in common but don’t know it yet. Your happy-hour bar or the parties you attend are likely to be part of the local fabric, and any guys you meet in your favorite hangout spots will probably share some common interests. Think about what those interests may be and start a conversation.
5. Don’t drink
Although having a few drinks may give you the courage to approach an attractive stranger, your drunk self is not going to give others the best first impression. Limit the social lubricant to one drink.
Check out the next page for lots more information about approaching guys. Also, have fun on your date!
Keep in mind that if you initiate the first date, you’re on the hook for planning it. Unless you agree to split the cost fifty-fifty, you should pick up the tab, too.
Lots More Information
- Asking a Potential Date for a Number
- Pickup Lines That Work: Or Will They?
- Surviving Dating’s Most Embarrassing Moments
- Communication Skills for Lifelong Relationships
- ABC News. "The American Sex Survey: A Peek Beneath the Sheets." Oct. 21, 2004. (Oct. 1, 2010.) http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/959a1AmericanSexSurvey.pdf
- Association for Psychological Science. "Breaking the Norm: Experiment makes men and women equally picky when selecting a mate." June 3, 2009. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2009/finkel.cfm
- Boushey, Heather and Ann O’Leary. "Our Working Nation: How Working Women Are Reshaping America’s Families and Economy and What It Means for Policymakers." Center for American Progress. March 2010. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/03/pdf/our_working_nation_execsumm.pdf
- Harper, Jennifer. "Poll: Women today treated with less chivalry." The Washington Times. 2010. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/aug/16/poll-shows-mixed-feelings-about-feminism/
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research. "The Gender Wage Gap: 2009." September 2010. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/C350.pdf
- McGann, Dr. Kimberly. Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nazareth College. Personal interview. Oct. 4, 2010.
- Rosin, Hanna. "The End of Men." The Atlantic. July 2010. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/
- St. George, Donna. "Women Are Gaining Ground In Family Decision Making." The Washington Post. Sept. 26, 2008. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/25/AR2008092504167.html
- U. S. Census Bureau. "Facts for Features: Unmarried and Single Americans Week: September 19 – 25, 2010." July 19, 2010. (Oct. 1, 2010) http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb10-ff18.html