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Keep an open mind
When it comes to flirting and mingling, your goal should not be to walk into a room, identify someone who seems like your type, and funnel all of your energy into catching that one person’s attention. In fact, it should be quite the opposite. “When you’re too target specific, you close yourself off to so much,” says Kimberly Seltzer, a therapist, dating, and makeover expert at Elite Image Makeovers. Instead, focus on chatting with a few people—no matter who they are—and build a hub of positive energy from there. The more people in your own social network, the more you’ll be able to branch out.
Maintain an open body language
Whether you’re eating at a café, relaxing at the bar, or waiting in line at the grocery store, certain non-verbal cues will stop a potential conversation-starter in his or her tracks. To appear more approachable, put your phone away, remove your headphones, straighten your back, uncross your arms, and relax the muscles in your face. One low-pressure place to practice is at a sidewalk coffeehouse or café during lunchtime: you’ll have the entertainment that comes with people-watching (and encourages you to get your nose out of your phone) along with the casualness that comes with the daytime rush. Here’s how to use body language for better relationships.
Position yourself strategically
In addition to welcoming new people and possibilities, it’s important to position yourself in a place where promising interactions are likely to happen. “If the entire bar is open, find a seat in the middle or at the corner,” says Seltzer. “It’s the epicenter: the bartender is in front of you and everyone else is to your left and right.” At parties and events, Seltzer suggests finding a home base—say, the food and drinks table, or a seat by the couch with a few friends. Place yourself there and open up your energy. “People will come to you,” she says.
Break the ice by saying hi
Seltzer has a two-step formula for initiating contact. First, take in your surroundings: observe who is in the room, how they seem to be connected, and who appears to be noticing you. Second, get curious: say hi, ask a question, or make a statement. Seltzer gets clients comfortable doing this by having them make three social engagements a day. “I start by asking them to make eye contact with three people; then the next time I ask them to make eye contact and smile.” From there, clients make eye contact, smile, and say hi. And finally, they do all of the above, plus hold a minute-long conversation. “People in general are getting way more in their heads,” Seltzer says. “They’re worried about what other people think or feel and it prevents them from asking a question or saying hi. When you’re present, that’s where the magic happens.” Here’s how to make everyone in the room relax, no matter who you’re talking to.
Share a piece of yourself
Once you’ve initiated a conversation, keep it going by asking meaningful questions and offering personal answers. “Move away from facts and surface-level stuff and go into questions about the other person’s journey,” says Seltzer, who suggests questions such as, “What brings you here?” and “Are you from the area?” “You share your journey and have them share theirs,” she says. “You can connect with someone in 30 seconds if you know how.” Feeling bold? Asking these 36 questions can make you fall in love with anyone.
This is what creates chemistry
Four factors come into play to create what we consider romantic chemistry: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual compatibility and attraction. If you’re looking for clarity about your feelings for someone, assign your relationship a percentage for each factor, suggests Seltzer. After hanging out a bit more, repeat the exercise and see if any of your numbers have shifted.
Do your social research
Where are the best places to meet new people? Everywhere, says Seltzer. “Make a list of your hobbies and everything you like to do,” she says. “And then start Googling things in your area that fit with your passions.” Aside from allowing you to meet people who share your interests, doing things you’re comfortable with will put you at ease. And when you’re at ease, the people around you are, too—the perfect backdrop for a memorable conversation.
Identify your habits, good and bad
Oftentimes, the traits we think we exude are a bit different than the ones we actually present. Request honest feedback from a trusted friend about how you portray yourself: What did they think when they first met you? Are there any actions you could take to seem more approachable? Have they noticed anything that could seem off-putting? “Getting that outside perspective can help,” says Seltzer.
Hang out with a group of friends that lifts you up
You’ve probably already heard the adage that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. But when you’re looking to meet new people, this saying is doubly true. No matter how much you’ve practiced open body language and inviting strangers into your conversation, if you spend the entire night in a closed-off group, no one new will ever try to break in. Leave space for newcomers to join your conversation and take the appropriate action to make them feel welcome.
Originally published on the Reader’s Digest website.