OK, look. You’ve got it covered, I get that. I’m not saying your game is weak, we’re just talking here - this ain’t Cosmo. Still, I don’t have to know your game to comment on it – and hey, it needs work. Coaching and leadership aren’t about being the best player; they are about making each player their best. See also: 5’8” white guys as NBA coaches. So listen up, this is for you.
See, whether you’re Kobe Bryant or Danny Devito, you still have to get out there on the court and take some shots. Here’s some pointers from your personal psychologist on the barstool that will improve your ratio.
Heady phrase alert: Anthropological psychology tells us we need relationships to survive at all. Organizational psychology explains that relationships are vital to career survival. StuffDudesLike psychology reveals that, unless you’re in Thailand on a bender, you’ll need some form of relationship to keep the game moving forward in your favor. That means not only talking to her, but her enjoying it enough to want to talk more.
First of all, I hope your game isn’t at the 7th grade sadie-hawkins dance level. I hope it isn’t you go to the bar and gawk at random women from across the room and hope they have more courage than you, and therefore come over to you and start something. No game. As the night moves on, and the alcohol lubricates your courage to the point of peeing every 20 minutes, then your game then becomes to find the most desperate woman and convince her you’re doing her a favor. If that’s you, this article isn’t going to help.
The guy who’ll benefit from this has gotten burned a couple times, but still plays with fire. That guy knows, and hopefully you do too, that whether your game is Australian Rules Football or Candy Crush, practice makes perfect. Here’s the practice play book. Prep yourself.
But your body can get in the way, so let’s start there…
1. You want instant abs and shoulders? You want a customized diet plan that is guaranteed to make you taller and more attractive without insulting your refrigerator’s compassion for Chinese take-out and various ingredients that won’t cooperate themselves into a decent meal? It’s called Posture. Stand up straight you ninny. Plank, smile, chin down, blade your body, hands out of lint- and mint wrapper-filled pockets, eyebrows up (two eyebrows, not one fluffy eyebrow; pluck that thing), look at her, don't scan the room (that was before), and watch the non-verbals (yours and hers). Hands above the waste Shogun, you’re not trying to surprise anyone. If you're tall, back up so she doesn't have to crane. Don't cast a metaphorical shadow on the conversation (short and tall alike can do this btw). Barstool psychology corner: Smiling is proven to engender trust more than biceps and bragging about your Ford Mustang. Saying you should “blade” doesn’t evoke slaying vampires; blading means standing at an angle – a full-frontal is offensive to a predominance of cultures, so avoid it (until later at home). If this doesn't make sense, think of it as standing with two people as if there were three (sorta). She’s probably with someone right? Don’t exclude that person – if it’s a him, definitely don’t exclude him. Blade that crowd. That’s her trusted agent, someone she trusts to fend off the losers. But not you, unless you try and show him up (gay or straight, there is no benefit to trying to take this guy on in an ego fight). Every prize fighter has a cut-man in their corner. Her friend is, boy or girl, the Cut-Man. They are the single largest source of feedback she is going to get when you walk away or the bell rings (bathroom breaks, etc). Get it? If not, you swung too soon. Stand there open. Open chest, open arms, open stance (toes in ‘V’), open eyes, open mind. Crudely put, but you’ll remember it better than way, if you want to open her blouse, you better start by opening your posture and mind.
2. Have a plan before you move in. Observe her from afar (and not in creepy behind the fern sort of way); figure out what you’re going to say, about what, how you’re going to stand, and your entrance and exit strategy? I won’t leave you hanging; we’ll talk about all that in second.
3. The approach: set a (even if fake) time limit. Think about it, if someone sits next you in a bar and says, “Wanna talk?” your guard goes up and the conversation is off to a 2-3 words per sentence start. You’re playing from the rough before the drive.
“It sure is crowded in here…”
Great job Sporto, you’re making friends and influencing people (not).
So Tee it up before you swing. Everyone’s stance is different, but a good swing is a good swing.
Barstool psychology corner: If you tell someone that you only have a minute, they will psychologically open up to get the information flow going faster to meet the social contract of not making you late (yes, even if they've never met you before). If you go over the limit, it moves them up (in their mind) in priority.
So open with, and don’t exclude her friend, “Hi, I’m waiting on my friend, but I wanted to take a quick minute to (etc)…” It’ll drop her guard from fend-off-the-loser-at-the-bar thoughts. It’ll crack the ice with a sledge-o-matic since you’re no threat to her loosely formed plans of taking too many tequila shots with the girls from work… You’re new, smiling, standing up straight, leaning forward a tad, short-term, enthusiastic, and you aren’t asking her to stop her evening to talk to you.
Now, compliment her, then shut up and lean a little forward, eyes open(er) and expectant, just a tad, to indicate “your turn” to talk (the dress, hair, earrings, shoes, purse, her friend’s tiara, whatever she is showing off, you noticed it, you wanted to say something about it)… If you can’t tell what she is showing off, you swung too soon. Watch her first (touching her hair more than 4 times a minute, that’s her tell; exposed earrings and touching them while talking to her friend, those; standing away from her friend (to not mask her outfit from the animals: the dress/shoes… get it?) Look at what she’s proud of and validate that pride.
Then (gasp) let her talk about it. She won’t be used to it, so it’ll take a second for it register in her mind that you’re going to be quiet and listen.
In your mind, once she starts talking about her favorite subject (herself) you should hear the Spanish Futbol announcer yelling, “SCOOOOORREEE!!!!”
If she doesn’t take a compliment well, or smile back with eye-contact, re-think your play. Whether she was “The One” (long-term) or “the one-right-now” (short-term), call it a loss and bail out. Short-term, who cares; it’d be over soon anyway. Go laugh. Long-term though, not being able receive and gracefully handle a compliment is your wave-off. She’s going to be high-maintenance and un-pleaseable. You already had one of those remember? That’s why you’re here in the bar again… If she won’t smile, she might not be used to it, get it?
4. And there you are. You are standing as straight as your momma taught you for Confirmation, and you’ve offered a non-threatening, time-limited yet open-ended volley to her side of the net. She has raised the racket to play and is ready to talk. Your job now is to impress the cut-man without failing to make time with the prize. That is, let her talk more than you; listen well and play nice. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn't make yours shine brighter (i.e... no complaining - don’t bitch, or you’ll be one). While listening, offer eye-contact and a “yes” and “uh-huh” once in awhile but not much else; that validates people and their role in the conversation as important – which we already know is her favorite subject. Lean in, chin pointed at her, if you have to stoop/bend forward a bit to be at (near) her height, do so.
Do not check your phone, your watch, your six - nothing. It’s you and her (and Cut-man) in a bubble in the bar. Stay there.
If she says something you don't agree with, don't shut it down with an argument: say, “Oh, I never thought of it that way, how did you figure that out?” or “Hmmm… that’s interesting, help me understand the background…” There is absolutely no profit in having your first fight on the first night. Wait on that for a while, ok? It’ll come, no hurry.
5. Suspend thy ego. Most dudes are dying to let other people know they are wrong. Check any online comment string and you'll see nearly all devolve into a faceless shooting match between egos emotionally arguing senseless points.
Ego suspension doesn't mean giving up your pride or coolness. You actually get more; John Wayne didn’t go around telling everyone he was a badass; he just was. You can be smart without explaining it all the time. Get over yourself. To get to know her better, you’ll have to stop the internal propensity for talking about yourself and offering contradiction to anything you don’t like. Alert: you might learn something about yourself as you more maturely pick your battles and pick which things aren’t worth the bother.
Contradiction does not build relationships anyway. Barstool Psychology: If she likes to argue or wants to talk about politics, sexuality, religion, racism, Obama, Bush, her cats (plural), her X, or anything you’d normally talk about after you’ve decided that the sex so good you’ll keep her around a while: BAIL OUT NOW. The first meeting is as much an interview for you as it for her. If she’s that comfortable opening with that kind of game, she’s psycho; turn on your heels and go find the imaginary friend you said you were waiting on. You’ve had psycho already, remember? Not again. I’m doing you a favor brother, accept the loss (yet a win) and move on. It’ll save you three painful weeks of stepping on pink razors in the shower and hearing her complain about the cold Chicken Lo Mein in the fridge. Run Forest run.
There’s body language contraction to watch for too. Hers and yours. Whether your words match your body language or your posture doesn’t match her, contraction stifles flow. As a Psychologist, I'm probably overly aware of this, you and Mrs. Rightfornow don’t have to over-think this too much but watch her as she talks and learn something. For example: men look into their mixed drinks when drinking; women look all around the room while they are drinking one. This is natural. What is she looking at? No big deal, unless it is constantly Rico Suave in the leather pants and silk pirate shirt in the corner… If so, at first find out if he is her foreign cousin and she’s concerned that he’s having a good time… If so, offer to bring him over – it’ll be funny. If it’s not… and they’re not related, she wants to know him the Biblical way. Again, bail out.
Is she looking at you? Is she specifically not looking at you? Have you caught her and Cut-man rolling their eyes or giving each other the “WTF look?” Is she updating her Facebook (bad)? Is she looking at you (that’s good)? Is touching her hair (also good)? Is her neck more exposed than it was when you first came over (that’s very good)? That’s the female equivalent of a puppy rolling on its back (I trust you, rub me)… Again, the opposite is true, if she starts masking herself (covering up) you’re not doing so well… Try connecting better… Listen more actively; repeat what she’s said back to prove you are. “But when you were in Arizona that one time, was Meaghan there, or was that a different roommate?” (you’re: listening, engaged, interested in her friends and experiences). Her pants will fall off. What pirate-shirted Latino? Boom.
6. Don’t "wait" to say something. “Wait Doc, I thought you said to listen…” Yes, I did. What I mean is to actively listen; hear what she is saying, don’t formulate your next snappy line and hold on to it while she’s talking. It’s good to have ideas, she’ll like that. But there is a balance. Stop thinking of what you are going to say next, and actually listen to what the other person is saying. It’s not actually necessary to have a remarkable clever quip every time. Save that crap for your guy friends where you have 13 seconds to snap back or it’s lame. When meeting someone, it’s OK to let there be a little thoughtful silence – otherwise you’ll appear nervous. Nervous is weak. Anthropologically she’s been programmed to see weak as not successful and not let it near her eggs… Get it?
If you are weak, and she still wants you, she doesn’t want you, she wants a project… again, bail out like an Air Force pilot (I was a Navy pilot, this may be funnier to me than you, but it's my article).
OK - Stick to the theme. Life is ALL themes; psychologically, that’s all most people are able to retain after a conversation anyway. Keep the theme light, bright, positive, and affirm her importance, or at least her interest. Be yourself that you are when you are proud of yourself, not the you that you think will make her proud of you... (that'll make sense if the rest of this did... if not, read it all over again...)
That’s enough. By now you’re either taking notes, or your eyes are glazed over. Bottom line: pick your target. Watch it. Pick an approach (ID the tell). Stand up straight. Don’t be weak. Active listening. Respond to what she is saying --- not what you’re thinking while she’s saying it. Be wise, not a wise-ass.
Stick to the theme that you are both interesting people and have lots to talk about (mainly she has lots to talk about). Don’t embellish or call attention to differences. Body language says more than words. No phones -- until the morning when you exchange numbers.
That’s it, just six. Pick three and see if the next shot is better. Comment if I can help more.