by Brad Bollenbach

Flirting

I’ve travelled all over the world, from New York to Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo. I’ve had the privilege of working with brilliant minds. A few years ago I learned French, and mastered the language well enough to speak in horrible slang with a fully authentic accent. I bought my first house not even 72 hours after my first ever house-shopping expedition, and only hours before I was due on a plane to Australia.

But the single most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done was to make a habit of talking to strangers.

Nothing has changed my world view, and my life, more than taking the risk of saying “Hi” to people I don’t know on a regular basis. Whether I’m walking down a busy shopping street, longboarding in the park, or out at a nightclub, I see every moment that I’m out in the world as a chance to meet new people.

How to Become a Social Skydiver

I can’t help but geek out on almost everything I do. Dating, relationships, and social circle building are no exception. I set goals in those areas and take action to achieve them. Here’s the recipe I use for bringing new people into my life, whether it’s making new friends around common interests, meeting women, or making business contacts.

  1. Figure out what you want. What kind of social life do you want? What kind of people do you want to meet? Do you want a serious girlfriend or something more casual? Knowing what you want helps you focus on spending your social time in productive ways.
  2. Smallchunk it. Start with smaller daily or weekly goals to propel you in the right direction. For example, a few years ago I decided to give up online dating forever, and meet girls only through real world means. I started by going out and just making eye contact with girls in the street, too shy to even open my mouth. I worked my way up to deeper interactions in various social situations. These days, I can go from no love life whatsoever to dating in a week or two.
  3. Let go of your ego. I’ve been told to “Fuck off!” I’ve been ignored. I’ve been brushed off in dramatic fashion. I’ve also met and dated women of unique vintage and beauty. When you take the risk of talking to someone you don’t know, rejection is the only certainty. But failure is exciting–it’s a chance to learn and improve. There’s a name for guys who never get rejected by women, never say the wrong thing, and never have their ego bruised by the opposite sex: Internet Porn Connaisseurs.
  4. Get out of your house! Don’t spend months trying to get past step #1. Even if you’re not sure exactly what you want, get out of your house and start opening up to the world. Motivation follows action, and experience will help inform your objectives.

How to Approach People

I prefer to keep my conversations fairly organic. I don’t like coming in with “canned material”, “nuclear attraction” routines, or other social robotics. The best way, in my experience, is to come from the heart and live fully in the moment.

What you say isn’t nearly as important as how you say it. Socializing is about exchanging energy, not being a wordsmith. When in doubt, just say “Hi”.

If you’ve never done this before, you may get brushed off several, even dozens of times until you get really comfortable being yourself in front of other people. Attractive women are highly socialized. A girl can sense your nervousness and anticipated rejection, and will take no prisoners when shooting you down.

That’s okay. It’s normal. Pat yourself on the back for having the balls to do what 95% of men around the world couldn’t do if their life depended on it. Then move on to the next one.

What I’ve Learned from Talking to Strangers

Talking to strangers has, literally, changed my world view and my life. It’s taught me so many things that I could never have learned from a book. Here’s what I’ve taken away from my experiences thus far:

  • People don’t bite. A lot of people are really open to conversation. In fact, you’d be amazed at how many girls will be practically overjoyed that you came and talked to them, as if they’ve been waiting for you to approach them.
  • Rejection is no big deal. I can’t repeat this enough. Still, fear of rejection will be the main reason why guys don’t go out and try this. If you are willing to get rejected, brush it off and keep going, you will have an awesome sex life. Period.
  • Authenticity is the silver bullet. An honest individuality is the most magnetic of human qualities. But keep in mind that buying a girl a drink and showering her with compliments is not being sweetly authentic; it’s saying “I want to sleep with you.”
  • The people around you aren’t watching. And, even when they are, it’s usually in shock and awe, rather than because they’re laughing at you.
  • Other guys will get out of your way. You’ll be amazed how often other guys simply fade into the background when you approach their female friends.

I could go on, but ultimately it comes down to you experiencing it for yourself.

One Approach a Day

If you’re still terrified by the idea of talking to strangers, I’d recommend one specific challenge to get you started, which I’ve done myself: Talk to one stranger a day, every day, for 30 days.

If you’re walking past a girl on the sidewalk, say “Hi”, and she looks at you and keeps walking (done that many times), your job is done for the day. If you walk up to a girl in a club and say “Hey!”, and she responds, with a slightly grossed out look “I have a boyfriend.”, congratulations, you’re one step closer to improving your love life. The point of this exercise is to get you used to talking to people you don’t know and form the habit of being more social.

Talking to strangers will change your life. You’ll meet new people every day, you’ll give yourself control over your social and love life, and you’ll experience firsthand the joy of living dangerously.

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Comments
  1. Eric says:

    Social Skydiving is a great way to describe how I’m learning to handle social interactions with strangers. Which, by the way, wasn’t as much of a problem when I was younger. After the end of my 21 year marriage a couple years ago and being a stay at home dad for much of the last 10 years, I found myself with a serious case of social reluctance.

    One major thing that has helped was deciding to try Argentine Tango. Which has turned into a major life passion, too!

    During some of my first dances my left hand was literally shaking. Yeah, I was nervous. Dancing regularly with the beautiful, gracious women in the tango community really has made a huge difference in my confidence both in my personal life and in business. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t get on the dance floor without a drink or two, or six.

    On the business side, I needed to teach myself to cold call companies for my start up. It took me nearly a year to get myself to dial the phone. (Never give up!) Now, it’s not much of a problem. The experience, though, felt was very much like jumping into an abyss!

    Once again, loving your site. Thank you for encouraging your readers to live their lives!

  2. Great information and I agree with almost everything you say, but I do disagree with not using canned material, using tried and tested lines and conversation starters can be a great way of reducing the fear of approach, there is room for both canned and organic and in my opinion one will enhance the other.

  3. Kayleigh says:

    Thanks for the interesting post! I’m trying to become comfortable talking to people in a second (or third? Sky’s the limit, right?) language, and this advice is very helpful. Arigatou! Jesus loves you! All that jazz!

  4. Andrew says:

    Hey.

    I was really feeling down after I broke up with my girlfriend ( 5 years with the same person can make you lose focus on the world around you) , and decided to randomly search the web for something to keep my mind busy.

    I’m really glad I found your blog. Can’t stop reading through your posts. Some even made me smile and feel a little better about myself.

    Need to overcome my shyness and take your advice on meeting strangers.

    Guess you are the first stranger I said hi too :)

    Many thanks for awesome posts.

  5. [...] to embark on in the morning.  Talk with one stranger a day for 30 days.  I found the idea at http://30sleeps.com/blog/2007/08/01/social-skydiving-the-art-of-talking-to-strangers/ while looking for ways to be more comfortable talking with women.   I’m getting much better [...]

  6. [...] Bollenbach of 30sleeps.com said, “When you take the risk of talking to someone you don’t know, rejection is the only [...]

  7. Nvulane says:

    I think the article is pretty much informative, but talking from a male’s perspective. How do woman get out there and meet new people? For man, I believe it should be natural, in fact we ought to do that more often. I’m ready to begin my 30-days journey..

  8. [...] to social occasions. For about five months starting last December, in my quest to master the art of talking to strangers, my social life became two full-time jobs. I was constantly going out to social events, clubs, [...]

  9. Great points, very simple and straightforward but very powerful too.

    I like that you mentioned rejection as an essential part of the process. Those that can accept failure are miles ahead of most people. They will be able to get results (sometimes mind-boggling results) where others will have only frustration and fear to show.

    At the end of the day, the world would be a better place if more people talked to each other.

  10. I really used to attempt the canned material and it never ever worked once! It is good sometimes to fake it until you make it, but if you are approaching this with a fear or lack that what you say will not attract anyone, no matter what comes out of your mouth – they will sense this vibration. . it is much better to be yourself and let go. In a sense the action of approaching a girl cannot defile you – since you are indifferent to the results.

  11. Perspective says:

    What if you’re a girl? An introverted, socially akward, girl. Society mandates that you do not go out in public w/o a possy or a man, and, depending where you are, talking to strangers could get you, or your reputation, in a LOT of trouble. This Article is too gender specific for a problem that is NOT gender specific.

  12. Elise says:

    I agree with Perspective.

    I just moved to a new town. I knew nobody, so I was instinctively friendly.

    The guys all thought I wanted them to make a pass at me and most of the girls snubbed me.

    When I understood that, saying ” Have a nice day” to a guy was getting me in a lot of trouble I had to become colder.

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