How I Stopped Worrying About Rejection and Learned to Approach Women
You can’t really get anywhere with someone without approaching them first, in person or online. For most people, approaching a romantic interest is an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable experience (note that I use "romantic interest" here as an all encompassing term ranging from potential one night stand to potential husband/wife/soulmate). A big part of the appeal of online dating actually is that it takes most if not all of the awkwardness out of that initial approach.
We all like to picture ourselves as these smooth talking, confident, charmer types who will know exactly how to approach a romantic interest and be able to say all the right things, whether the encounter happens at a bar, the supermarket, a house party, etc. However when most people go to a bar, the supermarket or a house party and spot someone they’re interested in, they tend to clam up and chicken out from even talking to them. Instead they just sit there hoping that the other person will approach them and afterwards they often make lame excuses like "meh, she wasn’t that pretty anyway" or "I just never saw an opening". Translation: I feel like a chump. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had some form of the following conversation, I’d be able to retire today:
- Dude, the girls at the bar last night were eyeing me the whole evening!
- That’s awesome!, did you talk to any of them?
- … No, but they were totally into me!
Hell, if I had a dollar for every time I’VE been the one to chicken out from talking to a girl who was clearly giving me all the right signals, I’d also be able to retire today. And I’m good with words! I am a freelance writer!
So why is it that we get so darned wound up about approaching someone? I believe it all ties back to Evolutionary Darwinism. Right about now you’re probably thinking "Evolutionary Darwinism?! Dude, isn’t this supposed to be a blog about, like, dating and stuff?" but bare with me for a minute…
Darwin’s theory explains that members of a species who best adapt to their environments are the ones that ultimately survive, the traits of those members are then passed on to future generations. It’s why, for example, most humans are naturally inclined to be afraid of the dark. Back in caveman days, I’m sure there were tons of people who didn’t get that creepy vibe when walking alone at night… and they were the ones who got their behinds handed to them by hungry sabertooth tigers whom they never saw coming - those who survived that period were the ones who "stayed home" when the sun went down. So what does this have to do with dating? Well self preservation isn’t simply limited to protecting our physical well being, as humans we’re also equally predisposed to protecting our mental and emotional well being, our "egos" if you will. Think about it, when a person’s self-worth completely disappears, their interest in self-presevation typically goes right along with it. People with low self-esteem often exhibit harmful behaviours such as overeating, drug abuse, self-mutilation and, in extreme cases, suicide. And what’s most harmful to our self-esteem? Rejection. Especially rejection from someone we’re really interested in.
So, in the ultimate interest of self-preservation, our egos are programmed to keep us out of situations where our self-worth risks taking a hit, situations in which we’re vulnerable. It’s why you get an anxious and uncomfortable feeling before approaching a girl in a bar similar to the one you would feel if you found yourself in a poorly lit, unknown neighbourhood at 2 in the morning.
Now that you’ve heard my long-winded theory of why we get approach anxiety, I bet you’re hoping I’m going to tell you how to get rid of it, aren’t you? Well here’s the thing, you can’t. Sure, you can do things like get drunk or take drugs which can help lower your inhibitions (and your standards) but those are artificial and unhealthy ways which typically won’t yield any good long-term results, unless of course your idea of success involves liver failure and herpes. As I mentioned above, I used to always chicken out when it came to approaching women, the only time I’d meet a woman at bar or other public location was if she approached me first or if my friends approached her friends in some way (but they were usually chicken shit too). I’d sometimes go out and get all the right signals from women whom I’d actually find really attractive and even then, I just couldn’t muster up the courage to walk over. Like most people, I spent too much time inside my own head, psyching myself out by trying to think of something really witty and insightful to say - that perfect line that would have her eating out of the palm of my hands (quick tangent: I often wonder where that expression came from. Is it really a good thing to have someone eat out of the palm of your hand? Unless she’s a bird or a chipmunk, I’d personally rather my date just use a plate and some utensils… and if my date is a bird or a chipmunk, I’ve probably got some serious issues… anyway, back to the post). It took some time but I eventually just got sick of feeling like such a chump all the time and started to take steps to overcome my approach anxiety. I started small, by doing things like looking to make eye contact with women when I walked down the street and smiling if they made eye contact with me; or making small talk with cashiers, receptionists, waitresses etc. After a while I began to feel much more comfortable talking to women in a setting such as a bar or a house party, just to name a couple. Ultimately, my experiences with trying to overcome approach anxiety taught me the three following lessons:
First, that nervous feeling you get when you first approach someone never really goes away, you just learn to better deal with it through experience. As I mentioned above, we’re programmed to feel anxious in situations where we’re vulnerable but with a bit of effort, we can train ourselves to better deal with that anxiety and even ignore it. As I approached more women in a genuine way, I found that the experiences generally became very enjoyable and felt like successes whether they ultimately ended up being interested in me or not. The more I approached, the better I became at dealing with the inherent nervousness or awkwardness. Success breeds confidence, as they say.
Second, being genuine is key. You don’t need a great opening line, you just need to say something. Give the person a compliment, tease them playfully, ask them a question; just get them talking, preferably to you. The one caveat to this lesson is that the first thing you say should never be "hi, my name is… ", it’s a terrible conversation starter and can even come off somewhat aggressive and lead to some awkwardness right off the bat - I personally try to always let the other person ask for my name as opposed to volunteering it, it’s usually a good indicator of interest. Remember, start friendly and move to flirty.
Third and final lesson: getting drunk will only hurt your chances. Obviously, we’re talking about quality and not quantity here. My friends and I used to mistakenly believe that we became "much better at picking up" when we were drunk. Our inhibitions were lowered and as a result were able to approach more women, often with reckless abandon. The quality of our interactions when we were drunk, however, was pretty poor and often resulted in awkward situations as we hopelessly tried to string together a few intelligent sentences. It’s a bit of a paradox how guys get drunk in order to be able to approach girls and then do everything they can not to appear drunk after they’ve approached them. In those days, even when we were successful, it typically was either with girls who were just as shit faced as we were and/or girls whom we probably wouldn’t have been interested in had we not been so sloshed. By keeping my alcohol consumption to a reasonable amount (I’m not advocating that you go full-Mormon here), I found that I was able to better hold a conversation with women I was genuinely interested in. There’s a fine line between smooth and sloppy and staying on the right side of that line did wonders for my "game".
As you’ve probably realized by now, I could go on for days about "approaching". Those first few seconds are often the most awkward, nerve-wracking and uncomfortable part of any relationship - so much so in fact that there’s a whole multi-million dollar industry based solely on teaching men to approach women. Bottom line though, everyone - men AND women - gets nervous when approaching and unfortunately there’s no silver bullet for overcoming that anxiety. Ultimately, you have to just go out and do it and positive results will eventually follow, so long as you do it right. The three key lessons I explained above helped make approaching much easier for me and hopefully those of you reading this can take something from them as well. Expect a few more posts on this topic in the future, including my next one which will take the lessons described above - which in my case were learned mostly through "physical world" interactions - and attempt to draw parallels with online dating, which has its own peculiarities.
As always, I’m always happy to engage in discussions with readers. Please feel free to post thoughts on this article or anything at all in the comments section or drop me a message.