Men: Talking to Women Isn't That Hard
"Are you on OKCupid?" No response. "Are you on OKCupid?" Different woman, same response. The man continued to muddle his way through the packed bar. "Are you on OKCupid?" Like a vagrant panhandling from anyone who will make eye contact with him, the man presses on down the line of 20-something-year-old's jeans, skirts, and dresses, hopes being birthed and destroyed in 5 second intervals.
"You're weird," she says, but before her words have finished he's trying his efforts on the next girl.
As it turns out, that man is a friend of mine. On the heels of a breakup, he figured this might be a good way to pickup on women.
The truth is it's not hard to talk to women.
Most of my life I was terrified to talk to women. I was certain that they wouldn't find me attractive, and would be embarrassed to even exchange words with me. Instead, I would bury myself as deeply as possible into the corner of every party. I would take extra bathroom breaks to practice what felt passable as dance moves in front of the mirror. And once I left the bathroom, I would return to my same corner, arms folded, praying that one of the girls I had noticed may have noticed me. I prayed that she might come over to me, complimenting me on how much better I was at unrequited leering than any of the other men in the room.
But that never happened. And while I do want to eschew many gender roles, the reality is, if you're a man, it's exceptionally unlikely to happen to you either.
It was in my last semester at Berkeley that I finally discovered the confidence to talk to women, which can only be explained by the years of introspection I spent alone dwelling on the issue. That and a semester full of booze and drugs inside the Castro Co-op, where I found the illustrious title of Social Manger bestowed upon me. Basically, it was my job to get people drunk and fucking at least once a week.
The particular night I found my schwerve swerve seems so obvious in retrospect. A housemate of mine and I were watching some late night movie classic (Freddy Got Fingered) in our living room, sitting next to each other on the couch. We had spent the last two hours much like I had spent the last 10 years of my life: never giving recognition to the feelings we each hoped were mutual, instead opting for sweaty palms, awkwardly self-aware personal space, and extended conversations that we both knew would never lead anywhere.
Once we had exhausted our exercise in futility, we both rose to head to our respective bedrooms.
“Hey.” I stopped her. All my life I had lived in such fear. Fear of judgment. Fear of rejection. Fear of acceptance. If an opportunity wasn’t going to land square in my lap then it wasn’t worth the risk of pursuing. But I never stopped to actually examine what those risks were. Sure, a girl might think I’m weird, or off-putting. Or reject me. But she also might accept me – something that was never going to happen unless I tried. You’re never going to get on base unless you step up to the plate, I told myself, because I only think in sports metaphors.
"Wanna come hangout in my room?" I continued. And we did. And we did things I didn't even know were possible to do with a woman. Because I'm a rebel.
From that night forward I was determined that anytime I was interested in a woman, I was going to tell her. Even if the feeling went unreciprocated, it was now out in the world to be consumed by the ether, rather than trapped inside my head where it would slowly consume me.
Pickup Lines Don't Work
Almost every guy I know plods through a word-for-word pickup line before approaching a woman. But here's the truth: pickup lines don't work. There is no incantation that's going to make a woman magically want to sleep with you, let alone have a conversation. But there are plenty of things you can say that might make a woman not want to talk to you at all. Pickup lines at best keep you in a neutral standing. But at worst, they can make you come off as creepy, maladroit, and desperate.
So here's what you should say when you're approaching a woman. You should say "hi". That's right. Just "hi". It's free from supposition, it's disarming, and unless the woman you're talking to is a complete asshole, it guarantees at least she'll say hi back, which means congratulations! You're now having a conversation with a woman! Saying hi is basically asking for the consent of the woman to enter into a conversation.
On the other hand, going up to someone and asking if they're on OKCupid, or nearly any other pickup line is horrible in every way possible. It's throwing conversation at someone who didn't even know they were talking to you in the first place. It's asking them to reveal something personal about they're dating life before they even know what your name is. And it's also placing their value to you squarely on whether or not they might be romantically interested in you. So now, no matter what response comes out of their lips, you've already made them feel exceptionally uncomfortable.
After the Hi
And you don't need to be super clever after the hi either. But you need to be honest. And vulnerable. And that's surprisingly difficult for many men to do. But being honest and vulnerable diffuses the situation. One of the best "After the Hi" moments I ever had was when I pointed out explicitly what was happening to the girls I had just approached.
"I was wondering if I could sit at this table with you guys? I know I have a penis and that implies a romantic dynamic, so it's completely cool if you guys want to tell me to fuck off right now, but this is kinda what guys have to do if they want to talk to women." Everyone at the table laughed and invited me to sit down, and immediately I was a part of their group. Don't dance around tension, but rather break through it head-on.
Be Impressed With The Moment
No one cares that you run biz dev at Salesforce. Sure, it might sound impressive, but it also makes it sound like you're trying to impress, and it makes the whole situation about you. Instead be impressed with the moment: what brought you to where you are, what do you think of the place, what's happening in the world. Topics that engage rather than tell create a conversation - otherwise you might as well just read your OKC profile to her.
At the end of the day, you just have to do it. You have to approach women, and lots of them, and not only be prepared for rejection, but embrace it. Because that's how you learn. The reality is that most women have tons of guys approaching them at bars, many of whom are annoying and they'd rather not talk to - and most of the time, you are that guy. But the solution is not to sit with arms crossed playing video solitaire in the corner, but rather understand than one out of those ten times you talk to a woman, you're going to be perfect for her. And the more you talk, and the more honest you are in your approach, the more welcomed you're going to be.
So stop thinking about it. Stop strategizing. Women aren't weird foreign creatures, and they'd prefer a man who knows that. ---- All new Full Disclosure podcast! Episode 52: Nikita Von James & Eric's Bad Night