DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve got quite the problem, I’m shy, introverted, and never really get out. I’ll start with my biggest problem, I don’t get out much. I go to college and work and that’s about it. About once or twice a month I’ll hang out with friends but that’s as much as I get out of the house. I used to get out a lot more, but as my friends got older they took on more hobbies, extracurricular activities, and some got girlfriends, so all their time was taken up and that has left me with no excuses to get out of the house. I’d love to get out more but going places without people you know is always kind of intimidating. What would you recommend I do to feel more comfortable when I’m out without people I know? What are some kinds of places or activities would you recommend for going out to meet new people, maybe some new friends or maybe some ladies.
My other problem is partly because I’m shy. I’m not completely shy; like I can hold a conversation on something I’m knowledgable or passionate about, but I can’t carry on a conversation very long by myself. I also am clueless on how to start up a conversation (with the ladies) in a situation where you wouldn’t normally meet. If I were at school or at work,I can easily start up a conversation with my female coworkers or classmates since I have a solid reason to, like just talking to pass the time at work or start talking about something related to the class, and can go from there in the conversation. But, in a situation where it is a completely random girl, I have no idea how I would even say hello without it being weird. Since I’m someone she doesn’t know who doesn’t have any real reason to talk to her out of nowhere, how would I even approach her without being weird? So basically how would I start up a conversation with a girl I’ve never met before and have no reason to talk to her but I’d like to get to know her? And then even after that how would I direct a conversation so it could be something I am knowledgeable on or passionate about so I can actually talk and not sit there like a log awkwardly? And what are some ways to keep the conversation from being dull?
And lastly, I’m more of a person who only talks when the subject is about something I’m knowledgeable about or am passionate about because I don’t want to say something that would make me sound like an idiot, so I end up just being someone who only listens in most conversations. How could I enter a conversation on something I don’t know much about without sounding like an idiot or completely derailing the conversation?
DEAR PINK SLIP: Ok PS, this is one of the times when the answers to your questions all build off one another. Take, for example, how you start overcoming your shyness and get out of the house more… even when you don’t have anyone to go with.
The first thing I always recommend to people is that they leverage their interests. You want to find ways of taking the things you already love or are passionate about and find ways to use them to meet like-minded folks. If, for example, you like tabletop games or RPGs, it’s worth hitting up your local gaming store. They’ll often have tabletop nights to bring people together to play boardgames, host RPG groups and have other get-togethers for people who’re into dice, boards and miniatures. You might also seek out events like pub-quizzes, especially if the group running them will help put you together on a team. If you’re feeling more physical, then you might try an amateur sports league. There are also frequently Meet-Ups on many different topics; finding a couple of these is a great way to meet folks who share your interests.
But one thing to keep in mind is that you need to go more than once. In fact, becoming a regular – whether it’s to a gaming event, a pub quiz or even a bar – is part of how you start learning how to overcome your shyness. The more you become a fixture at these events, the more comfortable you become; you’ll feel more familiar with the venue or the event, you’ll feel as though you have a better grasp on the unwritten etiquette and mores, and you’ll start seeing many of the same faces over and over again. Even if you’re only on a nodding acquaintance with them, it will help you feel more at home, as it were, to see folks you recognize. That, in turn, will help you feel like you’ll be in a position to join in conversations or to start them yourself.
Speaking of which: I think that you, like many folks, are seriously overthinking what it takes to start a conversation. How many times, for example, have you been standing around some place – at a bar, in line at Starbucks, waiting for class to start – and someone makes an idle comment or observation? Somebody else responds and suddenly, a conversation’s broken out.
That is 90% of starting a conversation. It’s almost always a simple question or observation and things go from there. If you look at the various “openers” that pick-up artists talk about, you’ll quickly see how many of them are simple questions. Even the more elaborate routines – like the famous “Jealous Girlfriend” opener – start as asking somebody for their opinion about something, then pivoting to getting to know them better. And honestly, you can start a conversation with just about anything, including a direct “hey, you seem like you’re really interesting and I wanted to say ‘hi’. My name is…”
What you don’t want to do is try to force a conversation to go in a particular direction. I realize you feel more comfortable when it’s a subject you know a lot about… but not everybody is going to be interested in those subjects, nor are they always going to want to talk about them right then and there. After all, other folks are going to have things they like to talk about. In fact, understanding that is like a conversational super-power. As I’m often saying: we all love to find someone who wants to hear what we think about something. Most of the time we meet people who are just waiting for their turn to talk; finding somebody who wants to listen is rare and precious. The thing to keep in mind is that not knowing something doesn’t make you stupid or foolish; it just means that you don’t know something. Instead of trying to pretend that you’re actually knowledgeable about the subject, ask questions. Let them tell you about it, while you ask clarifying questions or try to make sure you’re understanding them correctly.
This is why you shouldn’t be afraid of being an active listener and asking relevant questions – especially if you don’t know much about the topic. The fact that you’re paying attention and want to know more makes them feel good, and they’ll associate those good feelings with you. This, in turn, invokes the Reward Theory of Attraction – we prioritize our relationships with folks who make us feel good.
I realize that meeting new folks can feel intimidating, but I promise you: it’s not nearly as difficult or as intimidating as you think. A willingness to let other folks talk, to listen and to show that you’re listening, and to adopt a learning mindset instead of trying to show how big your brain is will go a long way to improving your social life and social skills.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have enjoyed reading your column and listening to your podcast. I’m a straight white cis male in my mid thirties just getting out of a relationship that lasted 10+ years. The type of relationship which I thought was going to be my last, where we lived together for years, where all our friends know each other, where we were the most important people in one another’s lives. Ending the relationship was my call and I know that it was the right thing to do. Things had been getting bad for years and weren’t going to get better.
I feel vaguely optimistic about what’s next in my life but also am aware I am in a pretty emotionally vulnerable place. Most days are good but this is a whole new world for me. I’m not looking for dating advice per se, that doesn’t seem like something I want to dive into right away, but life advice on how to keep in touch with myself, get ready for whatever is next and avoid any potential pitfalls along my way. Any advice for the newly single and not really ready to mingle?
Enjoying The Silence
DEAR ENJOYING THE SILENCE: My go-to advice for folks who are newly single – whether they want to be or not – is to focus on yourself. What are the things that bring meaning to your life, that make you want to get up in the morning? These are the things that you should prioritize in your day to day life. Is there a project that you’ve been meaning to start, a trip you’ve wanted to take or some other event that you’ve left on the back-burner for a while? Now’s the perfect time to pursue it. Not only will this help keep you from dwelling about being newly single, but it’ll make you feel better about yourself; you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and achievement and you’ll feel like you’re doing something with your life instead of being stuck in a rut or floating along aimlessly.
The other thing that you’ll want to do is start focusing on the other, non-romantic relationships in your life. One of the unfortunate side-effects of a lot of our relationships is that they tend to be the primary focus of our time and energy. As a result, we have a tendency to let our other relationships slip down the priority ladder. Taking the time to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while and maintain the friendships with folks you have been seeing is an important part of anybody’s life, but especially when you’re single again. Not only is it important to have a Team You in your life, but it’s good to remind yourself that there are other folks in your life – folks who love and care for you.
Taking the time to rest up and build a life that you’re thrilled to live, single or otherwise, is going to be key for moving forward. Because when you have that awesome life and you’re ready to date again? Then it’ll be that much easier to find someone who’ll want to take part in it.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I recently read your book “I Got Her Number, Now What?” but didn’t think it completely applied to the situation I am in/ questions I have.
I met this woman in Vegas, she was in our group of friends but I didn’t know her prior. We ended up going on a mini date and kissing and cuddling. She lives in Pittsburgh and I live in Philadelphia. I texted her and based on the book, I can tell I made some mistakes by killing the momentum and being boring. She has left me on read twice, but after the first time she responded to my funny text, we had some back and forth and then once again she left me on read because of the momentum.
My question is should I apply the same fundamentals for someone that lives long distance? Keep the texts short, fun, and lead to a date or try and get to know her, since dates will be few and far between? Since it is long distance, we won’t be able to meet for a decent amount of time, in that case how much should I text her after she’s agreed to the date? Say she says she is free to go on a date in 3 weekends?
West Philadelphia, Born and Raised
DEAR WEST PHILADELPHIA, BORN AND RAISED: One thing you’re going to want to keep in mind: sometimes folks aren’t going to respond – keeping you on read – because they don’t have anything to say. It’d be nice if they sent an emoji or other indicator that they read whatever you sent and liked it, but on occasion there’s simply nothing to respond to.
Now as for your situation, distance is going to be a problem. The guidelines in my book were written with a view towards dating people who live within easy driving distance. Unless you and she are in the habit of travelling to each other’s cities on the regular, it’s going to be difficult to propose a date if the two of you haven’t already been a little flirty and leading towards a conversation of “well, I’d love to see you if you’re ever in town.” It’s easier to propose a date with someone who’s in easy driving distance because it’s less of an ask; it’s not as much time out of their lives, nor does it feel as though you’re asking for more than just a date.
It’s one thing to ask somebody “hey, how do you feel about cocktails and pinball?” when they live in town with you. There simply isn’t as much of an investment of time and effort. If someone’s coming to your town specifically to see you, then it can feel like there’s more on the line. After all, they’ve come all that way; that makes it feel like the expectations are higher and more impactful, and that can make folks a little uncomfortable.
Now, if you happen to have business – actual business, not a BS excuse – to go to her town or vice versa, then it’s much easier to propose a date. “Hey, I’ll be in town for a work thing, would you like to get together?” feels far less consequential than “I’ve spent X amount of dollars and hours just to see you”.
So were I you, I’d feel out just where things are going. If the conversation is already heading in flirty directions, then by all means, propose the date. If not, then I’d say focus on the getting to know one another more and see where things are going.
And if you do plan a date together, then keep things light, friendly and flirty in between. Just don’t make the date itself a constantly recurring subject of conversation, outside of firming up plans. If it feels like you’re obsessing about the date or making a big deal out of it, it may make her feel uncomfortable about what exactly you’re expecting. It’s one thing to be excited and looking forward to it. It’s another when you KEEP talking about it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)