Hello, Stranger: How to Meet Potential Partners IRL
Are you overwhelmed by dating apps? Do the typical pick-up spots – the bar scene, the club scene, the co-ed gym – make your skin crawl? Do you wonder how anyone ever meets anyone anymore?
Often when I start working with a new client, part of what they’re dealing with is that they’ve forgotten how to meet people. In this world of online dating sites, speed dating events, and hook-up apps we forget that every single day we’re out in the world interacting with people.
The very first assignment I give a new client is to smile, make eye contact and say hello. You might be surprised how challenging that can be.
I had the most adorable client who reported back after her first week of smiling, making eye contact and saying hello that she’d completed the assignment, but she’d made sure to practice only with quick-moving people who couldn’t actually engage.
Do you resemble that remark?
Avoidance feels safe. It can feel a little risky to extend yourself knowing that you’re interested in meeting a nice potential partner – the possibility of rejection. At the same time, given that your relationships haven’t worked out in the past, there can also be some apprehension about engaging some nightmare of a person that you’ll eventually want to send away, which can get messy.
We don’t like messy.
In a coaching series, we save those messier issues for later on in our process. But the prospect of meeting people in the everyday course of life is something we start to tackle right away. We try to create freedom around interacting like a human being instead of like a puzzle piece searching for its match. We get out in the world and act like human beings connecting with other human beings – saying “hello, how are you, what’s bright in your world?”
I have a running joke with a friend of mine who operates under the theory that her future partner will approach her on the street and profess his undying love for her. (Surprisingly, this isn’t an uncommon strategy.) She and I had a chuckle about how scary it can be to just engage. She feels free to compliment women in the street about their flattering haircuts and cutting edge fashion. But she never engages men in that way.
When I was in my twenties, I went through a period I called my year of freedom, when I tried to shed what I perceived as societal conditioning against behaving in certain ways. For example, I drank beer out of a bottle in public. (As a lady in my twenties, that seemed improper.) Or, leaving the house without my legs shaved, which I did as an act of defiance. (I recognize that behavior is the norm in some cultures, but in Los Angeles in my twenties, not so much.)
One of my favorite things from that period of my life is that if I found someone attractive, I let them know I found them attractive. I recall a tall, beautiful, bald, dark-skinned black man. He was amazing! I walked up to him, this total stranger, and I said “you’re beautiful.” He looked me in the eyes and responded “so are you!”
It was awesome! And a little intense. Though my panties wanted to fall off, nothing happened. We shared a moment where we acknowledged each others’ hotness, and moved on. It was lovely! I felt so free and expressed.
As long as nothing creepy follows, it’s really great to just be appreciated. It can be so uplifting for the person being acknowledged, and so freeing for the person offering the acknowledgement. What if you were actually free to say what was on your mind? (Again, as long as nothing creepy follows. Use your best judgement, folks.)
Now in my forties, I don’t typically approach hot men on the street and tell them how beautiful I find them. But I continue to say hello to strangers. And I’m not a social butterfly. I tend to be most comfortable with people I know well and like. I keep my social circle pretty small. But I use my positive energy to break the ice. Maybe we don’t get past hello, but often we do. Because we’re human beings, interacting with other human beings. Without an agenda.
If you’re looking to engage in dating again, maybe you don’t have to start with telling a perfect stranger how beautiful you find them, but you might start with a smile, eye contact, and saying hello.
How are you currently meeting people? Do you use dating apps? Do you have a favorite place or activity that exposes you to potential mates? Do you meet people in the “flow” of life? What works for you?