I spoke to a group of single women recently. During the question and answer time afterwards, part of the conversation went like this:
- Woman #1: We're singles just getting started on the dating scene and feeling nervous about meeting new people. It's easier when we're with a group, but that isn't helping us meet single men. Is there something we can do on our own?
- Me: First of all, I applaud you for taking the plunge and doing things by yourself. I know that going with a girlfriend gives you important things—as women we tend to feel safer in numbers, and it's so important to honor your safety. Also, if you go with a friend it's easier to make conversation.
- Woman #2: Yes, way easier to talk when I bring a friend along.
- Me: What kind of things have you been doing on your own so far?
- Woman #1: Going to movies.
- Woman #2: Going out to dinner—I always bring a book.
- Me: These are great activities, but you're probably aware that neither one helps you practice talking to other people, men specifically.
- Woman #1: So, what do you think we should do?
- Me: I'll tell you one thing that worked for me when I was single—go to restaurants that have a bar (or just go to a bar or nightclub) and talk to the bartender.
Here's the thing about bartenders—they're usually great at making conversation and putting people at ease. They've talked to nearly every type of person and therefore are a wealth of information. You can talk about your job, your kids, your current relationships, what type of relationship you wish you had, and they will listen and give advice. I've found bartenders to be warm and friendly and willing to chat.
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To begin, find a place in your neighborhood and make your first visit during hours when they aren't busy. That way, it's easier to have the bartender conversation.
You could even be so bold to tell the bartender what you're doing—that you're practicing going out by yourself and talking to strangers. You may find this makes them even more interested in helping you feel at ease.
After you're comfortable going to a bar during the non-busy times, try going during happy hour. Arrive at the beginning so it won't be as crowded and you'll have your pick of barstools. And because you already know the bartender, you'll have something to talk about when you sit down. The next step will be to say hello to (or at least smile at) anyone who sits near you.
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You might be thinking, "Oh no, what will I talk about?"
I had to address this in my single days as well. Even though I'm someone who's comfortable talking to anyone at any time about anything—I knew I could get flustered if I met someone who looked interesting, so I would come prepared with possible subjects. My preparations included:
- Paying attention to the news that day.
- Consulting my "reference book"—The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion.
- Figuring out 5-10 topics and questions from the above resources and writing them down in the small notebook I used as my "cheat sheet." If I got stuck for something to say, I'd open my purse "to get out a Kleenex or lipstick" and pick out the next item.