– by Regina Hopkins, Introvert Unbound
It’s rare for a woman to approach a man. But, should you be such a lucky guy who does get approached your odds are better than not that the woman is definitely interested and probably feels at least some attraction for you (and more than likely, quite a bit of attraction!). I know because I’m a woman and this scenario happened to me this past week.
I’d like to tell you about my recent experience where I was the one to approach a guy I was interested in at the gym. As a more “traditional gender-role” person, I do tend to prefer to ascribe to the customary roles of the man approaching me, however in this particular case, I didn’t sense that I might get a chance to talk to this guy if I wasn’t the one to open that door first. I also know enough about myself that I sometimes can self-sabotage my own natural body language and suppress it, especially with guys I may actually be interested in. Because I would say I do not naturally display those typical subtle female flirting signals, I decided I needed a slightly more direct approach to indicate I was open and receptive.
After I share my story, I’ll break down my own approach technique so that you may learn from what I did and use it in your own approaches with women. And if you’re anything like me, approaching somebody you’re actually into is a nerve wrecking experience. But, on the other hand, if you don’t do it, you might let a fantastic opportunity slip through your fingers.
Now, I also realize that the tactics for approaching women versus men can be different, however the initial greeting won’t be all that different. So I will give you some general “guidelines” to follow whether you’re a man or woman (whoever is doing the initiating) or opening the conversation “cold approach” style so that you may hopefully be successful and have a positive outcome.
Here’s my story:
There was a guy I was interested in who I would often see at the same gyms that I go to from time to time over the past two years. A period of about nine months went by where I didn’t see him at all and I sadly figured maybe he had moved away. Then one day last week I was at one of the gyms and as I was about to leave I saw the guy!
My heart began to race, wondering if my eyes were just playing a trick on me or if he was my gym crush. So I glanced again over towards him on the stationary bicycle, and it was him! I was so excited, but also my heart began to beat uncontrollably and I felt a twinge of anxiety and nerves pulsing through my body, which initially made me freeze and I felt unsure of what I should do next.
Then I remembered that I swore to myself many, many months ago that if I ever saw him again that I would make myself talk to him. But now that I had the opportunity right in front of me, what was I going to say? After I frantically texted my mom telling her that I saw the guy I’d been crushing on for like 2 years and asked her for advice of what to say, and she said, “Ask him if he’s single. Tell him you’ve been admiring him from afar for quite awhile.”
After getting that advice, I decided to call my friend and business partner, Wes Colton, for some hopefully more realistic advice. Sorry Mom: That advice was just not up to speed with modern dating. And to be that bold and vulnerable right off the bat, according to Wes, might send the guy the wrong signal about me. Luckily he answered his phone and I told him my situation and asked him what I should say.
Even as a dating and attraction coach, when you’re in a situation where you’ve come face to face with your personal crush, your emotions and anxiety run high and it’s like you lose all sense of your own orientation, everything you’ve learned and all the stuff you tell to your clients flies right out the window! I totally get the anxiety of approaching somebody that you really like and the worries that go along with it, first hand!
Wes told me that I shouldn’t be that up front and straightforward and tell the guy I am attracted to him. (In my more reasonable minded moments I already knew that, but it can be helpful to be reminded about those things when your emotions/excitement is running high and you’re not thinking as clearly). Wes suggested I try to start a conversation with my crush. I agreed, and that advice felt more “natural” to me than what my mom had suggested! So, a “natural” conversation was my new intentional goal. Now I just needed to figure out my “strategy” for cold approaching him, because I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to just walk up to me and start a conversation. After all it can be pretty terrifying to put yourself out there but one of us had to do it, and I’m not one to shy away from hard stuff. Plus I viewed it as me having to put my conversational creativity into practical action and think on my feet. With that positive mindset and inner drive, I felt energized to do what I knew I wanted to do: talk to him.
Luckily however, my crush did give me some positive body language signals such as flashing me a grin/smile as he walked past me that evening, and every time I had seen him at the gym I noticed him looking at me. Those small signs are what I focused on as I was internally boosting my confidence enough to approach him. I also told myself he might just be shy and not in that 1% of guys who do “all” the approaching. Usually, for 99% of men, they wait for the “right moment” to say something, and that moment rarely seems to happen. Or they wait for enough positive signals from the woman to be confident he won’t be rejected. I decided I was going to give this guy a big “OPEN” sign and somehow break the ice.
I hate sitting with my own anxiety, much more so than facing the sting of possible rejection. At least if they do reject me quickly (and I’ve had this happen to me before), then I feel like I can move on and not waste any more time or precious brain space thinking about how to approach them or what they might be thinking of me. It’s when I have to wait and wonder when that drives me nuts.
But, like many guys who want to approach a woman they are interested in, I also was waiting for the “right moment.” As a careful and generally thorough planner-type I was waiting until I could be in proximity of him.
I spent the next 30 minutes “working out” in his same general vicinity, using various arm machines I normally don’t and “stretching” in between reps. While that was going on, I was actually very carefully (but discreetly) looking at where he was going. He seemed to be hopping around on various pieces of equipment, which I decided to use to my advantage. Knowing that he was leaving one piece of equipment and then most likely coming back to it, the strategy I decided to employ was to go to a piece of equipment right next to the one he had just left and when he came “back” to the equipment for his second rep, I would already be there (as if it was a natural coincidence) and strike up a conversation. Okay! So I had my plan of how to approach him, but what to say?!
As the person doing the approaching, I would suggest you have a least 4 sentences of “material” lined up and ready to go (especially if you are a nervous approacher-type and feel like you can’t come up with “clever” stuff when put on the spot). Some people can just say whatever comes to their mind (like my business partner, Wes Colton) and play it off very extemporaneously right off the bat, but for some of us more careful-planning folks, we may want to have some things (dare I say) more rehearsed?
How the conversation went:
Gym crush: (grabs free weights and sits down on bench, next to me)
Me: (I turn around to face him) “Hey, how’s it going?”
Gym crush: “Good (smiling back). How are you?”
Me: “Good. It seems like we have the same workout routine this evening. I hope you don’t think I’m following you.” (Even though I totally was).
Gym crush: “It’s okay, I didn’t think that.”
Me: (now here’s where I needed to ‘give’ still a little more to the conversation, since I was the one initiating it and give my crush a bit more time to catch up to the conversation I was trying get into a more state of ‘flow’. So I went with an observational comment about the setting). “I feel like these weights are different at every gym I go to. Sometimes I can lift 30 lbs, and sometimes 80.”
Gym crush: “Yeah.”
Me: (now that he still didn’t take the bait, I try asking a personal question). “Do you come to this gym often?
Gym crush: “Yeah, I come here a lot. I live near here. But sometimes, I go to the one at 20th and Brentwood. How about you, do you come here often?”
Me: (now I feel he’s invested in the conversation a little more. I just had to get past the first 4 sentences. But, now I also need to add some more personal self-disclosure to keep the conversation going). “Yes, I go to the one at 20th and Brentwood a lot too. How long have you been coming here?
Gym crush: “About 5 or 6 years. How about you?”
Me: (I give him something unique, interesting and personal to comment on) “I’ve been going about 5 or 6 years too, but before that I was living in Thailand and then I moved back, but before that I went here too.”
Gym crush: “Wow Thailand!? What were you doing there?”
Me: “I was teaching English at a University for 2 years. I loved it. (I keep the conversation going by asking him something related to travel). Have you ever traveled outside of the U.S.?”
Gym crush: “Yea, I went to Costa Rica three years ago with my family. So what brought you back from Thailand?”
Me: “I came back to pursue getting a Ph.D. in psychology, but I didn’t do that yet. So now I just work.”
Gym crush: “What do you do?”
Me: “I’m a career counselor, but I have 4 other jobs too. What do you do?”
Gym crush: “I’m a mover. I work for my friends company. I lift a lot of heavy boxes. Sometimes I travel to Florida, or Arizona or other states helping people move.”
Me: (giving him a genuine reflection of empathy that comes across as a compliment) “Wow! You do that all day and you still come here?”
Gym crush: “Yeah.”
Me: “Well, it was nice to meet you. I’ll let you get back to your workout now.”
Gym crush: “Yeah, I’ll see you around, hopefully.”
For a first initial conversation, I felt it went pretty well. I established rapport and began asking him questions and provided enough self-disclosure and interest for him to keep the conversation going, if he wanted to. If he didn’t want to, he would have let it drop altogether, much more quickly and easily. But, I was getting “vibes” that he was maybe as interested in me as I was in him. Isn’t it lovely when it works out mutually like that?
So, from analyzing how I had that conversation with him, I’ll leave you with a few tips for cold-approaching somebody you’re interested in:
- If you’re a nervous cold approacher, wait for the right moment when you’re in proximity of them and start with a simple question or general observation of the setting you’re in.
- Don’t expect the other person to immediately be warm and receptive. It might take them a minute or two to catch up or feel comfortable exchanging more than simple words to you (even if they do find you attractive/interesting). They may initially be wondering if you’re trying to “sell” them something or what your motives are. It might be that they only warm up to more conversing once they realize that you are truly interested in getting to know them.
- Once they start forming fuller sentences, or better yet, even asking you questions back, you can be sure that’s a sign they are showing interest too.
- Make sure you have at least 4 sentences of “material” lined up if you are nervous about what to say. You can even write down sample cold-approach openers or practice with a girl who is a friend of yours or a professional dating coach to help you gain more confidence as you practice with different openers and how to keep the conversation going.
- Because you don’t know their time frame for when you approached them (like if they are limited on time), be respectful and say something about how it was nice to meet them and you’ll let them get back to their (workout or whatever it was they were doing). If you’re a man, at this point, and the conversation has gone very well, you could ask for the girls number or (e.g. suggest that you two meet up and get coffee or tea later) etc.
- Be careful not to wait too long before approaching the person you’re interested in, as they might leave the vicinity or venue altogether before you can employ your cold-approach strategy. Sometimes it can be good to dive right in. Sometimes, you may not have the luxury of time to plan it out as much as you may prefer. However, if you need a little time to think of your 4 possible sentences, (and you think you can afford the time) that’s okay too. But, as soon as you’ve got them and rehearsed them in your mind a couple times, it’s time to take action and strike while the iron’s hot.
I hope you found this cold-approach article helpful and it showed you how it can be done (by a man or woman). Cold-approaching is scary and at least a little anxiety provoking for most people, but the more you do it the better you will get and the more confidence it will give you. I can’t tell you how good I feel and how relieved I am after it’s over. No matter the response I get, I always feel good that I was brave enough to step into a zone of putting myself out there and trying to make stuff happen, rather than being the one always waiting for stuff to happen to me. Take the bull by the horns, get out there and try the cold approach. You may find that you actually warm up to the idea!