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Forget About Dating Apps. How Do You Approach Potential Matches In Real Life?

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Beth asks:

23 year female looking for an answer... So I’ve followed this site in and out and first off I like it’s female perspective. The internet is loaded with dating advice but most of it is oriented towards men and picking up girls, so it’s good to see the girls side, kudos on that.

That being said I find one avenue deserted in the woman department: cold approach. Maybe it’s just the ones available, but the articles on this site that deal with meeting people (or at least the ones that I can find) always come back to dating apps. Now I’m not saying dating apps don’t have their place in society but but before the invention of the swipe-right-for-hotness applications we all know and love, humanity did not flourish via miraculous conception.

We approached and talked to each other face to face. Now I know there are a lot of social and dating dynamics that go into making the first move and when people hear the word cold approach they think of pick up, but in today’s world a woman can’t just rely on the possibility that the guy she’s interested in will approach her or that a guy will buy her a drink (which is, in my opinion, so morally manipulative and disrespectful - on both sides of the court - that it should be thrown out in the rain without it’s supper).

So what is one to do without the aid of alcohol or the the convenience of a dating app? What if the only/right option is to physically walk up and talk to someone? And if so, what’s the process? What’s it like to the guy? What do you say? Can it be done without alcohol - like at a coffee shop? Is it the appropriate thing to do or is life for a woman just the waiting game? Why is this never covered in the dating world for woman. There’s a dozen plus one more questions I could throw in there but I think you get the gist: how does a girl do proper cold approach and why don’t we see it in woman’s dating advice.

I think the reason most dating advice doesn't cover cold approach for women is because most dating advice strips women of their agency. It's more about "don't" than "do."

With that said, I don't like cold approaches. At all. For either men or women. When traditional online dating sites were the norm, I offered some advice that was and still is considered controversial:

1. Focus on the people that initiate interest. Forget about sending a bunch of messages to random people who have in no way demonstrated they've even noticed you. It's a waste of your mental and emotional bandwidth.

2. Do something to get on their radar without sending a message. View their profile, like or favorite them. If they're interested, they'll either like or favorite you back or message you.

I stand by this advice to this day. If applied to dating apps, my advice is to only message someone if you've swiped on their profile and it's a match. In cases like that, the other person has initiated interest by swiping on you first. If it's the other way around and you swipe Yes first and then match with them only after they've swiped on your profile, let them do the messaging. The thinking behind this is to give you both time to review the other person's bio and photos, as many people just swipe yes without much thought and unmatch if they're not interested. The reason why so many people ghost or unmatch (aside from boredom of tedious conversations) is because they never gave their match's profile a thorough look.

"But what if I don't send a message first and they think I'm not interested?"

There's nothing wrong with giving it a couple of hours and then messaging them. My advice is simply to not respond right away as the likelihood your message will go unanswered is higher. Remember, the goal is to preserve your energy and protect your self-esteem. Too much rejection is bad for your mental health.

The thing to realize is that - if they're interested - they will message you regardless of gender roles or principle. If they don't message you, they weren't interested. Full stop.

Now let's apply this to offline real-life interactions. This advice is for both men and women. The key to a successful "cold approach" is to make sure it's not cold at all. Put yourself in their sights so that they notice you and make eye contact. If you can't do that, approach them at an opportune time and ask an innocuous question to generate conversation. (Though I really, REALLY advise to make eye contact first.) If they continue to engage you and their demeanor seems relaxed, turn up the heat a little by flirting. Wait to see if they mirror your behavior by flirting back. The hope here is that the other person will suggest a way to keep in touch. If they don't and you really feel there's a mutual interest, suggest you and they meet up some time. Then let them do the rest. They'll either take you up on the offer or they won't. Be prepared for both.

Some other things to keep in mind if you want to approach or be approached offline:

1. Remove your ear buds - We're all so plugged in that we forget there's an entire world around us. Unplug now and then.

2. Take off your sunglasses - Let people see your face so they can make eye contact.

3. If you're working on something or reading, occasionally look up from whatever you're doing and scan your surroundings.

4. Don't be intrusive - Timing is everything. If they look harried or are on the phone or are walking a misbehaving dog, wait until they're not preoccupied.

5. Be accessible - If you're working or reading at a cafe, don't stick yourself in the corner. Situate yourself in a central place in the location.

6. Read the room - You know when someone is engaging you to be polite. Don't push or force conversation.

Good luck!

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