One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about approaching women and starting a conversation with them.
The more confident amongst you can stop laughing now.
The thing to keep in mind here is that for a subset of men, the idea of trying to start up a conversation with someone they’re attracted to – with the hopes of getting at least an e-mail or a phone number, if not an actual date – is downright terrifying. And really, when you think about it, it’s understandable. You’re trying to approach someone, convince them that you’re actually a charming and worthwhile individual and attempt to persuade them into starting a relationship. This by itself is almost absurdly difficult on it’s face. When you add in the lack of socialization that many of the nerd persuasion have, as well as accumulated years of damage to one’s self-esteem and the incredibly mixed messages absorbed via pop-culture… small wonder why the mere thought can trigger a lovely surge of adrenaline, isn’t there?
The art of striking up a conversation is, like many things in life, a practiced skill. When you’ve absorbed the constant deluge of “you’re not good enough, you’re not attractive, you’re not worthy” that nerds are frequently subject to, it’s not terribly surprising that they’ll avoid the matter whenever possible, is it? Add in the sausage-fest that a lot of nerd activities tend to devolve into* and you’ve got a perfect storm of social anxiety and inexperience.
Keep in mind: the anxiety and fear you feel is legitimate; your heart is pounding, your hands are sweating, you’re trying to absorb that massive adrenaline dump into your bloodstream that’s telling you to run the fuck away rightthehellnowgogogogo. Don’t let that inner voice tell you that you’re stupid for feeling it or that you’re somehow less of a man. Embrace the sensations and learn how to handle them.
How? Same way you get to Carnegie Hall: take a left at the corner of 56th and 7th Avenue, you’ll never miss it.
Wait, that came out wrong.
What I mean to say is practice and desensitization.
No seriously. I want you to practice talking to women.
Nothing elaborate. There aren’t any “openers” to try or crazy observations to make. Just go to a well-populated, open location and pick out a person (not necessarily a woman) at random, then go up to them and ask if they know what time it is.
That’s it. Ask for the time, thank them, keep walking. It seems absurd, but this is the path towards making your brain accept that going up and talking to attractive strangers is a perfectly normal and even desirable thing. Once you’re more comfortable with the approach in general, pick another day and go to your local shopping district. Pick a woman, preferably one you find attractive and ask her where you can find The Apple Store. Or the Gap. Or the Abercrombie and Fitch store. Or the nearest Starbucks. The destination doesn’t matter (assuming you’re not standing right in front of it); again, it’s about desensitization through repetition. When you get comfortable with this, try to start a short conversation; pretend to be a tourist in your home city and ask her if she can recommend a good restaurant to take your parents to that night. Make brief small-talk before you thank her and leave. The idea here is not only do you want to become more comfortable talking with strangers, you want to make sure you’re able to hold a conversation with them without making them uncomfortable. The more at ease you are, the more at ease they will be.
Continue to up the stakes, as you become more accomplished until you are able to go up to a woman, give her a sincere compliment (not about her figure, her ass, legs or boobs) and walk on Don’t linger, don’t try to turn it into a pick-up situation. Just compliment and boom, out. You’ll be building up your own ability to talk to the women you want and – assuming you do it right – hopefully make someone feel a little better about their day.
(Doctor’s Note: Actually, no, I was wrong. Don’t do this. The last thing you want to do is make someone uncomfortable while you’re practicing approaches. Stick to being able to make small-talk. – Future Doc)
Give it a try.
By the way: as a complete aside, I write this under the assumption that while you feel a certain level of anxiousness at the idea of approaching an attractive stranger, it’s not a literally crippling fear-response. If you have actual, full-on panic attacks when trying to approach someone new, my best advice is to start talking to a therapist; it may well be a physical problem that could be treated with medication and therapy instead of a need to power through it.
*I know this has changed, especially within anime fandom. But still, some cliches exist for a reason.