You might have seen that recent article about how to talk to women who are wearing headphones.
Even if you haven’t seen the article, you might have seen reactions to it, because plenty of female writers have come out to condemn the advice.
To summarize, the advice is basically ‘pick a woman in public, persuade her to take her headphones off and then declare your interest in her, which she will definitely love’. This is very bad advice.
But, what is also not helpful to men are guides that say ‘women never want you to talk to them’, and ‘don’t even bother’.
You seem like a nice guy and you just want to meet someone, so you want to know how to talk to women without getting it wrong. It’s a minefield, I get it.
If you’ve read my recent piece on ‘the hot girl paradox’ then you might realize that women you’re attracted to could often feel hounded when they’re going about their business, because guys try to talk to them a lot, and it can be weird and irritating to them no matter how good the guy’s intentions.
That’s why it’s very important to use your empathy and common sense, starting by picking an appropriate setting.
An appropriate setting
When a woman is on her way to work, she is on her way to work. When she is grocery shopping, she is grocery shopping. When she’s at the gym, she’s at the gym. That’s literally all you know about her, and that’s not enough to gamble and put her in the weird situation of being hit on, just in case she’s super not into it.
There are times and places we just don’t want to deal with the male gaze, and we don’t want to socialize, but we have no choice but to be out in public near you. These examples are often among them.
Now I’m not saying I speak for all women in all situations, but in general if you’re not in a social setting then it’s best to assume it’s not the right time or place to openly hit on a woman. If someone does want to meet new people, they’ll go to social places, but if they don’t then they might still be at the store, gym or train station.
You have no way of knowing who’s feeling sociable and who isn’t in these places and for every woman who says they wouldn’t mind, there will be 10 others who don’t want the pressure.
Far better is to wait until you’re in the kind of places where meeting new people is the norm, like clubs, bars, parties, sporting events, shows and all those other very clearly social places.
The women you like might not be interested, but they’ve gone out to a place people go to when they want to socialize and have fun. That’s the bottom line.
Having something in common
The other advantage of waiting until you’re in a social setting like this is that it gives some indication of what each of you likes to do in your downtime, and shows that you already have at least something in common, which is a great start.
It also makes talking to someone so much easier. Instead of knowing only two things about a woman – that she’s in front of you and you think she’s hot – you now know at least three – she’s in front of you, you think she’s hot, and she’s really into Iron Maiden (or whatever you both happen to be doing at the time).
Your odds of being able to open with something that doesn’t sound lame have just increased by about 50000%.
Now, the nitty gritty. I speak from experience, so I’ll try to explain the way to pull it off most effectively.
When it comes to approaching women to talk to them for the first time, the key here is low pressure. You need to create a situation where you won’t feel rejected, and she won’t feel hounded.
Give her a little glimpse of your personality and then back away and leave things open so that the decision over whether to pursue it or not lies with her.
The woman must always have the choice of whether she’s talking with you or not, and that can make all the difference.
What to say – the first approach
Here’s what I’d advise: Make your way to her in a way that doesn’t seem unnatural or like you’ve made a beeline for her. Ask her – or her and her friends – a question about the place you’re in (e.g. Does she know what this song is? Where’s good to get food here? You just got here, what did you miss?) and make sure it’s with a smile.
She will almost always respond politely. If she doesn’t respond politely, you’ve done nothing wrong and that’s on her. Give a warm response when she does – say thanks, or agree with her, or even disagree with her if you can do it playfully.
Then make your excuses and leave her alone.
The second or third approach
She now knows you’re here, knows what you look and sound like, and has got a general vibe off you, but she’s not been hassled.
Even if she did get that ‘Oh shit’ feeling that women get when they think they’re about to be joined by a strange guy they won’t be able to shake off, you’ve gone away right away, so her fear was completely groundless.
You’ve just proved that you’re confident enough to start a conversation, but you’re not going to be a creep.
Half an hour or so later, find a way to bump into her again (without it looking obvious) and make some reference to whatever you talked about earlier. The content of what you say doesn’t really matter, it’s just small talk, but it’s a chance for you to chat some more.
Again don’t make it seem like you’re there to stay, and make sure you’re the first to politely duck out of the conversation. This time, though, as you leave you can let her know where you and your friends are if she and her friends get bored of their inferior view / want to see how dancing is really done / anything else a little cheeky. Then you leave.
She might come over, she might not, but it’s up to her, and you’ve lost nothing. If she does come over – congratulations! She’s chosen to be talking to you, and now you can get to know each other some more.
How to talk to her
Women are human beings, who like to have fun conversations with other human beings, and that’s all you need to know. This is how you’ll make a good impression.
You don’t need to think too much about what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, other than to just treat her like you would one of your friends.
Women want to know that you’re laid back and fun, and that they can have a totally low pressure good time with you, just talking. They don’t want you to insinuate how good you are in bed, or how attracted you are to them, or anything creepy and intense like that. Certainly not while you’re getting to know each other.
How to leave it
She might have come to find you after your second approach, or she might not. But either way, there’s a great little trick to parting ways with her that could lead to more.
Firstly, ensure that you’re literally about to leave when you go up to talk to her again. Give her your business card (make sure it is a business card and not a personal card that makes it look like you give them out to women all the time) and say ‘it was very nice to meet you, it would be great to get a drink / see another show / go to another game if you get time’, and then leave.
Why this is perfect
This is so perfect that I’m amazed more guys don’t do it. Here’s why it’s so great:
In all of these scenarios, you’ve vacated the scene almost as soon as you’ve arrived. Guys who are attracted to us will often latch on, and that can kill any attraction we have to them immediately. We need to feel like we’re choosing to be around the guys, and not the other way around.
Handing her your card as you leave is the ultimate low-key, low-pressure and classy gesture. It says ‘I’m not trying to get laid tonight, I just like your shtick’, it marks you out above all the other guys she’s going to get hit on in your absence. And even if she doesn’t call, you’ll still be ‘that classy guy’ and not ‘that douchebag who wouldn’t leave us alone and asked for her number’. Don’t be that guy.
If you really must talk to women in public places
Finally, I understand that there will be the occasional time when you see someone and you can’t help yourself. if you absolutely must approach a woman in public who is on her own then please follow these simple rules:
– Don’t interrupt her if she’s in the middle of something, including if she’s got headphones on
– Talk to her like a human being – ask her for the time, or directions, or something like that – do not say you’re talking to her because you’re attracted to her
– Give her a compliment that isn’t too personal, to show you’ve noticed something about her as you were talking to her (jacket, phone, bag, band t-shirt)
– Apologize for taking up her time, tell her you don’t normally do this, but she seems cool so you’re going to give her your card so she can get in touch if she wants to
– Leave immediately, Don’t hang around, don’t sit next to her, don’t keep the conversation going even if she’s being responsive. She may just be being polite or she might even be anxious about the fact that you’ve approached her. Just leave. If she’s interested, and likes the look of you in the way you liked the look of her, she’ll be in touch.