If you're in a bar, flirting with a woman you're interested in doing sex stuff with, there are a million ways to screw up that encounter. You could be creepy. You could forget to buy her friends a drink. You could accidentally attribute a poem about love to Rilke when it was clearly John Donne!
To find out how not to totally blow it when talking to members of the fairer sex, we consulted a group of women who've collectively been romantically flailed at by thousands of hopeless men. Here's their advice, in their own words.
“Do not stare from across the room. Little glances and quick smiles work much better. Blatant staring is just creepy and uncomfortable.”
But eye contact is very important
“Aim for the thrill of a sub-conversation held only with the eyes.”
Buy her a drink, the right way
“Don't send over a light beer, especially if I'm not drinking a light beer. Ask the bartender what the girl is drinking and send that. When in doubt, a glass of something sparkling never hurt anyone.”
Buy her friends one, too
"Be nice to my friends. If they are right next to me, you offer them a drink too. It's so tacky when you don't."
Or try buying songs, not drinks
“When a guy asks me if I want a drink, I sometimes ask for a song instead. Time at a jukebox can be very telling and definitely a turn-on.”
Don't expect anything in exchange for that drink
“Wait for a response. Guys nowadays think that buying the drink gives you permission to talk to and even harass that person. You should always think of buying the drink as a selfless gesture. It deserves no more than a 'thank you' if accepted.”
Ask the bartender to introduce you
“You don't really know if the lady is having a bad day and just wants to be alone, or is having a great day and is hunting. The bartender will know 99% of the time. Plus, a guy steps into unknown territory, while the bartender has already been talking to this person.”
Don't worry about your friends
“Guys are dicks in bars mostly because they roll with a bunch of other dudes and it shifts into a pack mentality. They're not trying to impress the girl, but their friends.”
Be careful with compliments
“Honestly, superficial compliments are a pretty great way to get me to shut down. It instantly makes me uncomfortable. I don't believe anything they say and try to get away immediately.”
Just be normal
“Say hello, introduce yourself, and have a normal conversation. It's amazing how far being normal can take you.”
Remember that it's not that big a deal
“I feel like having the right mindset going in is key. That person you're going to approach is just another human. And if they don't want to talk to you, it's okay, you will find someone who does. They're not a bad person or a bitch or an asshole just because they're not interested in having a conversation with you.”
Don't neg her
(Editor's Note: "Neg" is a pick-up artist slang term for an insult in the clothing of a compliment, as made popular by that book The Game by Neil Strauss, which no one admits they've read. Including this editor.)
"Tell her that her titties make her ass look smaller! Girls love a complim-insult! Just kidding."
Don't rush the hook-up
“... unless its obviously on. The more pressure, the more I get turned off. It's the basic common sense rule of knowing your audience. Some women may love that Mystery pick-up line/negging shit (Editor's Note: Mystery is one of the main pick-up artists in that book The Game that we never read.) -- the guy just needs to figure it out before the tactics are deployed. If she's not that kind of woman, then approach her as if she was a friend, find some common ground, hopefully get in a laugh, and make a real connection beyond the obvious 'how fast can I get her in bed?' challenge.”
Come up with a distracting activity
“Challenge her to a game of pool. Or ask her to be your pool partner. Erotic Photo Match may not be the best, but who knows. I'm partial to distracting activities around strangers though [so it doesn't get awkward or whatever].”
Be nice to the bartender
“Major turn-off when a guy approaches, offers to buy a drink smoothly, and proceeds to snap or shout for the attention of the bartender. Patience and kindness is seductive.”
Don't try too hard to be funny
“Things that are not funny include: comments about the bar/the service, politics/religion (this isn't your stand-up show), my body, or my friends. Sadly there's no blanket for what does land, but still-confident-and-a-little-self-deprecating is usually a solid approach that can be really charming when used well.”
No means no
“Take no for an answer.”
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's National Food and Drink team. He'd like to thank all the women who contributed to this. May their lives be filled with free beverages of their choosing and tasteful jukebox selections. Follow him to giving all this a try at @Dannosphere.