Saturday, May 28, 2011

5 Tips To Turning Chit Chat Into a Conversation at a Coffee Shop

 I recently participated in what I call the “7-Day Challenge” with another girl.  The 7-Day Challenge involves meeting one new member of the opposite sex every day for an entire week.  It’s meant to be so simple that it would be hard to fail and would empower each of us to stretch and improve our social skills.  It was not about getting a phone number every day, but simply getting used to the everyday act of approaching a complete stranger and engaging them in a conversation, a lifelong skill that goes far beyond dating.    I kept track of each experience and had an epiphony by the end of the experience.  I’ll start off by relating the first day

Here are 5 Tips I learned

            Monday:  I figured the best time to talk to a woman would be after work and while doing things I was already doing.  I stopped off at a local coffee shop that makes a good cappuccino on Venice called “Venice Grind”  They have local artworks on the wall, a friendly bartender named Eric with a big smile, free wi-fi and a tasty banana cake.  As I walked in, I saw a girl typing away at her laptop near the front with an open table next to her.  The evening sun was harshly shining directly on the open table but that was not enough to deter free from snagging a seat.  I put my backpack below the table, ordered my coffee and sat down to read the newspaper. 

Tip 1Small talk is a great starting point

            After reading and enjoying my coffee, I had to use the restroom.  I turned to the girl, a redhead with bright eyes and asked, “Would you watch my backpack while I go to the bathroom?”
            “Sure,” she said, barely looking up from her laptop screen.
            “Thanks,” I replied. 

Tip 2:   Crack jokes and be light-hearted

            I returned and on my walk back took a look at my backpack and grinned.
“You did a great job guading my stuff,” I said and playfully added.  “No one stole anything.  Excellent job.”
            She smiled back and I could tell she was amused. 
            This moment reflects how easy it is to approach any situation and turn it into something playful.  Use your surroundings to get a little bit of conversation going that has a light-hearted tone.  Here I exaggerated the simple act of watching one’s stuff in a coffee shop, which everyone has done at one point in their lives.

Tip 3:  Continue the conversation by commenting on a simple observation. 
Quick question to the reader: Based on everything I’ve already described, what would be an easy way to continue the conversation with this girl? 

For me, the most obvious one is: What was she working on at the coffee shop?  Maybe she’s a student studying for an exam.  Maybe she’s checking her facebook status to see how many “Likes” her last post got.  Maybe she’s writing her first book on dating, like me. 

Side note:  The book is called “Dating on a Dime: 20 Inexpensive Dates in Los Angeles and I have written 12 out of 20 chapters so far.  I’ve been taking my time writing it and filling it with insights, anecdotes, humor and lots of good tips.  It’ll probably be done in the next month or two.  

            “What are you working on?” I asked.
            “I’m looking up costume ideas for a short,” she said.
            And with that simple question there were now two fun conversation threads to explore: 

- Costumes, which tells me she’s probably into fashion and helping other people choose outfits for whatever reason.  In this case her reason was for a…
- Short Film, which is easy to talk about for me because I’ve directed a few short films and I’m a huge cinephile.

Tip 4:   Closing the deal, sometimes the opportunity isn’t right

            As we talked, a guy and a girl arrived to join her.  They were all friends and she shifted her attention to them and so I went back to working.  I planned to stay for at least an hour more, and I noticed through the corner of my eye that after 10 minutes, they all got up and left together.  As she stood up to leave, we bid each other farewell and that it was good to meet each other.
            Because there were two friends there, I didn’t have the desire to ask for her number on the spot.  It didn’t feel right.  Looking back, I think I could have done it in a casual way, and in the future I would have asked her out to get a coffee another day as it’s better to go after what you want, even if it doesn’t work out.

Tip 5:   The most important part is how you view the interaction, no matter the outcome.

            I could have seen this as a failure on my part, but instead I saw it as a part of my growth and learning.  I am proud of myself for having the courage to talk to a complete stranger at a coffee shop.  The situation put me in a good mood and later when I went to the gym, I ended up talking to two attractive women in a similarly casual and flirty way. 

I encourage everyone, man or woman, to go out and start approaching people of the opposite sex.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain and at the very least you will improve your social skills…which will come in handy down the road, as I’ll share later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are you meeting new people everyday?

  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but life is not a Disney movie.  Unfortunately, you can't wait around for Prince Charming to come save you or for Jasmine (lets be honest, the hottest Disney character ever) to conveniently pass your way when you're a street rat.  You must be very proactive.  

  If you want ANYTHING in life, you have to go out and seek it.  Like I've said, dating is like a job, and to find a great job requires a lot of research, interviews and plenty of rejections.  For some reason, people are willing to make that extra effort to work hard and save furiously for that awesome car or dream vacation, or spends years at school awaiting that ideal medical job down the line, but when it comes to finding love, they stand in the background like a wallflower, waiting for something to happen.  

  Finding a romantic partner takes just as much effort as any other goal, like losing weight through diet and exercise or learning to speak Italian.  Don't spend your life being passive, as that will just lead to too many nights drinking beers with your buddies saying, "Where are all the good chicks?"  

  They are OUT THERE and it's your job to go out and introduce yourself to them.  Unless you are incredibly good-looking and/or famous, a girl may bat an eye in your direction, but will rarely approach you.  Instead, you gotta do the work.  Which means meeting new people everyday.  

  Here's a really simple goal: meet three people you don't know everyday.  If you're a guy, make small talk with three women, anywhere about anything.  Today I was at the supermarket and a woman reached for the broccoli at the same time I did and that prompted a fun little chat about cooking broccoli in a tasty way, like making Roasted Broccoli Parmesan.  

  If you get good at consistently making upbeat small talk with girls, you will eventually be ready when that dream girl passes you by and you're confident enough to approach her.  You have the experience and have practiced a lot.   Remember, it's all practice and start small.  Eventually you'll be able to easily segue to getting a phone number and going on a date.

  I practice what I preach and today I spoke to five women: at the bank, the supermarket and later a rock concert (there are some great free shows on Monday).  I'll talk to more people tomorrow as I go about my day and, eventually I will connect with a great woman to spend a lot of my time with.

  Tomorrow is a new day, make it count!


Friday, May 13, 2011

The 5-Minute Meet: How I met a girl and got her number on a walk

The other day, I met a woman as she was walking her dog and within 5 minutes, I walked away with a huge grin on my face and pumping my fist in the air because I had got her number.  Us men will spend lots of money on drinks and dinners at expensive bars and restaurants for the chance to maybe meet a woman, flirt and get her number.

However, in my experience, this is an inefficient use of time and money.  Why meet her in a very high-energy environment where everyone is dressed to the nines and often not in a mood to meet people, when you can go for a walk and meet a real woman, in a real moment as she's walking her dog?  That's what this story is all about:


My mood was down in the dumps.  I had just finished listening to an audiobook called "Why Him, Why Her" by Helen Fischer that details four distinct personality types based on biological and evolutionary study and research and how those types of people think, act and even date.  I am primarily a Builder who is someone that is traditonal, likes scheduling, is cautious risk-taker respectful of rules and authority, socialable and a good host.  As I sat in my car listening, the author described the faults of the Builder and every one of them hit home, like a thunder storm of tough love.  It was dramatically elevated my awareness of who I am, who I am most compatible with and the variety of other people out there for me to meet.

In the midst of this epiphony, which I took in with an overbearing amount of self scrutiny, a female friend called and I opened up to her.  We shared insights and I liked how she sees self-critique in a totally different from me, with fascination and vivid excitement, so that she can learn how to be a better person.

My mindset shifted and I drove home in anticipation of meeting some old fraternity buddies from my UCLA days at a nearby bar in Culver City.  (Yep, I'm a planner, and we like to create and host fun events!)

Post-shower, I felt much better.  Even looking in the mirror I saw that I had a nice tan, a pleasing smile and looked good in the outfit I had chosen: a bright green and white checkered shirt with a tan, well-fitted jacket.  I had on a pair of brown and black very classy shoes, with dark Neam jeans and a brown belt.  I looked handsome and the optimistic, fun-loving self that I know and love had returned.

Out the door
  The bar was a 15-minute walk away and I had decided to go by foot so I could drink and not worry about driving back.   It was about 7:30pm and while the sun was disappearing there was still a good amount of daylight left.  I had heard from a David Wygant podcast about the power of being a source of fun energy for the world around you.  To walk down the street and so "Hi" to everyone so that you bring them a moment of joy and to connect with them for a moment.

  Two kids rode by in scooters with their dad behind.
  "That looks fun!" I said, "I gotta get a scooter and start hitting the road on it."   I high-fived the kid and made small talk with the dad.

  A woman walked outside with a huge bag of laundrey.  With a grin I said, "That is a HUGE bag of laundry" she smiled, I smiled and I walked on.

  A guy with a backpack, probably a student walked by and I gave him a casual "Hey."

 A half-block away I saw a woman, with a small golden-brown dog, walking toward me.  She was petite, with blonde hair and even from a distance I knew she was cute with her workout outfit and running shoes ensemble, out and about just to give her dog a walk.

 My heart raced a bit as I got closer.  "Should I say "Hi" to her?" I thought.  When we got within talking distance I went straight for the dog, as I am a dog person.  In a big, goofy voice I said, "Hello!  How are you?" and patted the dogs head.  I bended down to give the happy canine more attention.  I'd do this for any dog that I run into, but this particular pooch had a leash attached that led to a slender hand and pretty face.

I asked her about the dog, what kind was it?  It was not hers, she said, and she was not even a dog person.  She was watching the dog for the weekend.  The dog barked at me for a moment, but then went up and started sniffing me.  He decided I was a friend and then was very affectionate as I scratched his ear.

We chitchatted about living in Culver City and I immediately started talking about the new place I was about to go called City Tavern, which had just opened a few weeks ago in downtown Culver.  I playfully said she should come check it out.  With a grin she said, "But American Idol is on tonight!"  I smiled and we talked about the show, which I don't watch but I am aware of those huge billboards all over town that keep X-ing out people's faces until one of them wins.

With an easy, "it was good meeting you" we parted ways.  I walked for 20 seconds and the big thought hit me, "Why didn't I ask her for her number?"  Was I afraid that we hadn't bonded enough?  Would I really ever "see her around" like I said she would?   Most likely not.

For a split second I imagined turning around and walking straight up to her and asking her for her number, so I we could get to know each other more and over a coffee or drink some day.  While I didn't run up to her with romantic fervor, I simply turned around and watched.  She (actually, I did get her name, but we'll call her Ella) had went over to her car, picked up a big white bottle and started walking back toward me.

"What luck?"  I thought.  As she came near me I inquired about the bottle, and Ella said it was filled with cat litter as she is a cat person.  We took a few steps together before stopping in front of her apartment building.  As she got to her door I bluntly said, "Hey, it was good meeting you, would you like to get a coffee or even take that dog for a walk sometime?  She smiled.

I asked the dumbest question, "Do you have a phone number?"

Yes, she did.

I beckoned her to come over, and as she did I showed her the picture on my phone: that of a large beautiful golden retriever that has been the dog I grew up and is my favorite animal of all time.  I am a dog person, through-and-through.  I entered her digits into my phone and as she walked inside I told her I would call her.  And then I walked away, awaiting the night out with my friends at the bar.

A block away I had the hugest grin in the world!  I was so excited and in complete shock of what had happened, of how I had met a girl and got her phone number as she was walking her dog!  People go to bars to meet girls, and I met one on the walk over.  I figured the night had just peaked and, funny enough, it hadn't even officially started.

At the bar, I was excited, but my friends hadn't arrived.  In fact, they wouldn't make it until 30 minutes later.  So, I made friends, tried new beers, and met 6 or 7 awesome, very friendly people.  I feel like I put out a good vibe to the world, and the world gave it back.  In fact, one incredibly awesome guy bought me a shot of vodka!  I was having a ball.

The Lesson

  I think I learned that sometimes you just need to clean yourself up and get outside of the house.  Put on a good outfit, a nice smile, stretch your legs and go for a walk.  Smile and be friendly, and the world will return the favor.

  If you had told me when I was a shy nerd in high school that later in life I would have had this moment: meeting a girl and getting her number on a walk, I would have given you a look of completely disbelief.  But, years later, I've found my way.  I'm now very open to the world around me and make an effort to improve my social skills everyday.

  They say Luck is where Preparation meets Opportunity and my years of socializing combined with that one lucky moment, created a great memory.  I'm going to followup with Ella, who I barely know, with a phone call in a day or two and if we have a good chat, we might go for a drink.  I'm excited, and incredibly optimistic on what the future holds.

  So remember, look good and go for a walk.  Say hi  to people and and observe the world.  Who knows what cute girl awaits you.