One reason why a lot of guys have a hard time meeting women is because they’ve put ALL of their focus on ONLY talking to women, and even then, only women that they’re attracted to.
The truth is that the most popular and socially successful men — the ones who do the best with women — tend to be the ones who talk to everyone. Part of the secret to their success is that they know how to connect with people and build relationships that lead to the results they’re looking for, whether it’s networking, making new friends or meeting and dating new and amazing women.
They’re able to start conversations and talk with just about everyone they meet. And today, I’m going to teach you how.
- How you can start a conversation with anyone at any time
- When you should approach people directly, and when you should use a more indirect approach to start a conversation
- Why asking a stranger for a favor helps turn them into friends
- How to get people to come talk to you
- What the most socially successful people do that makes them instantly magnetic
…and so much more.
Like the podcast? Become a Dr. NerdLove patron at Patreon.com/DrNerdLove
Want more dating advice? Check out my books at www.www.doctornerdlove.com/books
I want to talk about a question I get from guys ALL THE TIME — whether it’s folks writing into my column, clients I’m coaching or in the NerdLove Academy Facebook group: “How do I start getting better at approaching women I’m into.”
And to be honest: 9 times out of 10, they’re asking the wrong question.
Part of the reason why a lot of guys have a hard time meeting women, whether they’re trying to do so through warm approaches — where they have a pre-existing social connection, usually through mutual friends, running in the same social circles, going to the same college — or cold approaches — where they’re both total strangers to each other — is because they’ve put ALL of their focus on ONLY talking to women, and even then, only women that they’re attracted to.
That’s… not really a recipe for social success. Even under the best of circumstances, you’re sabotaging your own attempts at meeting people. Not only do you end up signaling that you’re really just there to try to pick up women, but more often than not, you’re also trying to go from “ok not really talking to anyone” to “SUPER SOCIAL SEDUCER” mode, which is a lot like trying to shift from first gear to fourth without using the clutch or…
look, I’m not a car guy, just roll with it.
… and now I’ve just remembered Super Seducer exists. Oof.
The truth is that the most popular and socially successful men — the ones who do the best with women, especially in the long-term — tend to be the ones who talk to EVERYONE. Part of the secret to their success is that they know how to connect with people — not women, PEOPLE — and build relationships that lead to the results they’re looking for, whether it’s networking, making new friends or meeting and dating new and amazing women.
They’re able to start conversations and talk with just about everyone they meet.
And you can, too; I’m going to teach you the basics of how to be able to start a conversation with anyone, at almost any time. This is an incredible skill to develop because not only does this make it easier to talk to women when it “counts”, but you also end up making new friends or connections and meeting fascinating people you might never have talked to otherwise.
The first step to pay attention to the social context and let that shape how you approach people. One of the mistakes a lot of folks make is that they try to narrowcast everything, focusing on “OK, here’re the openers I use at a bar, here’re the ones I use at a party, here’s how I approach someone walking down the street”. And honestly, while these can be useful at first, like training wheels on a bike, what usually ends up happening is that you get a nasty case of analysis paralysis where you’re lost in your own head trying to game out the perfect thing to say and end up just psyching yourself out.
It’s much simpler, easier and less panic inducing to pay attention to the social context. Is this a place where people go to meet people and make new connections? Is this a place where folks know at least a few other people, like a party or a networking event, even places like college campuses or classes like salsa dancing or making sushi? These are all examples of places where people are going in order to make new friends or build up their social circle, and it’s expected that folks are going to introduce themselves and meet people they don’t know yet.
In those occasions, it’s easier to simply be direct; you’re all there for the same reason, and it’s understood that by being there, you’re saying that you’re cool with meeting new people. This is when you would say something like “Hey, you seem like you’re really interesting and I just wanted to meet you” or “Hey, I don’t think I’ve met you yet.” Then you say “I’m…” and say your name. You’re making your intentions clear, in a calm and confident way; you’re simply introducing yourself. From there you can segue into getting to know them; personally I like to start with an open-ended question like “so what’s your story” or “what brought you out tonight?” These work well because it invites them to give a more elaborate and involved answer instead of something really short and you’re able to move to actually having a conversation with them.
You don’t have to worry about seeming weird or unusual for wanting to talk to them; it’s expected for people to introduce themselves and strike up a conversation.
That behavior is less expected at, say, a grocery store or a coffee shop or a book store. Here, it’s easier and more acceptable to go indirect; you’re matching the way you start a conversation with the venue. So, if you’re at a coffeeshop or Barnes and Noble or what have you and you want to start a conversation with someone, you would use an indirect manner of getting the conversation started — essentially, speaking in a way that invites someone to talk to you, rather than just introducing yourself.
One of the quickest and easiest ways is to ask a question, especially asking a favor or advice. To give you an example and help you get into the right mindset, there was a time at a local book store where I started a conversation with someone who was browsing the same section as I was; I looked over and said “you seem like you know this section pretty well, is there an author you’d recommend to someone just starting to get interested in…” and I want to say it was historical fiction or something. She said “yeah, you should check out…” and pointed out an author I thankfully hadn’t read yet. I said “thank you” and then “I’m Harris,” and we started talking.
The nice thing about asking for advice or a favor is that it invokes what’s known as the Ben Franklin effect; basically, we do favors for people who we like, so when we do a favor for someone, we tend to unconsciously assume we like them. The same principle applies with “hey, can you watch my laptop for a second” or other quick, low-investment asks or favors. These are easy for people to do without having to commit a lot of time or effort, and so they’re much more likely to agree to it.
You can also give a conversational invitation by making a comment — voicing your internal thoughts or making a situationally relevant observation about something going on like turning to someone next to you and saying “um… am I crazy or did a clown walk into the bar?”
This actually happened to me once; turned out the clown was a porn star who’d just gotten kicked out of the hotel where they’d been filming. Then he pulled out a gun and slapped it on the bar. Fortunately that was a prop he carried around but still… weird night. However, starting that conversation lead to my meeting people who I’m still friends with. In fact, that bar’s one of my regular hang-outs.
Y’know. When we’re actually able to go to bars.
You can also make a comment or observation about something — again, something relevant, that other people notice — and just wait. If you say something like “wow, I haven’t heard this song in forever”, a lot of times, someone WILL respond, especially if they like that song too.
Again, personal example, I did this while standing in line for the bathroom at a place in New York and a song from this kinda obscure 80s band Anything Box came on and I said something like “Wow, I don’t think I’ve heard this song in the wild since, like, 1989” and the guy next to me mentioned that he’d only heard it once on the radio and that’s how I ended up having a conversation with someone — who I would later realize was Ryan Reynolds — reminiscing about what it was like trying to find music before Google.
You can also bankshot the conversation by talking to someone else. When I go out to eat or I’m going to a bar just to hang out, I’ll often post up at the counter or the bar instead of getting a table and talk to the server or the bartender about… well, almost anything really, usually something like local issues or events. A lot of times, other people will join in the conversation, especially if you and the person you’re talking to are having a good time. One of my friends does this regularly at one of her favorite restaurants; in fact, she’s done it so often that she developed a regular Saturday morning breakfast crew.
Another way of getting conversations started is simply to give OTHER PEOPLE something to talk to YOU about. A lot of you may have heard about peacocking — basically the reason a lot of us wore some… really regrettable shirts back in the early 2000s. The idea was that by dressing in an unusual or eye-catching manner, you would be noticeable, display confidence and maybe — MAYBE — give people a reason to talk to you.
Now while dressing like a cowboy caught up in an explosion at a fetish club isn’t the answer, having a conversation piece or an eye-catching item of clothing will invite people to talk to you. As regulars know, I wear a lot of vintage band shirts, bands I loved growing up. I get a LOT of people who see that I’m wearing Scorpions or Def Leppard or something and talk to me about it because they love them too. It’s an easy conversational hook. The same goes with my tattoos; lots of people will ask me about them, what they mean, where did I get them done. Or they may notice that I’m wearing a Green Lantern ring and now we’re going to bond because we both recognize this nerd shibboleth.
This, incidentally works both ways. I regularly strike up conversations with people who have visible tattoos; I’ll compliment them on their ink, ask them about where they got it done or other tattoos they may have. If they have a geeky shirt I recognize or merch from a band I like, that’s my conversational in too, because I genuinely like those properties or those bands.
It’s simple and direct, and people really enjoy meeting folks who they have tastes in common with.
But it isn’t just a case of wear your favorite Zelda tee and wait for folks to do the work FOR you. You want to be someone that people LIKE to talk to.
Now this is simpler than most folks realize. It comes down to two things. First: you want to be projecting openness, warmth and friendliness. That means having a genuine smile, open, confident body language as well as making it easy for THEM to talk to YOU. This means not hunching over or focusing on your phone or your book, not making eye contact, answering in one or two words or hiding away in a corner.
And part of what helps is to be INTERESTED in people. This is why the folks who JUST talk to women they’re attracted to don’t do well; you’re signaling just how little you’re actually interested in others. The folks who are the most socially successful are the ones who make people — not just women they’re trying to bang, PEOPLE — feel like they’re the most fascinating people on Earth.
That’s no small thing. We rarely meet people who actually want to know what we have to say; more often than not, the people we talk to aren’t listening, so much as waiting for their turn to talk. When you show someone that you’re actually interested in them, you make them feel amazing… and that means that they’ll want to KEEP talking to you.
And most people ARE interesting if you give them a chance. I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve talked to who seemed like they were completely normal and mundane, even a little boring… but just talking for a little while meant I met folks who discovered shipwrecks while scuba diving, folks who were gold miners in Peru, former Argentinian soap-opera stars… All folks who I never would’ve gotten to know if I’d JUST focused on the hot one.
But to do that, you’ve got to give them a chance and the space to show you how interesting they could be.
The best way to do this is to be an active listener; not just asking questions like you’re Larry King, but being able to take what they say, relate to it and use that as a springboard to keep the conversation going. If you don’t have the same experience or you don’t necessarily relate to the answer, you can relate to the value or the emotion behind their answer. And focusing on the emotions — how does it make them feel, what are they excited about, what are they enjoying or looking forward to — makes it easier to connect with them.
With the woman I met at the bookstore, she recommended her favorite author to me, so I asked: what is it that you really like about them? She mentioned how much that particular author meant to her because they was also her father’s favorite and her father taught her to love reading. The way I could relate to that was to talk about how as a kid, I learned that my favorite movie was an adaptation of a book series and that sense of “You mean there’s MORE?!” turned me into a life-long reader. That mutual love of books and reading lead to talking about favorite stories and genres, which lead to deeper, more meaningful conversation that lead to us getting coffee, and then things just moved on from there, culminating with us dating for a while.
But don’t forget that all of this goes both ways. Being able to talk to anyone means being easy to talk TO. That’s why you want to make sure that you make it easier for folks to talk to YOU.
Just as you want to ask open-ended questions so that people will give more than just one-word answers, you want to give people conversational hooks that they can reply to. You already know how weird and uncomfortable it feels when you’re not sure what to say next; if someone’s asking YOU questions or trying to talk to you, you want to make sure that you give them things that turn to conversational threads that THEY can follow and explore as they get to know YOU.
Do this and not only will you meet fascinating people and learn incredible things, but you’ll be making people feel GOOD talking to you. That makes it much easier to make connections that lead to making new friends… and often a whole lot more.