1. Decide wisely whom to talk to.
If that attractive person is clearly absorbed in their book in the park, or if they are obviously listening to music on their headphones and do not want to be disturbed, do not talk to them. Respect a stranger’s personal space and look around to see if anybody wants to talk.
2. Be realistic about whom you approach.
If you are an older dater, you are most likely to set off alarm bells if you try and chat up somebody who is much younger than yourself. Be realistic and strike up conversations with people who are in your own age bracket.
3. Banish any purely or overly sexual motivation from your mind.
Approaching a total stranger in a sexual way will almost always look creepy. Instead, chat with, and respond to, the other person as if you aim to be their friend. Make friendship your motive and who knows, even if you do not find your new hot date, you may at least find a new buddy.
4. Ask open questions.
Avoid questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. More open questions will keep the conversation flowing.
5. Don’t interrogate.
Firing questions at a total stranger about all aspects of their life will seem highly creepy. Instead, be relaxed and let them divulge as much or as little as they wish.
6. Respect their physical space.
Thinking of squeezing that stranger’s knee or putting an arm round them as you speak? Think again! You don’t know them well yet, so keep a respectful distance during this encounter.
7. Make eye contact.
Wondering whether that other person wants to talk? Try and make eye contact with them. If they hold eye contact with you, this is usually a good sign that they are happy to make some kind of connection.
8. Start with a neutral question.
‘How much is the spinach?’ (if you are in a supermarket) or ‘do you know when the next train to London is?’ (when at a train station) are two examples of friendly, neutral conversation openers that will help you to test the waters.
9. Draw on their expertise.
Is the other person buying something in a supermarket that you have never tried? Ask them how to cook it! Are they browsing books in a foreign language? Ask them for some tips on how to learn! Talking about something they know and enjoy will help them to open up.
10. Don’t keep trying if they are not interested.
If you’ve tried a neutral opener and they don’t want to talk, back off immediately. No harm done!
11. Avoid cheesy cliche lines.
These are a sure fire way to make someone cringe. Just be yourself.
12. Avoid too many compliments.
Even if you think their eyes are sexy or their mouth is perfectly shaped, keep it to yourself. Don’t objectify your interlocutor or come across as too intensely sexual or physical at this early stage – stay relaxed. If things hot up later, you can reveal that you always loved the way they smile.
13. Don’t surprise them.
Approaching someone from behind or startling them when they have headphones in will tend to make them feel attacked and (often) afraid.
14. Don’t have a ‘goal.’
Talking to someone with the ‘goal’ of securing a date with them or finding out their name is creepy. Let things develop naturally and at a pace you are both comfy with.
15. Don’t worry if they don’t want to talk.
Strangers don’t owe you their time. If they don’t want to talk, don’t worry about it, just politely move on.
16. Assume ambiguity means ‘no.’
If a person’s body language is ambiguous, assume that they don’t want to talk and politely walk away.
17. Smile and be approachable.
A kind smile does wonders – let your niceness shine through.
18. Pick the right setting.
A well lit, public place is perfect as it is non threatening.
19. Don’t fish for compliments.
Keep things neutral.
20. Avoid bland small talk.
‘How are you?’ is what we say to everyone, without expecting a response. Try and be a little more creative and specific.