Friday, May 14, 2010

How to start a conversation with anyone … like Gerard Butler

There’s an important process of unlearning you must do to date. You have to undo an embedded rule your mother built into your system:
“Don’t talk to strangers.”
To her credit, mom was trying to keep you safe, so you wouldn’t accidentally take candy from an odd pedestrian or annoy people around you. But once you hit your teenage years, college and beyond, there are strangers everywhere, many of which catch your eye from a distance and the first thing on your mind is, “Gee, I’d like to get to know her.”
If you want to expand your community, it requires the courage to chat up people you don’t know. Think of strangers as people you aren’t friends with yet.
People become comfortable with their group of friends because they enjoy the ease of conversing with trusted company. All through high school I had the same group of friends, a collection of intelligent geeks that didn’t venture too far from our core members. But today, I actively engage new people I meet at work, parties, classes, bars, coffee shops or wherever the urge hits me to introduce myself to a stranger. I’ve developed a juicy conversational tactic I call offering the “bait.”
It worked at the gym and even on a movie star.
The Bait Tactic
On a Monday morning, I was at the Ballys gym doing cardio and like every single person who enters a gym, I eye-scanned the crowd of treadmills. Businessmen, stay-at-home moms, teenagers, athletes and more pounded the artificial pavement, absorbed in their own little worlds while their eyes dart to alluring members of the opposite sex. I spotted an attractive woman mindlessly running on a treadmill and so I stationed myself next to her, wondering how I could startup a conversation.
I have a curious, bubbling mind, and it helps me in these situations. I glanced at her treadmill and saw an entire office setup in front of her: blackberry, ipod, water bottle and a script she was diligently reading. (Only in Los Angeles will you find people reading scripts while exercising.)
“You’ve gotta teach me how to multi-task like that.” I said.
She looked at me blankly, before taking out one earbud.
“I said, you’ve gotta teach me how to multi-task like that. As a man, I prefer doing one thing well at a time, like running.” I paused. “But I am talented at doing this.”
I then rubbed my belly and patted my head at the same time. She laughed.
“I gotta read this script today. Ya know, get a lot of things done,” she said.
At this point we’d had a fun little conversation, but if it was going to go somewhere, it was up to me to throw out a one-liner with a subject or two. This is the bait, and if she’s game, she’ll respond well.
“Is this your typical office setup: script, cell and sports? It’s very 2010.”
And from there we chatted about… films, phones and running. It goes to show how simply starting up a conversation can be.
A crowning moment for the “bait” tactic was when I used it to have a genuine conversation with a movie star…King Leonidas himself.
Talking to a King
He's less intimidating in person

After a Saturday afternoon hike in Griffith Park, my friend and I found ourselves at Birds Café, a restaurant that specializes in chicken, on Franklin Avenue, after two local hikers had recommended their food.
As my friend and I sat down in the outdoor patio, she yelped, “That’s him!” I turned to see no more than two feet away was Gerard Butler. Muscled and grizzly with a salt-and-pepper beard, he radiated confidence as he flirted with two women at a nearby table and bellowed in his thick Scottish accent, “Hi, I’m Gerard.”
My friend left the table for a moment, and I noticed Gerard’s friend sitting across from him was holding a small dog. I asked this friend about the dog and soon Gerard chimed. At this point, I came up with a “bait” comment that offered a few easy-to-chat-about subjects.
“My friend and I just came back from hiking through Griffith Park, where there were tons of dogs.”
Hiking, Griffith Park, dogs... I figured something would hook. I knew I was at a disadvantage because I wasn’t a tall, blonde, aspiring actress with flawless skin and sharp blue eyes. I was a dude talking to a celebrity and covered with sweat after two hours of hiking.
“Which trail did you take?” Gerard curiously asked.
“We went up an awesome trail that started at Beachwood Drive, pretty close to here, and went up to the Hollywood sign. It’s got a great view of the city.”
“I’ve always liked hiking through Griffith Park, there are some great trail by my house.” Gerard said. (And by “house” I assume he was referring to a mansion.)
Soon he was recommending a great trail in Temescal Canyon that leads to a skull shaped rock where he likes to meditate.
Me: “You’re into meditation? I’ve been interested in trying different forms of it.”
Gerard: “I think meditation is really about whatever works for each person.”
Me: “Well, if you’re looking for the answers to the “great questions,” why meditate when you can just go over there?” (as I pointed to the Scientology celebrity center across the street)
Gerard laughed.
We chatted until the conversation naturally ended and we went back to entertaining our respective companions.
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Hooking someone in conversation comes down to how creative you can think on the spot. Ask yourself what has happened to you recently that you could throw out in conversation with someone you just met. It has to be a subject you are genuinely enthusiastic about, because your tonality will really hook or sink the conversation.
One of my favorite dating bloggers is David Wygant, who champions meeting women in a natural way, without pickup lines.
He too, has a cool video on approaching celebrities with real footage of one of his buddies chatting up Michelle Rodriquez that is worth watching.

2 comments:

  1. maverickpalateJun 16, 2010 03:52 PM
    I dig this... Eric M said I would love it and I do! Kudos to both of you!
    ReplyDelete
  2. Eric HorwitzJul 23, 2010 06:12 PM
    Thanks Maverick! I appreciate the feedback
    ReplyDelete