Dating apps have given us an opportunity to meet people we might never cross paths with In Real Life (IRL).
Apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and Happn offer a smorgasbord of men and women of all ages and sexual predilections, which means landing a date has, in theory, never been easier.
Indeed, the latest YouGov research indicates just how much we have embraced online dating — 35 percent of Australians have used online dating or dating apps.
But has the rise of dating online and on apps making us less capable of finding love offline? Less skilled in the art of simply striking up a conversation with our fellow humans and seeing where it leads? Less articulate when it comes to asking that cute guy or girl in the gym out on a date in person?
“We are actually communicating more, but we’re not putting our old fashioned communication skills into practice. I think it always has been a struggle to ask people out, but now I think it’s even worse,” Sexologist, relationship expert and author of Single But Dating Dr. Nikki Goldstein told HuffPost Australia.
Founder of The Dating Directory, Renee Slansky agreed that it’s riskier asking people out face-to-face.
“So naturally we want to take the easier and less painful way out. Only problem is, is that we can miss out on real life opportunities,” Slansky said.
So things are bad. But there are still billions of people out there to meet. Many are single, and many more of those aren’t even on dating apps. So if you’re tired of swiping, looking for some old-school romance or simply want to refresh those IRL conversation skills, look no further. Here are some simple tips.
How can you build the confidence to approach someone?
So you’ve established that you’d like to start talking to people in real life, but how do you actually gather up the courage to do it?
To get out of your communication rut, Goldstein suggests practicing on people you come across in real life — with no intention of being flirty.
If we are more confident within ourselves and know our worth then we have more confidence to approach other people
“The best way to do that is ‘make a statement, ask a question’. It’s very easy if you’re in a lift with someone. Maybe someone is wearing an aftershave, maybe they have a dog with them, maybe something funny happened in the lift that you can make a statement and ask a question about,” Goldstein said.
“If you are a friendly, open person and you can communicate with people in that manner, people will communicate back and find it refreshing because we respond positively to human interaction.”
The second step, according to Slansky, is to practice a little positive self-talk.
“If we are more confident within ourselves and know our worth then we have more confidence to approach other people. This is why it is important to master self-love first and make sure that you know who you are and what you have to offer.”
What do you say first to someone you are interested in?
While a carefully crafted chat-up line might seem like a sensible way to show someone you’re interested, implying that your garments are made of ‘boyfriend/girlfriend material’ is unlikely to win over, well, anyone.
The best thing to do is keep it authentic and stay away from anything cheesy or that has sexual innuendo.
“Coming on too strong or trying to shock them will only make them put up walls. Over complimenting them can come across as sleazy or fake,” Slansky said.
“The best thing to do is keep it authentic and stay away from anything cheesy or that has sexual innuendo.”
Instead, Slansky advised keeping it light and making a joke that is relevant to the environment or situation you are in to get the conversation going. If you simply must offer up a compliment, Slanksy said it’s best to pick something less obvious than their general hotness. Try mentioning how much you like their socks/smile/laugh and let the conversation evolve naturally from there.
“(Compliment) on something little and unusual, to show that you have an attention to detail and are someone who thinks outside the box,” Slansky said.
How do you actually ask someone out?
Before you jump the gun, it’s important to establish whether the interest is mutual or not.
“Interest is usually indicated by a smile, eye contact and receptive talk,” Slansky said.
Goldstein explained that there are other easy ways to spot if someone is keen. Assess whether their body language says they are open to a conversation, and listen to whether the person you’re talking to is asking leading questions. If they are investigating whether you have a partner, whether you are on facebook, or what classes do you go to at the gym, then it’s likely they’re interested.
“If someone’s not interested in you, you’re going to pick it up quite quickly, it’s a gut instinct,” Goldstein said.
So if your gut is telling you yes, and your prospective date is smiling and not running away, how do you transition from chatting to actually, y’know, asking them out?
“I think you can always try with some fun, flirty humour. If you’ve got a good rapport with somebody, you might want to say something like, ‘You’re hilarious, we should go get a drink sometime.’ That’s not actually a date, it’s a ‘let’s go get a drink,'” Goldstein said.
Rather than over-thinking the whole process, Slansky suggested just doing what feels natural and keeping the ‘asking out’ question simple.
“Keep it casual, complimentary and relevant to what you have been talking about. ‘If you would ever like to see that movie again I would love to take you there,’ or ‘If you want to grab a coffee sometime so we can chat more about that book I would love to take you for one?'”
Where are the best places to meet people in real life?
While bars and pubs seem like a natural option to meet potential partners, keep in mind that they are nosiy environments where it’s often difficult to hear conversations. Also, too much alcohol can skew both your perspective and that of those around you.
“At night time, if people are drinking and starting to get really sloshy, it can be really hard to decipher if someone wants a date with you or if they want to take you home and have sex,” Goldstein said.
Instead, try day time events, or chatting to people at the gym or at a gallery.
A woman sitting quietly by herself enjoying a cup of coffee is not an invitation for you to talk to her.
“If there is something that you can talk about then I think I think it’s a great place to meet people,” Goldstein said.
Ultimately the best place to meet someone is likely to be where you feel at home and have a genuine interest in the place or subject matter.
“If you’re really passionate about something in particular, go to a group, activity or event where that common denominator is and you can strike up a conversation about that common denominator,” Goldstein said.
However, it’s important to remember that though a person on their own may feel less intimidating to approach, conversely you may be making them feel uncomfortable by invading their space.
“Contrary to what a lot of people (especially men) think, a woman sitting quietly by herself enjoying a cup of coffee is not an invitation for you to talk to her. Try to make eye contact first, smile and if she responds then walk over and start chatting.”
Of course, this advice applies to approaching men, too.
What should you never, ever say?
Being yourself and feeling relaxed is important if you want to form an authentic connection, but both Slanksy and Goldstein have a number of conversations ‘no-no’s’ for IRL interactions:
- Don’t talk about ex boyfriends or girlfriends.
- Be careful about how much sex you talk about unless you feel it’s appropriate. Because if you’re getting to know somebody and you’re talking about sex a lot straight off the bat, they’re going to think that’s all your up for.
- Don’t get too hard into things that are sensitive topics unless they bring it up and have common ground.
- Don’t talk about yourself too much.
- Don’t come on too pushy or strong.
- Avoid cheesy one-liners and false bravado.
In the end, whatever happens, remember that you’re talking to another human being. Be kind and courteous and acknowledge that rejection is a natural part of the dating process.
“Whilst it’s important to be yourself, don’t assume they want to date you and never make them feel forced to. A no is a no,” Slansky said.
“Respect always goes a long way.”