One night last year I went out for drinks with my dear friend Lynn. I didn't have any grand agenda to pick up women that night, but I try to stay open to possibility. We sat at a communal table, close to a group of three college-age women. I asked one of them what she was drinking, made very brief small talk, but she wasn't very receptive to my approach. Her body language was closed off, and she was polite but dismissive. I turned back to Lynn and we talked for maybe an hour. Talking so we couldn't be heard, I briefly mentioned the women sitting near us, and their apparent disinterest in me. Lynn is very gregarious and outgoing, and she'll comfortably talk to anyone. Though I didn't ask her to talk to them, she considered this her cue.
As we were getting ready to leave, Lynn approached them, saying "Ladies, this is my dear friend Aaron. Maybe you can can help with something. He got this new scarf—do you think it looks better like this," as she adjusts the scarf one way, "or this," as she adjusts the scarf another way.
And here I witnessed a total sea change in the women. Their tone of voice and body language became warm and receptive. They were smiling like old friends, and offered their opinions on the scarf. One even complemented the utterly plain, gray item bought at Target. Actually, though, nobody really cares how I wear my scarf. I can't think of anything less important I heard that day. However...
It must get tiring
Let's consider this interaction from the women's point of view. Women are often hit on, especially in bars. Sometimes they're receptive, sometimes they're not. Even though my approach was very low key: relaxed body language, not sitting too close, asking a common but inoffensive question, in this particular instance, I was just another stranger talking to them, with motivations unclear. Maybe they just wanted to spend an evening talking among themselves, without having to deal with strangers requesting their attention. In fact, they don't need a reason at all.
Social proof matters
There are many kinds of social proof. Let's break down the social proof Lynn communicates:
- I am a woman. (This implies that I, too, sometimes receive unwanted attention from men.)
- I am being myself, not trying to trick anyone. (Women are better at picking up incongruent body language.)
- I am out with my good friend, for whom I clearly have affection.
- Here's an innocuous question to break the ice.
- You shoud be open to the possibility that you might like my friend (i.e., give him a chance).
Of course, this is no guarantee of success. In this case, I found I wasn't strongly attracted to any of the women, so I didn't pursue further conversation or ask for a phone number. However, I still recall this incident with amazement. It's hard to communicate the women's change in attitude without giving a visual, but it was striking.
Get your own wingwoman
The best wingwoman is someone who knows you well, is outgoing, and can naturally approach people on your behalf. I say "naturally," because if one is too obvious about this, i.e., "My friend is totally awesome and you should date him right now," the approach can backfire. The more natural the interaction, the more relaxed women will feel when approached by one of their own. When done with no agenda other than for people to get to know each other, it feels most natural.
Sometimes, it's just a matter of planting the seed. "You're in to European soccer? My friend Rich is a big fan. He watches the World Cup every year, and loses a lot of sleep for it, too!" Now when Rich comes along, your wingwoman will say "Rich, this is Tina. She's in to soccer and I told her about your sleepless nights with the World Cup." And now it's your turn to pick up the conversation.
The video below presents a clever role reversal at a nightclub.