Now that there’s a dating app for everything (FarmersOnly.com, anyone?) it can feel like meeting people organically just doesn’t happen anymore. But after five years of Tinder, which marks its anniversary Tuesday, online daters are still the minority. It’s most popular among 18-to-24-year-olds, and only 27 percent of them use it, according to a 2016 study from Pew Research Center.
If you want to meet someone “in the wild,” putting some effort into making that introduction happen, and not just hoping for a chance encounter is key. Here are a few tips:
Don’t rely on serendipity
While “I dropped my groceries at Whole Foods and he helped me pick them up” is a cute story to tell people about how you met your significant other, counting on serendipity to meet someone isn’t always fruitful, warns dating coach Erika Ettin, of A Little Nudge. If you go into every situation with the expectation of meeting the love of your life, you’re most likely going to be let down. Instead, focus on expanding your social network and giving yourself opportunities to meet people.
Sign up for an (ideally new) activity
“I ask my clients, ‘What does your day-to-day look like?’ And most of them say they go home, they go to work, they go to the gym,” said Maria Avgitidis, founder of Agape Match. “And as a result, they’re just going to be meeting the same kind of people over and over again.”
If you want to meet someone organically, increase the chances of it actually happening by going to places that open you up to meeting people with shared interests, such as the dog park, church groups or an acting class.
Michael Hurst, a D.C. dating coach, said one of his clients has had great luck at a rock climbing gym. “You have to physically work with people in close company,” he pointed out. Among experts’ favorite social groups in D.C. are recreational sports like kickball on the National Mall, or the “20s and 30s Going Out” meet-up group, which Hurst said is a favorite among his clients. “It’s a mixture of people who are new in town or just getting back on the social scene for one reason or another,” he said.
Go to events alone
While bringing a friend along may seem like the most natural thing to do when going to a social event, dating experts warn it can do more harm than good. You’re more likely to get out of your comfort zone and talk to people if you have to.
Use body language that’ll help
The key to meeting someone is looking like you actually want to meet someone, experts note. First things first – smile, and put down the technology, especially if friends get up to get drinks or go to the bathroom. Being on your phone or putting in earbuds signals that you don’t want to be approached.
Instead, just look around and observe the room. “Who cares if you look like you have nothing to do,” Ettin said. “It’s amazing what you can do when you’re not looking at your phone.”
If you’re at a bar alone, you have a better chance of meeting someone if you sit at the actual bar instead of at a table. Plus, sitting right next to someone is ideal, according to Ettin. “You can have a more intimate conversation when you’re closer, next to each other,” she said. “Across feels more like an interview.”
If you’re with friends, avoid standing in a group, because approaching multiple people is more intimidating than an individual person. If you’re having trouble breaking off from the pack, “Just say, ‘I’m going to go take a walk around the bar, I’ll be right back’ — just lay it out,” Avgitidis said.
If you’re stuck for a pickup line, look around you
If someone does catch your eye, try starting a conversation that’s relevant to the situation. “If you’re in line at the coffee shop you can turn around to someone and say ‘I always get the same vanilla latte. What should I get today?’ ” Ettin suggests.
Typically, people will be pretty transparent about their feelings. “If they talk to you for a long period of time, they’re probably interested,” Ettin said. And if they’re in a relationship, they’ll probably bring up their significant other in conversation. When in doubt, you can always just flat out ask them out, like Cait Murphy did in 2015 when a cute guy working at the street fair in Lexington, Colo., caught her eye…
The 27-year-old midwife assistant from Denver wanted to chat with him, but it was a busy Friday night and she couldn’t get the chance. “I decided that I would wait for him to get off of work,” she said. “This proved to be a long wait.” When he got off work, she approached him, introduced herself and asked if he was single. The two chatted, exchanged numbers, started dating and welcomed a child together in January.
But, again, don’t expect that the first person you approach is going to end up being the father of your child, or you’ll be sorely disappointed. The most important part of being open to meeting people is being open to rejection. “Think of telephone sales,” Hurst said. “If you expected everyone to buy the first time then you would be absolutely crushed.” After all, all you need is one to work out.