Have you heard the news? Dating apps are out. Meeting IRL is back.
Well, at least in theory. You see, single men and women are burnt out from all of the swiping and first dates that go nowhere. Most of us wish we could go back to the days where people met in person and struck up a relationship from there.
Trouble is, meeting someone in person is a lot harder than it used to be. The biggest stumbling block, without a doubt, is the fact that we’re really out of practice. We rely on our cell phones, headphones, and selfie sticks to avoid making contact with other people; saying “hello” to a stranger really is a big deal.
In fact, the amount of people who suffer from anxiety, including social anxiety, has increased dramatically in recent years. Social anxiety can cause people to fear judgment from others in social situations, which means we talk ourselves out of approaching strangers in public—even when someone could use a hand!
I know I’m not the only one who talks myself out of being the first to say hi. Here are seven excuses we need to ditch if we’re going to have more real-life face time.
01. He will think I’m creepy.
Fear of coming across as creepy is very real (especially for men). Take it from Verily contributor Isaac Huss: It’s one of the biggest reasons guys don’t approach you first. So if you are worried about coming across as creepy for being the first to say hello, don’t worry—the guy across the room is probably battling the same fear. More likely, your bravery will be a relief to the poor guy who is desperately trying to think of the smoothest non-creepy thing to say.
02. He probably wants to be left alone.
This excuse is one of my personal favorites, but it’s the most desperate of them all. Think about the context: If you see a nice-looking person in the middle of reading a book, working out in the gym, or having an intimate conversation with someone else, then yeah, he probably wants to be left alone. But if you see a guy sitting by himself at a bar; standing alone at a party, a subway car, or the elevator; or waiting in line at the sandwich shop—he probably wouldn’t mind having a chat with someone. All you are doing is saying hi and introducing yourself, so if the person you approach wants to be left alone, then he will make it clear and you can smile and part ways . . . or resume reading that article on your phone.
03. It will be awkward.
OK . . . say I do approach this person. What happens next?? We can’t possibly script the rest of the conversation, which leaves room for that dreaded awkward silence. I dread awkwardness. I don’t know about you, but it’s at this point in my internal monologue that I abort mission.
The truth is, any scenario is really only as awkward as you make it. Why can’t a break in the conversation just be a break in the conversation? Why does it have to be an awkward one? What makes it awkward is that you feel awkward, and you are just assuming the other person feels uncomfortable, too.
My solution to my own awkwardness? Focus on making the other person feel comfortable. It’s my tactic on first dates, too, and it works like a charm. If you are more focused on making the other person at ease, it won’t occur to you to feel awkward. Problem solved.
04. I can always take a selfie.
Taking a selfie is one of the biggest wasted opportunities to meet new people in modern day. First of all, situations in which you would want a picture are the perfect context for meeting someone. You are probably having fun or enjoying a spectacular view, which is a ready-made commonality with everyone around you. Second, it just makes sense. Yes, you could take the picture at a super-unflattering angle . . . or you could ask the cute guy standing right next to you to snap something that you can actually frame. No-brainer.
05. What if he is creepy?
Ah, touché, another possible discovery upon approaching a stranger. But you should give yourself a little more credit. The human brain is quick to pick up on any possible threat around us; our nervous system typically reacts before we are aware of what exactly it is that creeps us out. With that in mind, if anyone makes you nervous, afraid, or even just alert, don’t approach them. But be honest with yourself: Are you worried that he might be creepy because you’re getting creepy vibes, or are you just looking for an excuse to not say hi?
If you are in a public place, feel safe, and you really want to make friends with someone, then your risk of danger is probably pretty low. Bring a wingwoman, make friends with the bartender, and don’t feel obliged to linger if things do get weird. You can even plan an escape route if that makes you feel more comfortable. Do what you need to do to ensure you’re safe—and then go for it.
06. What if he thinks I’m hitting on him?
What if he thinks you’re hitting on him? Does it really matter? Yes, your pride will be hurt (understandably), but it’s his problem if he rejects a friendly introduction. Most people won’t read into someone being friendly—they’re too busy enjoying your refreshing friendliness. Oh, and if you put away your phone, you’ll be amazed at the natural conversation starters life has to offer. He’ll soon realize that you’re actually interested in him as a person.
07. I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
This is probably the most pathetic of all our excuses and one I am ashamed to say I have used before. One of the most natural introductions is a helping hand. When we see someone struggling with a bag, looking lost, or taking a selfie, it’s time we stop overthinking it and just come to the rescue. Yes, they probably will figure it out on their own. But it would be way nicer if they got a smile and assistance and got to meet a lovely woman instead. Your conscience and your struggling dating mojo will thank you!
Photo Credit: Cynthia Chung