If you happen to be on the shy side and hate apps — learning how to meet people to date the old fashioned way can feel particularly daunting. But let's be real, in the age of smart phones meeting prospects IRL is not something many people are primed to do. And if you aren't the type to chat up strangers, it might seem next to impossible. But never fear, with a little practice — and yes, taking a few chances — you can make it work.
As Camille Virginia, dating coach and author of the new book The Offline Dating Method tells Bustle, in reality, opportunities to meet new people are everywhere, both online and offline. Most people, however, even people who don't identify as being shy, aren't doing that because of how scary it feels. Virginia says that IRL, people often avoid situations where a real connection could potentially happen, because they feel they have something to lose or risk being rejected face-to-face. Getting used to meeting new people in low stakes settings is one way to help. Meeting people in the flesh doesn't have to mean simply skulking around a bar trying to wink at cuties. Part of the trick is going to places where you have a "purpose" for being there.
Virginia shares some tips from her work, and says that a good place to start warming-up your social and approachability skills is by volunteering. You’ll have a reason for being where you are, and you'll be focused on an activity that allows for pauses and talking opportunities.
Another great way to get comfortable going places alone where you might meet people? Arrive twenty minutes early for a planned meet-up with other people, be it a coffee shop, the lobby of a movie theater, or a bar. Twenty minutes is the perfect window of time to get comfortable being by yourself because you have a real purpose for being — you just “happened” to arrive a little early, Virginia says. Practicing going places alone is a really great way to get comfortable with "your own company" in public.
Virginia also gives the tip of straying a little from your normal routine and going to a coffee shop, a new lunch place, or on a different bus route, for example. It can give you something she calls "a vacation mindset", where in your inhibitions are lowered because your fear of seeing someone you know is gone.
"[Changing your routine] gives you the chance to experiment in situations where you’re unlikely to see the same people again," Virginia says. Reminding yourself that you never have to go back there can take the pressure off, and lower your fears of embarrassment.
Life and relationship coach David Bennett of Double Trust Dating, who is also an EFT practitioner, tells Bustle that simply by being open to the idea of interaction wherever you are can be helpful.
"You can project openness so that people who aren’t as shy will feel comfortable approaching and engaging with you," Bennett says. Doing things like smiling at people when they pass, sitting at a table that isn’t in the corner, or being talkative with your waitress, for example, can all send the signal that you're an easy person to chat up.
Look for situations where you feel really comfortable and are your speed socially, Bennett says.
"Might not be a crowded bar, it might be something like a board game night!" Bennett says. Being around other people who are interested in what you're interested in can make it a lot easier to relax, talk, and be social.
Of course, there is always the problem of becoming really nervous in the moment, or even totally shutting down. As psychotherapist and coach Amanda Stemen, MS, LCSW, creator of FUNdaMENTAL Growth tells Bustle, this is when some simple mindfulness practice can come in.
"The best thing to do when noticing this anxiety is to feel it fully in your body," Steman says. "When you pay attention to the physical sensations you're experiencing you won't get so caught up in your thoughts, which may talk you out of interacting or make you feel more nervous."
"After a couple minutes of feeling those physical sensations they'll lessen and possibly even completely subside," Steman says. "This allows you to feel more comfortable chatting with others and the more you're able to engage with others, the less shy you'll feel."
Steman's other advice to feeling comfortable is basically the ole wing person trick. Elicit the help of friends that you already trust, who might help you to meet someone new or even set up meet-cute situations.
"They might know someone you could hit it off with and can facilitate a meeting," Steman says. "It doesn't have to be a formal blind date, maybe just a few friends getting together to do something fun."
As difficult as confronting shyness in the realm of love can be, with a little practice and willingness, it's totally possible. You'll be chatting up strangers in no time.
David Bennett, Life and relationship coach, Double Trust Dating.
Camille Virginia, dating coach and author of The Offline Dating Method
Amanda Stemen, MS, LCSW, Creator of FUNdaMENTAL Growth