First impressions count for everything. Too many of my geeky brothers and sisters know they don’t necessarily make a good first impression and think it’s unfair that people won’t give them a chance for a second one.
And they’re right. It isn’t fair. Unfortunately, the world at large couldn’t give a six-legged rat’s ass about what’s fair or not; people are going to judge you right off the bat, and you need to know how to present your best self right from the get-go. If you have to explain or justify yourself, you’ve already lost. Nobody cares if you run off at the mouth when you’re nervous or if you aren’t used to being the center of attention. Nobody is going to give a damn how well meaning you were if the joke you lead off with sailed over their heads or – worse – actually offended them. You’re now in damage control mode, which is not the place you want to be right when you meet somebody new.
Now, the more physically attractive you are, the more social akwardness you can get away with. Brad Pitt can get away with a limp-handshake and an offensive joke when meeting someone for the first time.
You are not Brad Pitt. So if you’re going to be getting out there and meeting new people, you’d better put in the time and effort to make sure that your first impression is a good one.
I simply can’t stress this enough: talking to people is a skill. Being smooth, suave or charming are all skills. Nobody was born able to flirt the boxers off the hotties; it takes time and practice. Now, some people are naturally extroverted. Some people are naturally introverted. Geeky types especially tend to be introverted – it’s a part of the subculture. After all it’s easier to feel comfortable with strangers when you know that you already have interests in common. But whether you’re outgoing or naturally shy, it still takes time and effort to get good at flirting and being charming, especially with people you’re attracted to. If you’re the naturally shy or withdrawn type or just otherwise have anxiety issues when approaching new people… take time and practice. The more you make talking to new people a part of your day to day life – whether it’s the waitress at the diner, the checkout clerk at the grocery store or the cute stranger in the mystery section of the bookstore – the more it will become part of who you are. You’ll be far more at ease with approaching the people you’re attracted to, and that ease will make you that much more attractive to others.
One common issue I see amongst geeks when it comes to talking comes down to speed and clarity. Many geeks, male and female, speak very quickly. In fact, the more nervous or excited they get, the faster they talk, leading them to sound like hyper-caffeinated chipmunks. This can be endearing to some, but to most of the world, it comes off as nervousness. If you want to make a good impression, you need to slooooow yourself doooooown. It can take conscious effort, especially if your heart is racing or you’re warming up to your topic. To help slow yourself down, control your breathing. Breathe in through your nose, hold it for a second, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Conscious control of your breathing, keeping it slow and regular, will help slow down your heart rate and in turn, how quickly you speak. If you’re the type whose brain is three steps ahead of their mouth – leading to saying things that you’ll regret ten seconds later – learning how to slow your roll will help cut down on the “OhshitdidIreallysaythatoutloudI’mSOsorry…” moments.
The most important aspects however, are simple body language: eye contact, a firm handshake, correct posture and smiling.
In fact, let me stress that last one more time: smiling. Far, far too many nerds out there seem to resent the effort it takes to move the corner of their mouths. They may be having the time of their lives, but you could never tell from their faces; they’ve had the same solemn look the entire time. This can be incredibly off-putting, especially if you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t know you. Your close friends may be able to tell, but that’s not going to help you in the dating arena. So fucking smile already. A real one, one that actually reaches into your eyes. Tell jokes in your head if you have to.
Y’see, we like people who smile at us. Smiling is reciprocal. Smiling makes us feel good. It reassures us that everything’s ok. So smile, goddamn it.
Embrace The Geek Side
Now I know a number of you are reading this and thinking “What the hell? You just got done telling us to dial back how geeky we are, and now you’re saying be proud of it? Contradict yourself much?”
No, actually, I’m not. You should be proud of being a geek. There’s nothing shameful about being a geek. I’m proudly a geek. I have a custom made Green Lantern ring that I wear on a daily basis. Shit, I have the mark of the Arashikage ninja clan tattooed on my forearm. I wear my geekiness on my skin, literally.
However: there are levels of acceptable geekiness, and those levels are going to vary depending on who you’re talking to.
Think about sports fans. It’s one thing when you have a favorite sports team and you watch the game with your friends. It’s another to have season tickets to every home game. It’s yet another thing when you have season tickets and you show up dressed in the jersey of your favorite player. And it’s still another thing entirely when you have season tickets and you show up at every game painted in the team colors and turning every conversation you have to how awesome Tim Tebow’s last-minute touchdown was or how LeBronn betrayed Cleveland when he signed with Miami.
It’s easy to over-geek, especially with someone who isn’t at the same level of geekiness as you are.
But if you act like there’s something shameful about being a geek, then people will treat it like it’s shameful. You shouldn’t treat being a geek as though you have an STD; being a geek, having something you’re passionate about is a bonus. Passion is sexy. People like it when you have passion for things in your life.
You just need to be able to express it in a clear and interesting way, especially to someone who knows nothing about it. So talk about it. It can take some time to get right; not everybody is a born pitchman. So learn how to boil your love for your hobby down into small, easily understandable bits If you can hold a conversation with a stranger about your hobby in a way that’s interesting and accessible, in a way that lets your passion and excitement shine through and keep their attention… you’re ready to date while nerdy.