I wouldn’t call myself a shy person. I mean, I’ve never struggled to keep conversation with people I meet, but I’ve recently encountered a problem. For whatever reason, every time I see a girl, not only does my brain go into meltdown, but my feet are frozen in motion. I can’t go up to talk to them. Any tips on breaking the ice?
Lachlan, via email
Great question, Lachlan. Unfortunately this “ice breaker” dilemma is a feeling many men have experienced since, well… the ice age. The story goes a little something like this:
Location: Good Times Bar, 10.23pm
A man is in two minds whether or not he should talk to the woman who caught his eye the entire evening
Man: (Thinking) Deep breaths, deep breaths. You can do this. It’s just a girl. A very sexy, ridiculously out of my league girl, but a girl nonetheless. And besides, if you fail, it’s not like you’ll ever see her again.
The girl’s friends leave the table and venture toward the bar, leaving her alone
Man: (Thinking) Now’s your chance. Just say it. How hard can it be? Hello. It’s one word for Pete’s sake. It’s not even a hard word. Now go tell her.
The boy walks halfway before turning around in disgust
Man: (Thinking) Just as I suspected. You’re nothing but a big, drunk kitten. Actually you’re worse. You’re the dead patch of grass that kitten takes a whiz on every day.
The girl catches the boy staring at her
Man: (Thinking) Oh crap. Now you’re really screwed. You’ll look like even more of a fool if you back out now.
Boy walks toward the girl, this time going the journey
Man: Ah, hello.
Woman: Hi there! How are you tonight?
Man: Ah, good.
Man: Well, would you look at the time. I better get going. Bye.
Woman: (Puzzled) Ok, have a good night then.
Man: (Thinking) You know you’re not even wearing a watch. Why do I bother?
Sound familiar? Of course it does. We’ve been the lead character in this film at one point or another. The key is not to write your own script.
The onset of the Internet has inspired an entire new generation of communication. Blah blah… insert a multitude of reasons why, but what we have is a new generation of people who don’t know how to start a conversation. I call it living the “LOL Lifestyle” – when it’s easy to LOL (Internet slang for laugh out loud, but you already knew that) and harder to laugh in person.
To combat such a habit, some people will encourage you to have a few conversation starters up your sleeve. While that’s all well and good, I believe getting over the hump requires something greater than a couple of cheesy pick up lines.
The truth is, almost everyone gets nervous. Which means that while you’re busy wondering what other people think of you, they’re busy wondering what you think of them. Work with that. Help other people feel better by approaching them. Why not try some of the following techniques:
Volunteer: Get involved in your community. Work at a soup kitchen. Help deliver sandwiches to the homeless. Be part of a big brother/sister mentor program. You will never find anybody less intimidating to talk to than a teenager… or another volunteer.
Shop second-hand: What do flea markets, thrift stores and garage sales all have in common? They’re less formal than their designer store counterparts. Everyone loves a chat.
Public speaking classes: Toastmasters International is an industry leader in public speaking. The best part about these classes is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is trying to improve. Conversation with strangers is not only encouraged, but required to pass the course.
Above all, the most important this is to practice striking up conversations daily. Any trivial thing, whether it’s in the elevator, waiting for a bus, or standing in line at the checkout. Step outside your comfort zone. And if all else fails, practice saying the word “hello”. It worked for Jerry Maguire. Maybe it will work for you.
Have a relationships-based question? Want a man’s perspective?