Despite the fact that approach is actually one of the least important parts of dating, it usually remains one of the most terrifying for many men. Lots of guys, especially guys who are shy, suffer from approach anxiety, or who are socially inexperienced, dread approaching women the way I dread the hooded figures from the the dog park1 or the giant spider-like things that shuffle out of the Underdark when it’s 3 AM and I haven’t been sleeping and also I’ve taken a heroic dose of Mescaline.
Many men wish that women would make things easier by being willing to take the initiative themselves. But, despite social progress and the ardent wishes of many, many men, the accepted cultural narrative places the onus on men to make the first move. And in fairness, there are women who simply prefer men to be the aggressor and won’t be the one to approach them. But there are also plenty of women who can and do approach guys… provided he’s the right guy.
You could be that guy… as long as you know the secrets to making women come to you.
On Monday I talked a lot about the reasons why women don’t approach men, and the social and cultural barriers that discourage women from making the first move. There is a great deal of social programming that warns women against being “that girl” – the pushy, clingy or “desperate” guy-chaser who drives men away, and there are many men who react badly to women who are “too forward”. You may not be one of them… but she has no way of knowing that. So if you want women to approach you, you have to understand how to make women feel comfortable enough to make the first move.
Shut Up and Dress Well
Look, there’s no getting around this: if you want to be the sort of guy that women approach, you have to put some effort into your appearance. You don’t have to look like Michael Ealy or Ian Sommerhalder, but if you’re looking like you rolled out of bed and into whatever happened to be on the floor around you, women aren’t going to be inclined to linger in your presence no matter how hot you are or aren’t.
As I’ve said before: there’s being good looking, and then there’s being attractive. One is about your physical looks and the other is about your overall presentation. If you want women to be approaching you, you have to pay attention to your style, your grooming and your smell. A good haircut, keeping any facial hair neatly trimmed and clean, stylish clothes that actually fit right ((I literally can’t emphasize the need for a proper fit enough.)) and proper use of deodorant make you far more approachable than the sloppy-looking guy in the baggy sweatshirt with the stains and the jeans that reek of cigarette smoke with bed-head and three days’ worth of stubble.
Why? Because it takes advantage of what’s known as the Halo Effect, a cognitive bias that causes our overall impression of someone to affect how we think about them.
Someone who takes care of their appearance and takes the time and effort to look good is going to be seen by others as being nicer, friendlier, more likable and – critically – more approachable. This doesn’t mean that you need to be rocking a three-piece suit at all hours, but if you’re going out of the house, you want to make sure to take the time to look sharp. After all, you never know when you might run into someone amazing that you might want to get to know.
Make Sure Your Body Language Isn’t Driving Her Off
One of the things I’m always harping on is the importance of body language. We pick up far more information about a person – consciously and subconsciously – from non-verbal cues than we do from just about any other source. If you want women to approach you, then you have to make sure you’re not waving them away with closed off or unfriendly body language.
To start with, you need to relax. Humans are an empathetic species; we pick up on each other’s emotions and that can directly affect how we feel. When you’re coming off as tense or upset, you’re going to end up making the people around you feel uncomfortable. If you’re relaxed, they’ll feel relaxed. So take a deep breath, hold it for the count of five, then exhale slowly. As you exhale, let the tension drain out of your limbs and shoulders. Let everything loosen up. Imagine an invisible thread attached to the crown of your skull. Let that thread pull you upward to your full height while your arms dangle loosely at your sides.
Next, make sure you aren’t closing yourself off from everyone else. Slumped shoulders, crossed arms or legs, and looking down towards the floor all screams “don’t talk to me”; anyone standing like that is closing themselves down and turning people away. You want your body language to be open and inviting, with your shoulders back (but not too far back; you’re enjoying yourself, not standing at attention), and arms open. Not only is this a more friendly and accommodating pose, but it makes you look more confident as well. Similarly, you want to position yourself so you’re open to the center of the room. If your back is to the people around you – you’re facing the bar, you’ve sequestered yourself in a corner somewhere – you’re putting up yet another barrier that makes you less approachable; someone who’s already nervous about coming up and saying “hi” is going to take this as a sign that she shouldn’t bother.
Most importantly, however: you need to make eye contact and smile. One of the reasons why women don’t approach is because of how many guys react badly to women making the first move. Making eye contact and giving a relaxed, genuine smile is a sign of confidence and friendliness. Averting your eyes or avoiding eye contact tells people that you don’t want to talk to them and will make people avoid you instead.
Give Approach Invitations
Want to let women know it’s OK to come talk to you? Take a page from their playbook and give them what’s known as an approach invitation. Because women are taught not to show too much overt interest, they have a number of non-verbal ways of making themselves approachable and making sure that guys know it’s ok to come over to them – a mix of smiles, body language cues and gestures. One of the most common – and frequently overlooked – is through eye contact. For example: a woman who wants to signal interest in someone will often make eye contact, look away, make eye contact again – usually from a lowered gaze – and give a smile.
If you want to indicate to a woman that you’re open to being approached, then you want to apply a similar strategy. The simplest way is to make eye contact with the person – especially if she‘s been checking you out, smile and orient your body towards her; this indicates that yes, you saw her noticing you and you’re interested in her. Not sure if this is too subtle? Want to make sure she understands that you’re open to being approached? Give her a more visible sign – guys giving the eyebrow flash is a long-recognized sign of interest, as is a nod that yes, you see her and you’re open to talking. Raise your glass at her in a salute. There will also be plenty of times when you may want to be slightly more direct and give a head nod indicating that she should come over. Some guys have success with making a “come here” gesture with their hands and waving her over; it’s a bold move and one that’s easy to mess up by seeming too demanding, but it can work. Just don’t bro out and make a stupid joke like “I just wanted to see if I could make you come from a distance. Now imagine what I could do this close…”
Yes, I’ve seen people actually do this. No it didn’t work. It did, however, get them covered in amaretto sour, which provided me with no end of amusement.
Remember: regardless of whatever invitation you give, however subtle or obvious, you want to be smiling. I literally can’t emphasize this enough. A warm smile is the difference between “You’re awesome and I’d love to talk to you” and “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”
Give Her an Opening
Think of all the times when you’ve seen someone you’ve been interested in. Maybe it was at a bar. Maybe it was on the quad between classes. Maybe it was at a friend’s party. You’d love go go talk to her but – oh shit, she’s with her friends.
Now you’re too intimidated to try to go over and introduce yourself while she’s around all those people, so you decide that you’ll just wait until there’s a chance to catch her alone. So you wait.
Every time it seems like she’s about to go off on her own, someone else comes in and starts talking to her. But now you’re aware you’re verging into creeper territory, so you walk a way and hope to catch her later… only “later” never comes because by the time you’ve decided to give it another shot, she’s disappeared.
Guess what? As intimidated as you feel about approaching her when she’s with all of her friends? She feels the exact same way about approaching you when you’re with yours. Approaching someone you don’t know who’s in a group isn’t any less daunting when you’re a woman. If you’re with your guy friends, she’s going to feel like she’s not just having to talk to you but deal with all of their silent (or not so silent) judgement. If you’re in a mixed group… well, is that woman your girlfriend? Your wife? Your sister? A friend from work? She has no idea if she’s going to be welcomed and is just as worried about being humiliated as you would be approaching a group of women.
So if you want her to approach you, you have to make sure to give her an opening. Step away from the group for a minute or two. You may step away to grab a drink, check out something you saw earlier, check your text messages or just grab some air… but deliberately separating yourself from everybody gives her an opportunity to come up to you when she doesn’t feel like she has to work up even more courage just to say “hey”.
Want to be more approachable? Then you need to enjoy yourself.
Fun is, hands down, the most attractive aspect of a man and someone who is having fun is going to be more interesting and more appealing to others. And because we’re empathetic animals, our moods are contagious. When we’re around someone who’s joking with their friends, laughing, dancing or otherwise having a good time, we’re more likely to be enjoying ourselves as well. We look at people who are happy and enjoying themselves and imagine that they’re doing well for themselves because, hey, they’re clearly in a good mood!
Someone who is cranky, upset, depressed or gloomy isn’t someone we’re going to want to approach; they bring our mood down and suck the life out of the room… not something that’s going to make them appealing to others. Plus, the guy glowering in the corner is going to seem far more intimidating and judgmental than the one laughing and having fun with his friends – another thing that makes women less likely to approach.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be an extrovert in order to be approachable; introverts are just as capable of indicating that they’re enjoying themselves, even if it means they’re in a smaller group or positioned away from the main crowd. Even if you’re just people-watching on your own, doing so with a smile and open body language will indicate that you’re actually having fun… and that will make you seem more enticing to the people around you.
Don’t Expect Her To Do All The Work
Keep in mind: you can’t just sit around and expect women to do all the heavy lifting for you. Too many people use “women should approach more” as an excuse to avoid risking getting rejected. The cold hard truth of the matter is, even if she does approach you, that’s no guarantee that it’s going to work out or you’re not going to get shot down. And frankly, if you’re not willing to step up and approach women instead of just waiting for them to come to you, you’re not likely to be having any success even if they do make the first move.
But when you understand how to be more appealing and more approachable, when you catch that special someone’s eye, she’s going to be intrigued… and she’s going to be much more likely to come over and talk to you.
- Don’t go to the dog park. The dog park will not harm you [↩]