Women usually prefer to take this safer approach. One can start a
conversation by asking questions (What do you think of the
concert...tax reform...the new cars? What happened in class today?),
giving compliments (You made a really good point.), exploring
common interests (Do you play tennis?), making funny comments (Did
you know recent research shows that standing in long lines increases
your libido?), being courteous (Can I help?), or giving a common "line"
(Haven't we met before?). In general, make a comment about the
situation or about what the other person is doing, give a brief reason
for your comment (do some self-disclosing) and ask the other person
his/her opinion (Gambrill & Richey, 1985). Be modest, don't come on
too strong. If the conversation continues, later you can propose doing
more things together. Try both direct and indirect approaches. See
what works best for you.
Have some idea of where the conversation might go. Don't start a
conversation and then have nothing to say. Become practiced at "small
talk," it gives people time to check each other out and to figure out
what future activities can be proposed together, if any. Also, practice
making people smile and feel good. Give compliments (not obvious
flattery). Be friendly and develop a sense of humor. If you can speak
to and approach people in general, naturally you will be better
prepared to approach someone who really interests you.
STEP THREE: Handle the anxiety.
In many cases, fears are more of a problem than lack of social
skills. A lack of confidence may have to be overcome before we can
have the successes that build confidence. There are three basic
approaches to the emotional (anxiety) aspect of this problem. If the
tension threatens to disrupt the conversation, you can use (1)
desensitization or relaxation techniques before and during the
interaction (see chapter 12). At the first sign of disruptive anxiety,
take a few deep breaths and tell yourself to relax. Maybe even leave
the situation for a moment to regain your composure. (2) A useful
cognitive restructuring method is called "adaptive relabeling."
Rather than saying to yourself "I'm going to panic, I can't do it, they
will think I'm weird," you might think, "I'm excited about meeting
him/her, it is a challenge but I can do it, it's good practice."
Remember, the important thing is not to avoid anxiety but to continue
interacting smoothly. So, tell yourself, "Think about the conversation,
not the silly fear." (3) Other similar methods, such as self-change
instructions (method #2, chapter 11), stress inoculation (method #9,
chapter 12), and challenging irrational ideas (method #3, chapter 14),
are helpful in reducing tension, guiding your behavior, and keeping
your perspective realistic. It is not awful if someone turns you down. It
doesn't mean you will be unloved forever. It means you should keep
STEP FOUR: Continuing the conversation and arranging a future