DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I wanted to ask you for advice regarding meeting new women. From my part, although I have many friends, I only rarely encounter new women that satisfy the following criteria: (a) I like them, (b) they like me back, (c) they are available for dating. This year I have been in zero dates so far and I have been at only a single date the previous year. I know, it could be better considering that I live in a city with over 4 million people.
Usually, I hang out with friends and to be honest I have a lot of them. The problem is that no-one of them knows any girl that satisfies the aforementioned criteria. They live a quite calm life and they are not interested in meeting new people themselves. I have also tried a hobby (dancing) that both attracts many women and which I also authentically like, but people there did not want to socialize. After the lesson was over, they would quickly leave in order to return to their homes. After 3-4 months, we have gone out for a beer only once and thus I was not able to form any decent connections.
Honestly, apart from meeting girls through common friends and hobbies I cannot think of any other way to meet women, that does not involve cold approaching. I don’t like dating sites and since lockdowns are no longer an issue, I think that they are not essential. I think that doing the same things, will just give me the same results, so clearly, I have to try something completely different.
The only thing that I can think of, is to try having conversation with strangers, which is something I occasionally do. However, when I force myself to start such conversations in a day to day basis, then I feel very anxious and stressed. I tried once just saying ‘Hi’ to a stranger each day, which sometimes also naturally led to small conversations, but after 20 days I was feeling so stressed that I stopped it, thinking that all my friends are in happy relationships with people they met through warm approaches. It feels really awkward striking a conversation with a stranger and most of the time they have a duration of 4-5 minutes. In my everyday life I will strike conversation with strangers once in a while, without feeling any pressure, when I want to ask them about directions, suggestions, or when I find them reading a cool book.
Is talking to total strangers (including girls that I find attractive) in events or bars the only way to meet girls? Is this where I should focus? If this is the case, then how would you intentionally practice it ? Just going to crowded places or events and strike up conversations, like an exposure therapy process?
Thanks for your time,
DEAR WARM APPROACHER: I realize that this isn’t the point of your letter, WA, but your three-part criteria leaps out at me. I know there’s a lot of talk about having standards and whether one’s standards may be too high or too low, but there’s a difference between “having standards that’re just too stringent” and “my preferred gender and alive (and I’m flexible about the alive part)”. There’s a lot more to compatibility and finding someone who’s worth your time and attention than “likes me” and “is single”. I understand how it can feel as though you meet so many people that you can’t “afford” to be choosy, but when you drop your standards to “well they said yes when I asked them out on a date”, you end up doing a disservice to yourself and the people you date.
Now I mention this because it’s directly relevant to your problem. But we’ll get to that in a second. For now, let’s talk about whether it’s better to do cold approaches (approaching people you have no social connection to) and warm approaches (people who you share social connections with, either directly or indirectly).
If I were to be snarky, then I’d say the answer is “both? Both. Both is good.” But while that’s literally true – and in an ideal world, a mix of both is actually a good idea – there’re distinct advantages and disadvantages to either, and which you prioritize depends on a person’s individual circumstances.
On average, we tend to meet our partners via warm approaches; that is, a plurality of people meet their partners either through mutual friends or shared activities and hobbies. Dating apps – which are mostly cold approaches – have become the next most common way, with a distinct boost during the lockdown in 2020. Relatively few people meet their partners through a pure cold-approach, particularly through venues like bars or clubs. What’s also something to keep in mind is that people rarely start relationships with people they’ve just met. More often than not, we tend to form relationships with people we get to know over time, rather than a “love at first sight” scenario. Exceptions exist, obviously, but for the most part, cold approaches are the least common and least-effective way we tend to meet potential dates.
This isn’t really a surprise. What most of us think of when we think of a “cold approach” – the stereotypical “meet a man/woman at a bar and get their number, date or hook-up” – is ultimately an attempt to convince a total stranger to be willing to start a romantic or sexual relationship with someone they may have only known for a couple of hours at the most. The “street approach”, or what some would call “day game” is even less efficient. One would-be pickup artist documented his street approaches and over the course of three years he had an approach-to-date ratio of 1 percent. If you take that further to number of times a street approach led to sex, then you’re down into fractions of a percentage.
(I’m sure some wag out there has done a similar breakdown of their swipe-to-date ratio on apps like Tinder or Hinge and came to some equally apocalyptic number that supposedly “proves” that women have it easier in dating, but dating apps are a different beast entirely, with completely different dynamics that affect people’s success and failure.)
Now, cold approaches do have their place, and the ability to talk to and connect with strangers is a useful skill to cultivate. The skills involved in cold approaches have a multitude of uses outside of the dating sphere, and there will be times when you don’t have a social circle to look to in order to meet people to date. Being able to build relationships with new people relatively quickly can help build (or rebuild) a network of friends and acquaintances, which then makes it easier to meet people via warm approaches. And yes, there are times when you may be in a place where you have no networks to fall back on. But as a general rule, you’re going to have better results (and better connections) by going with a warm approach and meeting folks either through your social circle or through people you have those shared social connections with.
In your case, specifically, WA, you have two significant handicaps. The first is that you have a sizable group of friends, but it seems to be a closed network. That is, your social network consists entirely of folks who already know each other. From what you describe, it sounds like none of your friends know folks who aren’t already part of the circle or have significant connections with people outside of it. This isn’t common, per se, but it’s not that unusual, especially if you’re dealing with folks who are introverted or aren’t particularly social themselves. It also doesn’t help that COVID and the attendant lockdowns meant that a lot of our secondary and tertiary social connections – the friends of friends, the folks we knew to say hi to but didn’t have a strong relationship with and so on – withered and died. If our friends weren’t part of our quarantine bubble or people we made a concerted effort to stay in touch with, then it’s hardly a surprise that those connections faded.]
The second is that your primary hobby group isn’t terribly social either. Everyone shows up, attends the lessons and then leaves. That makes it a lot harder to actually, y’know, connect with folks.
This is an understandably frustrating situation. I mean, you’re trying to follow best practices and you’re hitting road blocks that make it almost impossible to succeed. But there is an easy and simple answer: make new friends and join different groups.
Yeah, I know this sounds almost insultingly reductive. It’s the dating advice equivalent of “Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this”/”Well, stop doing that.” But – and I say this with all seriousness – people often don’t do this. Most of the time, they treat this as the immovable obstacle to their dating life and turn to something less effective because it seems like the only option.
But remember how I said that your bare-bones standards were a problem? Well, adjusting those will actually help you find more places to socialize, more people to socialize with, and find more potential dates. Whenever people ask me where they should go to meet women, my answer is the same: figure out who the people you’re most likely to be compatible with and go hang out where they hang out. And I do mean people, not just women (or men or non-binary folks); you want to go to places where there’re people to connect with and make friends with, rather than treating the event or venue as though it were a sex ATM.
The point is to find people who share your interests and passions, the people who you’re most likely to get along with and whose company you’d enjoy. By spending time in those spaces, becoming a regular and known quantity, you take advantage of both the exposure effect (the more we’re exposed to something, the more we begin to like it) and the propinquity effect (we tend to form relationships with the people we’re most exposed to or spend the most time with). You want to find spaces that are explicitly social because you want it to be a space where people are going to hang out and chat. If everyone just leaves at the end of the event or the class or the game – as with your dance class – then you’re not going to be able to make friends with any real ease. But a hang-out space where your people gather? That’s going to be a much better place to not only build a social circle, but to find people who are more likely to be right for you.
I know you have a friends group already. But here’s the thing: it’s totally fine to have different social circles, even ones that don’t overlap. Having different groups of friends for different purposes, interests or hobbies is totally normal; nobody is going to be all things to all people. Having a diverse set of social circles also means that you have a larger network to rely on or to look to. Plus: your current circle isn’t meeting your needs as it currently stands.
As I always say: if you want to see different results, then you need to do things differently. So, go out, broaden your horizons and find those other areas where your potential new squad are likely to gather. And don’t forget: just because you aren’t seeing people there immediately that you would want to date, that doesn’t mean it was a wasted effort. You may not find your future girlfriend at any of those venues or events… but you may be meeting the people who’ll introduce you to her.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org