13 July 2006

Pick-up Lines

Recently I had occasion to be having lunch with some friends when an attractive woman walked by our table.  This prompted a discussion on how to approach someone of the opposite sex. How do you bridge that gap and show interest appropriately?

As I pondered this later that day considering the various perspectives broached in the conversation it occurred to me that some of the basic negotiation principles were expressed in the most agreeable of the ideas presented. Simply put, it became obvious that there are good ways and bad ways to show interest in someone while preserving decorum.

To begin with, let's discuss a less-than-stellar way to broach the subject:
Would you like to go out with me?
This particular phrasing has several negative aspects:
  • You set yourself up for rejection. They might say no.
  • You pass control of the situation to them.  This creates pressure on them to provide a specific response.
  • You imply a formality. This requires an increased level of commitment from them.
  • You have limited the response timeframe.  The implication that an immediate reply is desired gives them less flexibility in how they might respond.
  • You leave the response open to interpretation. If they say "no," it might mean, "No, I don't want to go out with you," or "No, I want to go out with you but I'm busy at that time."
In many cases, these are the exact opposite of the techniques applied for successful negotiation.

Now consider a different way to approach someone:
Let's get together and do something sometime.
In this phrasing, you have a great deal of positive aspects.  You give the impression of a casual meeting.  This is less pressure, and no loss of control.  You transition from a specific object to just friends getting to know each other. There isn't any formality so the responses are unconstrained. However, allowing an unconstrained response doesn't mean you don't get your answer, in fact the opposite is true.  You are often able to more quickly and smoothly get more information.

If they are interested, they will respond in a positive verbal manner.  The words they use, the tone of voice, their body language, and their expressions will all be positive.  If they are very interested or in pursuit of you, they may even lead the conversation to making a specific time to do something or suggest a particular activity. If you get these positive responses, you can either pursue the conversation and arrange the schedule or leave it to a later time for follow up depending on your interest.  Setting plans immediately shows your level of interest in them. It may be that you perceive a high level of interest from them and you would like their anticipation to work for you.  In that case, deferring a specific plan until a later conversation can downplay your level of interest.

If they are not interested, their verbal responses may be explicitly negative or it may be indecisive.  Often times the "sure" or "okay" is designed to be polite or save your feelings, but the tone, facial expressions, or body language indicate a desire to drop the subject.  This will let you know they are not interested.  Simply do not pursue it any further.

Some positive aspects of this phrasing include:
  • You aren't setting yourself up for rejection. You've made a statement, not asked a question.
  • You haven't asked for any specific response, so you aren't adding any pressure to the conversation.
  • The casual nature of the phrase is not implying any commitment from you or them.
  • You find out for certain whether they are interested or not.
  • You are making a statement about yourself, not a question about them. This shows something of yourself and allows them to join into the fun and friendship that is your life.
By thinking about how we attain the positive aspects and avoid the negative aspects we can discover phrases that help us approach other people, and be more successful in our relationships.

Can you think of other ways these principles can apply to other situations in your life?

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