By Nancy Slotnick
Dating apps have their advantages, true. Pools of eligible are literally at your fingertips. Or is it baskets of deplorables? Well, there’s the rub. There’s no way to find out until you meet in real life. So why not cut out the middleman every once in a while and meet the old fashioned way: face to face.
People always ask where to go to meet someone. I tell them it’s not so much about the Where. It’s about the How.
First thing is you have to expect to meet someone. Be open to talking to a stranger. Lower your guard about striking up conversation. You can start in elevators, on subways, in parks. Start with easy targets where there’s no romantic interest, like old people or dogs or kids. Smile and have an opening line. You’ll start finding that New Yorkers are a lot friendlier than you thought.
Once you have worked the muscle of engaging with new people, you are ready to try it for romantic gain. Let’s say you’re at a networking event or party or bar. Here’s a step-by-step approach. Be willing to go solo. I’m not saying that you have to attend the entire event alone- that is way scary, but get there early on purpose and pretend to be looking for a friend. Or leave the group that you are with to get a drink or hit the restroom and use the opportunity to work your game. If you want to try this with a wing woman/man or a pack, it can be done. But be aware that your friends can make it harder for you. A guy will not be that likely to approach a group for fear of public humiliation, so you have to do what I call turning your Cablight on.
Just like a New York City taxicab, people have a light that they can turn on to show they are available. It can be done with eyes, smile, a flip of the hair or open body language. It can be done by working into conversation the fact that you live alone or that you are tired of Tinder or that you don’t have a plus one for some awesome event where you have an invite. These are all Cablight On signals.
Let’s say you feel ready to turn your light on and you are willing to go it alone for a bit. Start off on the side of the room in an area where no one will notice you so that you can do Step 1.
Step 1: Scoping
In any given large event, party or bar, there are likely to be about three strong possibilities for a date prospect. It’s not always obvious who that will be. You have to scope the room and see who seems right for you. Think of it like Swiping In Real Life. (SWIRL??) Just like on Tinder, the best looking guys are not always the most suitable partners. Check out these guys and see if they are the type to put up a photo of themselves with their shirt off on top of a red corvette or to be next to their trusty dog. Sometimes it makes sense to wait until he smiles so you can catch something about his personality. The quality to look for is the diamond in the rough, i.e. the understated guy who is loved by his friends and not necessarily the aggressive predatory type. The guys who will make a beeline for you across the room the second you walk in the door is often one of the “vultures” who goes after all the new blood. The guy who is more shy and less likely to approach is probably the better catch. So choose three “targets” on your radar screen and try to initiate Step 2.
Step 2: Eye Contact
Attempt to make eye contact or connection without staring. If you catch a guy’s eye, try to hold the eye contact 2-3 seconds longer than you normally would, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable. Try to smile with your eyes, like Tyra Banks suggests. If you can pull off a smile or a wink, you’re a pro. Otherwise, like the rest of us, you should just look away after 3 seconds, with a tone of embarrassment. (A guy friend of mine calls this “Caught stealing.”) Then a few minutes later you look again. Chances are that he’s looking too- i.e. doing the double-take. This is a game that men generally know and understand. A lot of women are missing the boat on this. If it’s done well then the guy might come over to you. Talk to him long enough to see if he seems like he’s lecherous or he’s cool. If it’s the latter then score!! You don’t even need to do all the future steps. If it’s the former then find a polite yet curt way to move on. One thing to realize about turning your Cablight on is that you will also get unwanted attention and you have to get good at saying No when you’re not interested.
Step 2: Position yourself near the Target
If the eye contact didn’t work or wasn’t possible (maybe he’s a foot taller than you?) then you have a little more reconnaissance work ahead of you. Choose one of your targets and position yourself near enough to where he is standing so that he could easily strike up conversation with you. If he is at the bar, then pretend that you need a water or a straw. If you are with friends then tell them to follow with you across the room. Only tell your friends what’s going on if you are 95% confident that they are good wing women/men who won’t sabotage you. If you’re unsure about this, then just take charge without explanation or, as I suggested earlier, go solo.
One of the worst social scenarios for meeting men is a set of two girlfriends engrossed in conversation with their backs towards the room. If you engage in this behavior you are literally giving guys the cold shoulder and I have no sympathy for the fact that you will surely end the night complaining to your girlfriend that there were no good guys at the party. Attempt to make eye contact from your new position in the room and again, if you do it right, the guy may come up to you. If not, not to worry. As Bumble knows all too well, a lot of guys like or need the other person to make the first move. After all, men get just as nervous about dating as their female counterparts. Women always forget this fact. So if Steps 1 and 2 have not materialized into a conversation, then proceed to Step 3. Keep in mind that if you are artful in your approach on these steps, the guy will never even know he has been targeted. To this date my husband claims that he made the first move, but I’m pretty positive that I had the opening line.
Step 3: Have the Opening Line
It is immaterial who makes the very first move in dating. And just because you have the Opening line doesn’t mean that you have to do the asking out as well. Striking up conversation is the most important and boldest part of the process. They call opening lines an “ice breaker” because there can be steely cold silence between strangers at first. Once both parties warm up, then anything can happen from there. One of my favorite opening lines is “You look familiar!” even if they don’t. The reason why this one works is that it begs the question “What neighborhood do you live?” or “Where did you go to school?” or “Where did you grow up?” All of these questions warm up the conversation and get the other person engaged. Once you are engaged in conversation, the chemistry will either speak for itself or not. If the guy is rude or gives one-word answers, you can always walk away. And you should! If he was just slow on the uptake, then he might come back later. But it’s also possible that he has a girlfriend or boyfriend or he’s just a jerk. Getting the conversation doesn’t guarantee success. But I can guarantee that it’s not personal to you if you don’t get the response you want. So keep trying this multiple times! You will improve and learn about yourself and your targets and hopefully it can be fun. If you use these Steps and repeat them ten times, I can virtually promise that a date will transpire. (Or at least phone number exchange.) I can actually promise that if you try these Steps ten times and it doesn’t work then I will give you a free coaching session. Tweaking the details will not be hard. Getting things going at first is the hardest part of dating.