Harris O’Malley on playing it cool and taking it slow when meeting new women in your social scene.
A few days ago, a friend of mine told the story of how a random guy tried to pick her up over Facebook. The only thing they had in common before he tried to slide into her DMs like yeah were that both of them were members of the same Facebook group; up until that point, they had never so much as exchanged two words in the comments on a post.
Needless to say, she wasn’t thrilled.
In fact, over the course of telling this story, other women came forward with stories of random guys who would roll into social gatherings – not just social media groups, but in-person events like MeetUp groups – like it was two-for-one night at the local singles bar. This, of course, resulted in more women feeling uncomfortable in these groups and eventually leaving them altogether.
Now, I’ve long recommended a number of social events as places to meet women outside of bars and clubs… but it doesn’t do any good if your approach drives people away. There are many, many places to meet awesome women in your day-to-day life from classrooms to conventions, but you need to know how to do it the right way.
Respect The Social Context
The first mistake that I see people make when they’re trying to meet awesome single people outside of the bar and club scene is that they behave like they’re still at a singles bar. Most PUA schools teach various forms of “Day Game” – that is, meeting women out during the day, rather than at night in bars – and nine times out of ten, the only difference between the Day Game and Night Game approaches is the choice of venue. In fact, some of the techniques for “day game” are even more aggressive and off-putting than approaching people in the club. After all, you’re trying to stop a “moving set”1 on the street; first you’ve got to get their attention and get them to stop and talk to you. As a result, you end up with aggressively forward guys who make something as simple as walking down the street or window-shopping into running a gauntlet of pushy douchebags. Similarly, guys who treat an activity club or a convention or MeetUp group as their own sexual salad bar end up creeping out and alienating women and ultimately chasing them out of the group entirely.
The issue is one of social context – the rules that govern what is and isn’t appropriate behavior change depending on where you are, the time of day and the generally accepted goal of the venue and event. In bars2 and clubs, the context is that it’s a space where people come to meet strangers, drink, dance and possibly hook up. At, say, an anime club or a MeetUp for people who love stand-up paddle-boarding, there is also the expectation of meeting people… but the end-result is making new friends, not finding someone to come test the durability of your mattress springs that night. The expected and appropriate behavior is entirely different. A guy who rolls up on somebody at a tabletop gaming event at the local coffee shop the same way he would at a nightclub is displaying incredibly poor social calibration; his behavior simply isn’t appropriate for the social context of the situation and it’s going to make women justifiably uncomfortable. He’s demonstrating low social intelligence – that either he doesn’t know the right way to behave or he doesn’t care. Either reason will set off women’s Spidey-sense; a man who doesn’t respect the boundaries of the social context is less likely to respect her personal boundaries as well.
This is one of the reasons why randomly messaging people on Facebook is a loser’s game: it completely ignores the social context of the network. It’s the equivalent of getting somebody’s number from a friend of a friend and sending them texts out of the blue – it’s unsettling at best, even if you have nothing but the purest of intentions.
Understanding and respecting the social context is an important part of dating period, but doubly so when it comes to meeting women in non-traditional social venues.
Establish Yourself In The Social Circle Before You Start Hitting On People
Speaking of social context, if you want to actually date someone from one of your social groups, then you need to actually be an active member of the group. One of the things that many people overlook is that unless the group is specifically designed for singles to meet up, most of the members aren’t going to appreciate new members who show up and immediately start chatting up the ladies. Most of the people who’ve joined up are there because they want to hang out with people who share their interests, make some new friends and maybe learn something new. None of them – even women who might otherwise be open to some no-strings-attached nookie – are going to appreciate people who show up to their fixie appreciation club because they have a hankering to dip their wick in some hipster chicks. These guys are demonstrating that they have no respect for the group or its members. At their mildest, they’re annoying. At their worst, they’re disruptive and ruin the vibe of the group and drive people away.
Even groups based around relationships and sexual activities – like poly social groups and BDSM munches – have issues with people who assume that it’s the perfect place to find a hook-up instead of just hobnobbing with like-minded folks.
@DrNerdLove For a poly meetup: “We’re not coming because it seems like mostly dudes, and we’re trolling for a unicorn.” Paraphrased.
— Terminal Verbosity (@Jewthulhu) August 1, 2015
If you’re hoping to meet somebody awesome, then then best thing you can do is join the group and become an active member… without angling for phone numbers, at least at first. In fact, trying to get a date should be a secondary priority to just meeting people in general. Becoming a participating member of the group means that people get to know you and vice versa. You have an opportunity to establish yourself as a cool, fun person to get to know instead of that douchebag who’s clearly here to try to get laid.
Now, I realize that some of you may be wondering: if I’m such a big advocate of meeting women through non-traditional groups, why am I telling you to not hit on the people you meet at these groups? Well, because there are practical benefits to taking a measured approach. Simply joining and participating gives you a better chance to make new friends, increase your social circle and build an attractive lifestyle. You build up social capital – not in the PUA sense but in the sense that people will get to know you as a fun person who’s worth getting to know. Developing larger, more varied social circles mean you’ll have more opportunities to meet people you might otherwise never encounter. All of this means that you’ll have more chances to meet women organically, instead of trying to force it.
Plus, y’know. You get to spend time doing things you enjoy with other cool people. That’s a worthy goal in and of itself.
On a related tip…
Take It Slow
Another reason why I suggest you take time to actually integrate yourself into the group is simple: it forces you to slow your roll.
One of the things you see frequently in PUA circles is the emphasis on speed – take her home from the club that night, make her fall in love with you in just a few days, etc. This is another reason why the would-be classroom Casanovas and MeetUp playboys tend to get singled out as disruptive and creepy; they’re pushy and aggressive in ways that are profoundly unpleasant. They show up and burn out because they’re focused on getting laid ASAP. But while there is an understandable appeal to getting laid the same night you’ve met someone, there are actually greater benefits to taking the slow route.
To start with, guys who just show up and immediately start hitting on people make women uncomfortable. They’ve demonstrated that they don’t see the women they’re flirting with as people, but as future overly exaggerated stories they’re going to tell their bros later. They don’t know anything about the person they’re hitting on other than her looks and that there are probably some superficial commonalities. Even for women who might otherwise be interested in the guy, this is just insulting; he’s not saying “You know, you’re an amazing person and I’m interested in you,” he’s saying “Yup, you’ll do.” The fact that he’ll deign to let her touch his penis (or, alternately, is so desperate that he’ll take anyone that says “yes”) isn’t a compliment.
The guy who takes time to get to know people in a social context, on the other hand, is establishing his good guy (not Nice Guy) bonafides. He’s demonstrating interest in getting to know her as a person.
For another, taking time to get to know people – and letting them get to know you – before you start angling for a date actually works in your favor. Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have conducted multiple studies that have found that the longer somebody gets to know you, the more attractive you become in their eyes. Initial attraction can be swayed by physical looks, but the value that looks provide fade surprisingly quickly over time. Taking a slower approach means that you have more opportunities to demonstrate your charm, to find commonalities and build upon mutual interests. You’re able to build an actual foundation for that mutual attraction you want. When you do ask them out, you have that base of familiarity and interest that makes saying “yes” feel completely natural and easy… unlike Johnny Rando who just popped into your Facebook messenger.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating that you play the Platonic Best Friend Backdoor Gambit. You’re not pretending to not be interested; in fact, it’s good to be a little flirty and playful. You’re just taking time to get to know somebody before you ask them out on a date.
There will be times when it’s better to angle for a date sooner rather than later, especially if they’re giving solid signs that they dig you; if you’re approaching somebody in a bookstore, then the odds of your seeing them again are pretty low if you don’t connect on social media or get a phone number. But if you’re both members of the same club or sports team? You’ve got time; let things build instead of trying to force it.
Above everything else, when it comes to hitting on people in your social circle, you need to be cool. Make the enjoying group your priority, with hooking up a bonus. Yes, you want to meet somebody awesome. That’s totally legit! But if you make that your sole focus then you run the risk of poisoning the whole thing.
Almost everyone has horror stories of how That Guy ended sucking the fun out of the group like an emotional vampire with an eating disorder. There’s nothing quite so toxic to a club, MeetUp or social circle as drama; if left unchecked, it infests everything like a passive-aggressive fungus.
The guys who treat MeetUps as a sex ATM? They make people feel uncomfortable and quit showing up to events. The creepy guy that women have to warn each other about? He becomes the missing stair that grinds down the unity of the group and can ultimately turn something fun into an emotional anchor that drags everyone down with it. The guy who ignores soft “no’s” and doesn’t pay attention to the “I’m uncomfortable” signs in the people he’s talking to? He can end up chasing people away if the group doesn’t take steps to get him to clean up his act. The guy who makes a giant production out of his hurt fee-fees because his crush stubbornly refuses to want him back? The other guy who gets upset because somebody asked out his crush even though they all knew he liked her? They tend drag everyone in the group into their own personal drama, forcing people to choose sides.
You don’t want to be that guy.
Fortunately, not being that guy is actually very simple: you be cool. You adopt the attitude of “It’s great if something happens between us. If not, that’s cool too; I’m here to enjoy being part of the group.” Your crush isn’t interested in you? OK, that’s cool, there will be others who are. She starts dating someone else? Well it sucks, but hey, it’s no big deal.
Maintaining an upbeat, can-do attitude is important; not only does it improve your mental and emotional resiliency – which means that you recover quicker – but it means people will like you more overall. People appreciate someone who’s low-drama, who can keep minor disappointments from affecting everything they do. The cool guy who takes a “no, sorry” in stride is someone people feel comfortable around. He’s the one who’s proven he’s a good guy that people can trust.
Being cool is what can turn a defeat into a victory. It means that people will appreciate you and enjoy your being part of the group. You’ll have more opportunities to increase your social circle and meet even more awesome people. Yes, that one woman may not have returned your interest, but because she trusts and respects you, she may well be the one to introduce you to someone who is into you. And she’ll be the one to tell your new crush just how awesome you are.
This article originally appeared on Doctor Nerd Love.
Photo credit: Getty Images