How can I be better at starting conversations with the opposite sex?

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How can I be better at starting conversations with the opposite sex?

Dec 12, 2011 |Leigh O'Dell
Question

I'm a single gal in my late 20s. It seems I'm perpetually in situations where I'm solo, and a potential friend is right before me, but I don't know what to do or say. I typically don't have a problem keeping up a conversation once I'm introduced to a person, but when I am alone and have to initiate my own introduction, my brain freezes, and I can't think of what to say or do.

Last week, a guy who works in my same building was at the coffee machine the same time I was. I had seen him around and thought he was a good-looking guy, so I was excited to be put in a situation where I could finally meet him. But I didn't know what to say. The only thing that came to mind was John 3:16 (I kid you not. KLOVE had been talking about it on the radio that morning.) I didn't want to turn around and quote a Bible verse to Hot Stranger, so I just smiled, got my coffee and went back to my cubicle. Fail.

Sunday morning in church we had a group of men lead us in worship. One guy gave his testimony, and I totally connected with what he said. I wanted to say something to him after, but I couldn't think of anything to say. Ugh. Another missed opportunity! Please help.

Answer

We can all identify with those situations where we would like to connect with a person, but when faced with the prospect of introducing ourselves, we freeze. Making an initial move to engage someone we have not met can be a challenge whether the situation arises in a church, social or work setting.

Situations where an introduction is appropriate arise in too many different contexts to give a lot of specific advice on how to introduce oneself beyond a simple, "Hello, my name is … " but in general, when introducing yourself to a stranger, the easiest way to overcome your nervousness is to focus on that person rather than focusing on your own fear.

In my experience, I freeze up in situations like those you describe when I'm trying to impress someone, rather than reaching out to that person with sincerity and friendship. I think of myself more than the other person.

God’s Word speaks to this in Philippians 2:3-4. "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (ESV). We honor Christ by reaching out to those He puts in our path with friendship, genuine interest and compassion.

With that understanding as a foundation, let me address the specific situations you raise. You mention intersecting with a good-looking guy in the building where you work. In general, I think casual hellos and small talk with a guy in line at a coffee shop are harmless and can be opportunities to be upbeat and uplifting (in other words, to be the light of Christ). But I am not sure that introducing yourself or moving beyond casual hellos with a stranger in that setting is the best idea unless you know something about the guy (i.e., he is a friend of a friend, you see him often during the course of your normal routine, etc.).

As a single woman, it is prudent to be cautious initiating a conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop, gym, grocery store or somewhere like that. Nonetheless, in this situation, where it appears that this guy is known to you (i.e., you see him often enough to know he works in your building), the right first steps might be to say hello, be friendly and comment on something you have in common whether it be work, something going on in your city or another common interest. We can hope the conversation will proceed from there and possibly include introductions.

In a church setting like the morning service you describe, how should one go about greeting a guy (or anyone) who has given his testimony? A straightforward, genuine approach is best. Say hello, thank him for sharing his testimony and then share how the testimony inspired you. By conveying how you were encouraged, the guy is affirmed in his faith, and Christ is honored. Situations where you have opportunity to encourage another’s faith arise in numerous ways in church whether in a small group, Bible study, work project or other social setting. If your focus is on thinking of ways to esteem the other person, it is unlikely that there will be a shortage of something to say after that initial hello.

The advice I have given can be applied to any situation where you would like to connect with a person who will hopefully be a new friend. It appears from your question, however, that you primarily experience these "brain freezes" when a "Hot Stranger" is involved. If your primary interest in introducing yourself to a guy is that you have a crush (whether long or shortly-held), let me offer a word of caution. Introducing yourself to a guy with a warm hello and smile may be entirely appropriate. But I suggest that sauntering up to a guy, not so subtly communicating your desire to get to know him better and in other ways pursuing him, may not be wise.

As Christian women in a secular world where we are encouraged to be the aggressor in romantic relationships, we need to take care to balance the permissible step of initiating a connection with a guy with a biblical understanding that allowing a man to pursue us leaves room for him to fulfill his God-designed leadership role if a future romantic relationship ensues.

God bless you,
LEIGH O'DELL

Copyright 2012 Leigh O'Dell. All rights reserved.

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