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You’ve spotted him. He’s the one you want and there’s no denying it. What do you do–stand coyly by and hope he notices you, chooses you, initiates? You can. But the women with a little hustle are going to beat you to it. I will beat you to it.

I’m not telling you you have to “pick up” a guy the way a guy would pick up a lady. For many of us, it feels unnatural. (Of course some of you love it, and that’s ok too–for me, it depends on the situation and the mood I’m in.)

I’m all for bucking the rules, but quite often, the aggressive-girl mode just doesn’t work (and again, it depends on the guy). Coming at someone, full-throttle, in an “I demand your attention” kind of way, or worse, “Impress me, you douchebag” can be a major turn off. You may get attention, but it won’t be sustainable. Unless you find a man who wants you to run the show. But it gets old. Fast. And he’ll eventually resent you for it anyway.

And after all, you want someone to choose you–even if you’ve already picked him out of the crowd.

But the opposite of picking up is not standing there weeping in a corner or staring at the wall. The answer is to create the conditions for you to connect, not by hitting on him, but by happening to him.

This allows you to be in control, and at the same time let him choose you…by making it easy to do. That’s all you’re doing really: facilitating a connection.

How to Happen To Someone

So here’s my strategy for happening to someone you want to meet. And it has been field tested, multiple times. This doesn’t guarantee a connection, of course. But it sets the wheels in motion so you can find out, rather than go home wondering if it could have. It’s not rocket science, but it doesn’t have to be. It just has to get you talking.

Ready? Go.

Make eye contact from wherever you are and let a smile spread slowly across your face, says Richard Wiseman (his book, 59 Seconds). Smile big, I say, show teeth. Crinkle your eyes. Mean it. Then look away. Don’t do a creepy staring contest while smiling. If you cannot make eye contact from across the room, proceed to the next step. This first step is not essential for the rest of this to work.

Get within striking distance. Work your way into his immediate vicinity. Don’t just do a drive by. That doesn’t do anything. Plant yourself close. I once wedged my way through a thick crowd to get right in front of a man I had my eye on, but kept my back to him, as if I was just passing through. You pretend you got there by accident. Call it synchronicity.

Activate the oblique approach. Just as you don’t want to barrel up to someone like a runaway train, you make your entry into his atmosphere a subtle one. Turn toward him a little, look in his general direction, look around him, maybe start talking to someone he’s standing with. Then, catch his eye, smile, and then…

Say something. It can just be a hello as if you’ve just discovered him there. Perhaps you can get his attention with some funny flirty jokes and make him laugh. That’s always a good way to start off an introduction. Or you can introduce yourself–extend a hand. He won’t turn it down. And then you’ve hit two birds because you’ve established contact and made physical contact (which is two jumps ahead). Ask a question (“Is that the 5? How do you like it?”). I wedged myself into a tight little knot of people at an overcrowded event once to get close to this gorgeous man. It was one of these tiered events with velvet ropes separating one group of wannabes from another, and I played dumb. Ok, not dumb. Uninformed. “Do you guys know if this is a private party area? Am I barging in on your private party?” To which he said, “No, not at all!” Bang.

Engage. Open up and draw in his attention by being interested in him. Which is easy, because you are. Wide-eyed, smiling–there’s a reason these things work. I can be a smart-ass bitch, but you better believe when I’m meeting a guy for the first time, I turn the snark dial way down, and turn up the soft, open, easy charm. Laugh at his jokes, ask genuinely interested questions, all that. It works. I actually like myself better that way. It’s not fake–it’s a softer version of you. You’re making it safe for him to connect with you.

Make actual contact. If you didn’t shake hands, and you’ve been chatting, find a reason to touch him. Maybe it’s a light touch on the upper arm as you punctuate a point or a playful, flirty brush of his arm or chest when he makes a joke. This. Is. Key. And notice if he finds reason to touch you, which, when it happens, is a sign that things are going well. Very well.

Back off. So you’re talking, laughing, having a nice back and forth. Now leave. Not forever. Just for now. This is the hard part, because everything in you is telling you to plant a flag and stake him out as yours for the rest of the night. But in fact what you must do is reintroduce some space and distance. This is a page right out of Neil Strauss’s book, The Game. In fact, a lot of the players’ rules apply. Because they create some delicious tension.

Anyway, don’t wait til he’s looking around the room distractedly to say, “Well, I think I’m gonna go now.” Lame. Say, “It’s so nice talking to you, but I don’t want to keep you from your friends.” Or, “OK, I feel I’ve kept you to myself for long enough–I should let you go.” You’ve shown him how lovely you are, now he needs to know that demand may exceed supply; you’re a rare commodity. Demonstrate it. Get a drink, go to the ladies’, whatever. Or…

Let him convince you to stay. Maybe he’ll insist on buying you a drink, or tell you his friends are boneheads and he’d rather talk to you. You can submit to this request, hesitantly, and accept his offer. The key here is that you’ve given him the chance to do the choosing–and this puts him in control, where he feels most confident. And you get to be chosen, even though you made all of this happen. Let him know he’s changed your mind. Now he thinks he won. You win.

You should, if at all possible, be the one to leave first (but whatever if this isn’t the case) and tell him, honestly, “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.” If he’s into it, this is his chance to ask for your contact info. And then you have his (“Oh let me text you so you have mine”–ah technology!). Let the text flirting begin.

I told you it wasn’t rocket science. Just fucking do it. You want things to happen, make them happen–by happening to someone near you.

23 replies
  1. stefan
    stefan says:

    To be honest, when I meet people like you, I am instantly turned off. Life is not a game or popularity contest to see how many people you can meet and get to like you. I may not have a lot of luck with women, but at least I have my pride, and am not seen as an obnoxious schmooze r who most people would rather avoid.

    • Jypsi
      Jypsi says:

      I met my future husband & father of my child by sitting next to him in a bar, asking his star sign
      when he told me “Scorpio”‘I flicked my garter belt and asked “u want some of that?” hE said ys please so I was like “gimme your number” I put it into my phone then simply got up and walked off. He spent a few days asking everyone he knew about the girl in the red dress and found out my nickname “jypsi” by the time I texted him a few days later he was extremely keen to see me again. I met him for a drink, ha one sip, then made an excuse, gave him a quick hug and ran off again. We played like this for a few weeks. In hindsight I wasn’t Doing it on purpose or according to a plan I was just not sure about him but he always talks about it like I was the most amazing thing that happened to him in some time. Well now I’m carrying his child but it still as tho we r dating. I think it’s more fun this way.

  2. terri
    terri says:

    I am Terri and I approve this message. From Stefan. Because Stefan, in fact, you haven’t met me. You have decided you know me based on a 500-word article. Hilarious! Nor am I out to just “see” who I can get to like me. I, like most single people, am out to discover meaningful connections. And in order to do that, I need to step up and meet the people who appeal to me. Not sure if your ire here stems from having approached women and been rejected, or not having had the courage to approach at all–which would explain your defensive position of preferring pride to luck. And If, in fact, you would prefer pride to luck with women, seems like you’re on the right track.

    • Plezbo
      Plezbo says:

      Wait…. Crap… Oh boy, this happened to me, and I thought I was just being a gamesman, when infact, it sounds like the girl that I recently broke up with (she moved away, nothing scandalous) used this exact tactic on me. I would venture a guess that Stefan just hasn’t had this happen to him and wants to badly.

      From here on out, when I see these events play out in front of me, I will remember your article, and perhaps, depending on how confident the lady seems, maybe even playfully call her out on her game.

    • Joeseph
      Joeseph says:

      There’s nothing wrong with *what* you’re doing, what you’re doing is along the lines of what normal people do naturally. It’s the fact that you’ve calculated social interactions down to some sort of formula that’s ridiculous. You’re making all kinds of personal attacks on Stefan, trying to exploit things that you assume most people have insecurities about, and that’s pretty low. We both know you’re doing it on purpose, being offended doesn’t justify trying to make people feel bad about themselves. You’re overreacting to his comment likely because you’re afraid he might be right. Don’t expect any response from me, I didn’t put a real email into the form. This isn’t a conversation I really wish to continue I just wanted Stefan’s side to be represented because honestly a lot of people feel that way they just aren’t vocal about it.

  3. Ted
    Ted says:

    @Stefan: On the contrary, life, in fact, IS a game. You’re a player in it, whether you want to be or not. You may not be the best at it, and that’s the point. That’s what this blog is about.

  4. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    Well done. I’d be attracted to that, and I believe in getting the stakes in your favor by being clever. Stefan sounds hurt, and is easily discounted; nothing in this article makes you out to be an “obnoxious schmoozer”.

    Just as more girls wish more men were confident enough to approach them, and go for the ones that do, men would also love to be approached more.

    Good on you for reading The Game and taking the smart points from it without letting the sorry humans involved ruin it. After all, why should the assholes have a monopoly on attracting the opposite sex?

  5. Isabelle
    Isabelle says:

    Hello Terri,

    I bet in real life you and I would be very good friends! Your articles (the 2 I have read anyways) read exactly how I talk with my friends:) (I actually learned of you through a friend who sent me your article stating ‘this sounds like you!’) I have tried to explain how to create opportunities with the people nearby, and it is a very subtle process. You explain it quite well. Your article here isn’t talking about how to be a player, it is talking about how to create openings where others feel comfortable stepping into, if they want.

    I believe Stefan is bristling because he has either been a player, or been played (gave his heart to someone who was fake). I feel sad for him. It is totally reasonable to be a real and genuine person and still orchestrate an opportunity for those around you to feel comfortable reaching out to you. This is just ‘being a good person’. If everyone expected everyone else to just have the balls, then no one would ever have the balls, so to speak. We each have to have the balls, and in doing so we pass that strength onto those around us:)

    Your writing is excellent and I hope for more people to read it. I will be posting links to it on my facebook and g+ 🙂 Keep up the inspirational writing, and thank you!!

    • terri
      terri says:

      I bet we would too! You’re so sweet. Yes, I agree about Stefan. He has undoubtedly been hurt. And you took the words right out of my mouth! Yes–we all have to have balls. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. ymala
    ymala says:

    So I’m a guy, and I found this pretty awesome. It’s a little embarrassing to admit (oh no, I identify with a post on advice for women), but I actually think the points you have up there can apply for both women, and men.

    I’m pretty outgoing once I get comfortable with people, but I balk at going up and meeting new ones. I’ve been introduced to quite a few friends by other friends, and ended up being closer friends with them than the friend that introduced us initially.

    Rejection is scary, and the other day I realized that I’ve never been rejected by any women in my life (haven’t really tried dating the guys yet), though it’s no bragging point. I just haven’t been asking out girls unless we were already knew each other. I don’t mean to date every woman I meet, but this is a good way to at least meet them.

    I may post this on facebook, but I’m going to need a suitable cover story for how I came across this in the first place. The actual way I stumbled across this just makes matters worse (That article on Jezebel was great by the way!).

    • terri
      terri says:

      Ha! You crack me up. Thanks for writing. You have a cover: Jezebel is owned by Gawker and someone said they saw it on Deadspin, which is part of the same family of pubs. You simply…happened upon it online. You owe no one apologies or cover stories. See? You’re already fearing rejection from your peers. Get used to it. Get yourself some rejections. 🙂

  7. Jenna
    Jenna says:

    I never knew what to say or do after we’d introduce ourselves and chat for a minute. I usually said something lame and killed the moment right then and there. Glad to have read this! Maybe it will save my dignity next time! 😉

  8. sean
    sean says:

    That is a well thought out plan, I like how you laid the steps out. You give clear concise directions that should be easy for anyone to follow.

    You can go through all that, I’ve had that happen to me and I do appreciate the work that goes into it.
    You really don’t have to though, unless it’s doing something to boost your confidence (which I understand, we all do a little something for the confidence boost)

    I’m a very approachable guy. I’m funny and affable and attractive.
    Just say hi to me. I won’t bite, shut you down or even reject you (I’m not mean either, we’re all in this together. If I get a hello, you’re going to get one right back.)

  9. emily
    emily says:

    i love this, i recognise that i do the exact same things but seeing it in words helped me realised that i was actually following a process. to me it just felt like my instincts.

    its not a game, per se, it is about taking control of the way we communicate and sometimes people do need these steps to help guide them, esp if they are shy or uncertain. my friends say that all the boys love me, but its just bc i take these steps and risks to make myself be noticed and to gently communicate my interest. i’m not saying it works 100% of the time (i’ve accidentally aggressively chased boys off before) but i do succeed enough to keep implementing these tactics.

    and i know exactly that feeling of liking the softer version of myself better than the cold hard bitch. i can actually feel myself becoming more feminine and approachable.

    thanks for writing this!

  10. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    Thanks for the advice Terri!! I’m going to try and head out into the “field” with this advice 😉

    I typically opt for one extreme or the other (“Hi, I’m Tanya and I’d like to date you.” or [completely ignore the person I’m attracted to]) depending on my mood, but I’ve been having some frustration by either feeling like the other person isn’t reciprocating at all or just being unnoticed! Although I usually can’t stand references to or people who subscribe to “the game”, I think this is more sensibly and genuinely rooted advice! Thanks again, I’m stoked to try this out 🙂

  11. Cheryl Alcyon
    Cheryl Alcyon says:

    There’s nothing scheming or manipulative about expressing honest interest, developing a friendly rapport, and taking it slowly, as opposed to immediately throwing oneself heart and soul at a member of the opposite sex. In another era, it would have been called courtship. I met my husband in a college classroom and had the luxury of an entire semester of 75-minute, twice-a-week meetings to flirt with him verbally and nonverbally and thus spin my web around the object of my desire (actually, it only lasted a couple of months before we did, finally, get serious). However, if it had turned out that he wasn’t interested, I might have been disappointed, but I would have backed off.

    Moreover, he told me later that he knew that I was trying to pick him up, although he was kind of tongue-tied when I first introduced myself to him, after a few amusing weeks of playing i-caught-you-staring-at-me-and-then-pretending-you weren’t–he explained later that he just wasn’t used to being chatted up by pretty girls, and that NOBODY had ever tried to pick him up. As things progressed, I would offer him different kinds of opportunities to ask me out on very casual dates, no pressure–“So, I was thinking of going to hear the University orchestra on Saturday night–they’re performing Beethoven’s Seventh…” to which he would usually say, “That sounds great! I love the Seventh! May I accompany you?”

    We took it slowly and became friends first. Then lovers. Then partners for life–it’s been 24 years since I first saw him across that classroom, and 22 since we got married, and I can’t imagine anyone else in whose company I would rather be. So, yes, that’s how one picks up the hottest guy in the room Or, rather, one’s own idea of the hottest guy in the room–mine was shy, brilliantly nerdy, and a little awkward around girls, but to me, he was perfect.

  12. dirk_mec
    dirk_mec says:

    Terri. I don’t agree with the fact that women should not approach men directly I’ve seen it happen in my environment (though rarely) but it lead in many cases to succes. Actually most guys in the room were jealous that only that guy got approached.

    • terri
      terri says:

      Maybe you misunderstand. I have approached many times. I have initiated, and made things happen, for sure. Most women, not comfy doing that. My bigger point is that if you set the tone of always initiating (I mean women), and leading him around and being the instigator over all, you don’t allow him to meet you halfway. Don’t you know the old adage? “She chases and chases him until he catches her.”


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