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I’ll admit, when out with my girlfriends, I’ve always waited for guys to initiate—not only conversations but also the first signs of interest. I wouldn’t dare smile at a stranger across the room or—gasp!—walk up to him. You could say I’ve played the role of the cold-as-ice queen, sitting high on my barstool, arms crossed, coolly eyeing the crowd. And from my perch, I bemoaned how seldom men would make a move. 

I know I'm not the only woman who dares a man to come and talk to her, believing this coy behavior sets her apart and perhaps piques the daring man's interest. But I have come to learn that this behavior is more often than not a deterrent, even for the most intrepid suitor. 

In fact, Verily gentlemen Justin Petrisek and Isaac Huss have a thing or two to say about just how difficult it can be to approach a woman who looks disinterested. "I'd say it's all about (negative) past experiences," Isaac says. "Like the time a woman made so much eye contact with me from across the tiki bar that my friends noticed and asked me if I was going to go over there. So I went and sat down right next to her at the bar and she basically ignored me after hello, leaving me sitting there. It's stuff like that that makes you gun-shy for the next time."

Justin agrees that there are certainly some turn-offs that make him not want to approach some women, "Like if they don't seem like they want to engage in conversation. The immediate response when we introduce ourselves sets the tone for the rest of the evening," explains Justin. "One of the toughest things can be to determine whether our approach is welcome or not. The problem is we can't read minds and know whether you want us to come talk to you or not, so anything a woman can do (body language, an enthusiastic response, introducing us to her friends and bringing us into the conversation) to put our mind at ease goes a long way."

I have to admit, after hearing the guys’ side of things, I can see how hard it must be to approach a woman when her signals indicate your introduction might not be well received.

Although my girlfriends and I go to bars to socialize, we end up huddled in a booth. At parties, you’ll probably find me not mixing and mingling but, instead, secluded in a corner with a confidant. I think back to the nights when I acted totally indifferent around guys who actually seemed interesting, not to mention intelligent and funny. In these situations I burrow deep into my comfort zone, acting as unavailable as possible. Truth be told, I flounder way more than I flirt.

I’ve concluded that it’s time I learn the art of approachability. No more frustrating nights of meeting no guys at all because I was too self-conscious to be sociable.

In my effort to make some changes to the way I approach meeting men, I sought the advice of five of the most confident and graceful women I know. Thanks to their shared wisdom, I’m ready to put myself out there; meet new people; and act more confident. Their secrets to approachability are pretty simple. I hope their tips help you, too, when mingling with guys and navigating the dating world.

01. Don’t Underestimate Body Language

Sometimes, nerves get the best of me, and I nearly ignore the guys whom I’m actually interested in. If you’re like me, clamming up and crossing your arms can be a sort of defense mechanism. Friendly body language, on the other hand, helps break down those walls of insecurity, which we sometimes build around ourselves when interacting with guys.

Isaac explains that there are particular things a woman does that makes him less likely to want to approach her. "If she's sitting (especially in a low chair), it's almost a no-go right away," Isaac says. "Even if there is an open chair nearby, it can really seem like an imposition to invade her (and her friends') space in such an overt way. Otherwise, do you just stand over her? Same thing with sitting at the bar, unless there's an open spot right next to her, it's hard to find a way to talk to her that wouldn't be super awkward. Similarly, any closed body language, even if she is standing." 

Nothing says “approachable” as surely and simply as a smile and eye contact, as Anne Elise suggests. “Really, it’s about being yourself, smiling, and having open body language,” she says. “You don't want to be frowning or crossing your arms, as these gestures are not inviting for anyone.”

Body language can speak as much as, if not more than, your words, so be intentional about how you carry yourself.

02. Have Fun

“If you’re going to be out with girlfriends, I would recommend not traveling in groups larger than three to four. Too many girls can get intimidating,” adds Anne Elise. "The 'girl circle' is ridiculously awkward to break into," Justin explains. "If girls are all huddled together talking in a circle, chances are I am not even going to try. Gives me the impression right off the bat that they are not there to socialize with other people, just with each other."

Still, while surrounding yourself with too many girlfriends may be a barrier, keeping guys at bay, there are definite perks to having a couple of gal pals by your side. Our friends encourage us to be fully ourselves, and they have a special way of making us feel confident.

Rose focuses on time with her friends. When she’s with them, she lives in the moment, not worrying whether guys will approach her. And yet they always do. “Guys are attracted to girls who are happy and comfortable in their own skin,” says Rose. “I think to be approachable, you just have to go somewhere with a small group of friends and enjoy yourself. Guys will see you are having a good time and want to be part of it.”

Time spent with friends never goes to waste. Let the chance of talking to guys stand second to the company of friends, and you won’t feel as if you should be living life for the sole purpose of meeting men.

03. Focus on Friendliness, Not Potential Romance

When talking to a great guy for the first time, it’s easy to think, this could go somewhere! It’s one thing to see potential, but foreseeing an imaginary future with the guy (tagging his last name onto yours and all) places unnecessary pressure on the situation.

Rather than obsessing over potential relationships, Liz tries to maintain a no-pressure perspective when interacting with guys. In doing so, she’s more comfortable (and more approachable) in the end. “What takes a lot of pressure off of me is not looking at every new guy I meet as someone whom I could have a romantic relationship with,” Liz says. “Whenever I've done so in the past I became so intimidated that I didn't make conversation at all. I may have lost some good friendships by viewing it that way.”

By focusing on the present situation—not daydreaming of dating the guy—you can get to know him for who he is. While it’s wise to be intentional, you don’t need to determine compatibility, or even interest level, in the first conversation.

04. Ask Questions

Liz gets to know guys as friends first and foremost. “I think the key to beginning any new friendship is taking a genuine interest in the other person's life,” she says. “Ask them questions. Find things in common. Laugh. Compliment them. I try to worry more about how I can be a positive part of their life, rather than how they're going to impact mine.”

Lucy takes a similar approach. She carries conversations with questions, which open the door for guys to share their experiences or views. For example, Lucy once thought to ask a guy about the origin of his unique first name (turns out, it was Scandinavian). That simple question sparked a solid conversation, and after chatting a few more times, he asked for her number.

Rather than trying to impress a guy in conversation, try focusing on how you can make him feel welcome. If you’re interested in getting to know someone, inviting questions will give him the hint.

05. Be Genuine

Have you ever wanted to share your real passions with someone, but pulled back because you were afraid of being vulnerable or even sounding dorky? Emily gained self-confidence when she embraced her quirks. “Guys like when you’re authentic,” Emily says. “It was when I was my real self, quirks and all, that my husband first took notice.” Emily openly geeked out over Ina Garten, Jane Austen, and The Sound of Music, and sure enough, her future husband admired how comfortable she seemed with herself.

“I think people gravitate towards realness and truth,” agrees Lucy. “Being true to yourself makes you more appealing. If you’re joyful, be joyful. If you’re goofy, be goofy. I think it’s important to hone in on our individual uniqueness. Because that’s what makes life beautiful!”

Don’t be afraid to share your passions. Who knows, a guy may gush over the same things as you or introduce you to something new. It goes without saying, you want men to take interest in the real you. Showing your true colors can put guys at ease and encourage them to be themselves, too.

The art of approachability means being self-confident and finding ways to boost his confidence as well. If a guy catches your interest, find some simple way to let him know. Start with a smile. Ask him inviting questions. Affirm him. And don’t worry about whether he’s interested. Remember, there’s nothing lost in meeting men, only lessons learned and experiences gained. 

Photo Credit: Britt Rene