Pickup artists (PUAs) are like composting toilets in that they’re full of shit, but provide some benefit to some people. I know guys who have read The Game and gleaned useful social tools from the dross of PUA tactics. They learned about confidence, having decent conversations, and accepting occasional rejection. That stuff isn’t bad, but a lot of PUA advice is crap and sets people up for failure and bitterness.
It’s worth developing your social skills to navigate the dating or hook-up scene, but you shouldn’t have to go to a wacko in a fur hat for help. I can’t promise that my advice will lead to anything for you, but I do think it’s a good, basic starting level for those who are looking to improve their prospects.
Why are you doing this?
For many guys, approaching women is awkward and challenging, so why are you putting yourself out there?
PUA tactics seem to work if you want to hook-up with a bunch of strangers (you do you!), but if you want something different, like a relationship or to gain confidence, you probably don’t want to follow PUA advice. I’ve never met someone who said, “After manipulating lots of people into bed, my confidence is rock solid,” or, “Our meet cute was I fucked him due to my low self-esteem.”
It’s helpful to be realistic about what your goals are and how increased social ability can achieve them. Being at ease and confident with women won’t make you a god among men or desirable to every woman ever, but it will probably open up more romantic possibilities.
Women are people
I know PUAs have promised a Konami Code for half of the world’s population as if women are interchangeable or an alien species, but people don’t work that way. Instead of trying parse what billions of people have in common (Is it shoes? Cats? Human rights?) just take things one person at a time. Figure out what this one particular woman likes and dislikes. What is interesting about this person and why are you putting time and energy into this interaction?
Once you let go of the idea that there’s only one way to interact with women, even if you’re still kind of awkward, you’re likely to find people are more willing to engage with you on a similarly personal level.
Don’t go to a bar
Do you know what everyone at a bar has in common? They all needed a drink that day. That’s it. It takes a skilled socializer to navigate a bar environment and parlay it into a phone number. Learning to talk to strangers by starting in bar is like learning to swim by jumping off a high dive.
The good news is that single women make up around 53% of the adult population in the U.S. and have a variety of interests that overlap with yours. If you belong to a horticultural society, attend Comic-Con, are into CrossFit, are a Civil War reenactor, etc., you will come across single women who enthusiastically share your interests. It is far easier to meet and connect with strangers with whom you already have something in common.
If you’re unsure where to start, check out local Meetups and regular local events. Don’t hesitate to bring a friend with you to make yourself more comfortable.
Just act natural
Despite all the guides on how to perfectly flirt, most of the time it’s pretty clear if interest is reciprocal. But if you’re unsure, ask a question and see if she chooses to move the conversation forward. Other signs include if the person you’re talking to is looking at you and not the exit.
If you’re still unsure, take the plunge and say something. Not like, “You make my crotch tingle,” but something more along the lines of, “You’re cool, and I’d like to see more of you/buy you a drink/play Magic the Gathering with you.”
The worst-case scenario is that you strike out hard. We all have at some point, and it sucks. It doesn’t say much about you except that you’re human. But there are plenty of other possibilities.
Sometimes you’ll hit it off with someone, but just as friends. That’s great! It means you’re pretty good at talking with strangers and have a good chance of meeting more people.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that things will go exactly how you hope they will.