(Phatforums Blog/ Match.com) – If you’ve been out of the dating scene for awhile, you’re probably not used to approaching attractive strangers. Yet you see them everywhere: that cute man in the produce section at the grocery store, the intriguing woman across the field at your son’s soccer game. But how can you make contact without resorting to cheesy lines like, “So, do you come here often?” Next time you see someone appealing, try turning a chance encounter into a potential date with these strategies:
Act quickly. When someone catches your eye, don’t hesitate. Often, there is only a small window of opportunity before the moment passes and the stranger is gone. If you believe in fate, think of it this way: that interesting person standing in line next to you at the post office may have been put there just for you to meet.
Keep it simple. In that brief window of opportunity, what should you say? “Hello.” No, it’s not clever, sassy, or scintillating, but it’s a time-tested classic — and it works. (Don’t forget a friendly smile!) It’s also a good gauge for whether someone wants to interact with you; not everyone is in a good mood, has time to chat, or is single — even if you don’t see a wedding ring. If you receive a smile and a “hello” back, the natural response is to make a comment about your surroundings. Perhaps something like, “Why do you think the line is so long here today?” or “How do you know our hostess?” This is a casual and non-threatening way to open the door for a dialogue. The key is to ask a question that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer. You want to create a bridge to further discussion rather than start a dead-end exchange, such as “Isn’t it beautiful out today?” which may only get you a “Yes” in response.
Stay current. Before you leave your house each day, be sure to read the latest headlines or watch the news on TV. Staying abreast of current events (including sports) allows you to comment quickly on something interesting or quirky — after all, you never know who you’ll bump into throughout the day. Think of one question each morning about a current event and commit it to memory. Something humorous is nice, but even a straightforward “Did you see the news this morning about (fill in the blank)?” can be a great ice-breaker.
Consider carrying an item that invites others to engage with you. If you’re ultra-shy or ultra-rusty, wouldn’t it be great if someone else approached you first? You can put yourself in that position by carrying a “conversation prop” if you’re comfortable doing so. Sample props might include: a travel book, sports equipment, or even an item of clothing with a foreign slogan, sports team, or university logo on it. Choose something that relates to your interests or reveals something intriguing about you. A single man or woman who would like to meet you might see your prop, make a comment about it, and start a conversation without your feeling any pressure. You’re making it easy for someone to approach you. While this method is a “passive” one, it’s nice sometimes to let the initial responsibility fall to the other person.
Close the deal. Once you have made contact and exchanged some initial banter with someone interesting, you’ll want to make sure you will see this person again. You should always have cards with your contact info on hand (business cards are preferable, but if you don’t have any, make your own cards and include your name, phone number and email address). If it feels right, you can say directly, “I’d love to chat with you again; here’s my card.” Or, you can hand someone your card without being too forward by referring to something you’ve just talked about. For example, “If you remember the name of that book you loved, let me know and I’ll pick it up! Here’s my card.” If you’d rather make the follow-up move, ask for the other person’s card first. Make sure you’re carrying a pen in case he or she doesn’t have anything to give you. If all else fails or you’re at the gym without a pocket, commit the person’s last name and company name to memory so you can track each other down later. Sometimes that extra effort can pay off with a wonderful romance.
Rachel Greenwald is the author of The New York Times best-selling book Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. She is also a dating coach and matchmaker.