It's no secret that opening a conversation with someone of the opposite sex is half of the battle, particularly when it comes to a bar or club scene.
While there are plenty of lines and actions that can definitely make someone not want to talk to you, finding the right combination to open a conversation with a potential love interest (or at least hookup) can be a daunting task that makes you feel totally alien to social interaction.
To help you get over that "first day of school" awkwardness, here are 10 tips for chatting up a random stranger at a bar that are way better than "Can I buy you a drink?" or "Come here often?"
See also: 10 Hilariously Nerdy Pick-Up Lines
10. Talk to the group, not the individual. You know those times when you're standing in an elevator with one other person and you're hoping with all of your might that they won't talk to you? That's what it feels like when you strike up conversation with a single person within a bigger group at a bar. Talking to a group is friendly (if done correctly), but picking one person off from the group can come off as a bit creepy (most of the time). Obviously, if the person is alone, then this doesn't apply, but if they go to a bar/club alone, they're either looking for the attention or completely opposed to it.
9. Say something funny, but not insensitive. If you can make a person laugh, they're going to like you significantly more. The sooner you can make them laugh, the better. We realize that not everyone is a natural-born comic, but the bar crowd doesn't tend to be the toughest audience to get a laugh. That said, try to keep the jokes on a relatively appropriate level. It really just comes down to not offending anyone, it's that simple. Make them laugh, don't offend them. See? Starting a conversation isn't that hard.
8. Think of it as practice. So many people are masterful at conversing with the opposite sex when they know it can't go anywhere, but they freeze up and say something absolutely ridiculous as soon as they meet someone who makes their heart (or hormones) flutter. If that sounds like you, the fix is super easy. Instead of building yourself up for a conversation in a bar, just take the pressure off yourself and think of it as a practice run. Tell yourself they're married or unattractive or whatever you want to say, but don't put the spotlight on it, and you'll do a lot better.
7. Know when to cut your losses. You're not going to win every match. Sometimes you're going to work up the courage to talk to a complete stranger, only to be shut down from the start. It happens to the best of us. Make your polite exit and move on.
6. Don't be a jerk. This kind of goes back to the whole "don't offend anyone" thing. There's some notion out there (particularly among guys) that you have to be mean to someone in order for them to like you. Really though, that didn't work in third grade and it's not going to work now. There's a fine line to walk between playful teasing and downright nastiness, and it's a line we've seen crossed enough times to know where it is. If you're going to be a jerk, start off nice and then slowly make your way into the territory, don't come right out and open with some kind of mean statement. That's just stupid, but it happens way too often.
5. Make physical contact. If you're a guy, your best bet for initiating a conversation via physical contact might be "by accident." It sounds stupid, but it's way better to be that drunk guy who mistakenly bumps into a lady than to be that creepy dude who just walks up and puts his hand on her shoulder. For women, you can be a little more brash. Whether he's interested in you or not, there aren't going to be a whole lot of guys who complain about you grabbing his arm right off the bat (unless his old lady is standing right there).
4. Ask "So, what are you guys celebrating tonight?" Alright, we'll admit that we're not sure how this line works on people, but we've seen it work a few times too many to doubt its effectiveness. The perfect thing about the question is that if they're not celebrating anything, you just respond with something along the lines of "Well then why aren't you celebrating being alive?" Yeah, we don't get it either, but we've tested it ourselves and seen several other people use it, and it's become an effective go-to for a lot of our friends.
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3. Show your knowledge of their clothing/obvious preferences. Carrying on a conversation with a stranger isn't easy, but you can often start things off by complimenting the person. The standard physical compliments (hair, eyes, smile, etc.) will work from time to time, but being able to add some insight to them works much better. For instance, if you (pretend to) know the tiniest bit about any of the person's clothing (or tattoos, hair style, images represented on clothing, etc.), to be able to say "That's a sweet dress, ruffles are really in right now" or "Great shirt, Social Distortion is awesome," you've already effectively begun the chatter. Even if you have to admit to knowing nothing more a sentence later, it's a start. You can take it from there.
2. Read and adjust to the situation. In sports, you can have the best game plan in the world, but it can all go out the window as soon as the contest starts. The bar is fairly similar. Every scenario is different, and opening a conversation is all about context. You can have the perfect line, think you've picked out the perfect person, have confidence through the roof, and everything can go wrong from the second you start walking toward them. Instead of trying to force your plan on to the other person, call an audible to see if you can find something else that works. As we said earlier, if nothing's working, know when to back out.
1. Don't be scared. On rare occasion, someone is looking for the timid puppy who doesn't think they're good enough for the person they're talking to. The other 99 percent of the time, a little confidence goes a long way. The bottom line is that the worst thing that can happen is that you get turned down. That's not so bad. If you're a dude, it probably happens on a somewhat regular basis. If you're a woman, then it might be a little rarer, but it's still just a part of life. Every person you talk to is just another human being, no matter how appealing they may be to you. Get over your fears and go talk to them.