Building Bridges

Issue # 42 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

Breakthroughs in Meeting New People

When I do relationship seminars for singles, the most commonly asked question I hear is, "Where can I meet people?" Of course, in every neighborhood, in every city, there are different answers. But the real answer isn't where... it's how. Sure, there are places more conducive to meeting someone you may have something in common with, but the real challenge for most of these people is their assertiveness, or lack thereof.

As we "mature," one of the things that happens to most adults is acquiring a concern for looking bad. We fear embarrassment and public humiliation or failure. This paralyzes many singles when it comes to possible rejection from someone they find attractive or interesting. Taking this fear on and operating in the face of it is essential for creating a breakthrough in meeting people.

I'll never forget when I first went sky diving. The instructor warned us, "You'll be afraid when that door in the plane opens up. Expect it. We'll ask you to put one foot onto the step outside the plane, holding on the bar inside of the plane. You won't want to. You'll say you're scared. I'll say I know you are, do it anyway. You'll refuse, say you're scared, and I'll say I understand, do it anyway. The fear will never go away until you jump. Don't expect it to. Just do it anyway."

That same lesson is true when it comes to meeting people. Singles need to expect to be nervous, knowing their attempt at conversation may falter or their prospect may be disinterested. They may be rejected, they may feel foolish, but they need to try anyway. They need to summon their courage and take action anyway, in the face of their self-doubts, insecurities, and fears. This is what assertiveness training is all about.

Most people are creatures of habit. They go to work the same way every day. They sit in the same seats in their classes. They associate with the same people in singles groups. They spend their free time the same way week in and week out. If you're not meeting people, or the right people, it's time to not only look at becoming more assertive, but also at changing up some of your routines, and bringing a change of environment, attitude, and approach into your life, which will make a huge difference and provide some fresh opportunities to meet someone.

Instead of going to the same coffee shop, go to one you've never been to. Instead of going to a movie by yourself or with a friend, get some people from work together to come over to your house for dinner and cards or Pictionary. Instead of going out to eat alone with a book, go to a casual restaurant, sit at the bar and eat, and don't read. You are inviting others to engage with you.

Many times singles inadvertently send out a message that says, I'm busy, pre-occupied, not interested, or probably already involved. You don't need to be making eyes at everyone, but ask your friends, do I appear unapproachable? What can you do to make it easier for people to talk with you? And are you willing to make the first move? Do your eyes, your body language, the way you conduct yourself show that you're friendly and a low risk to approach? Remember, other singles are afraid too.

Ask others about themselves, their opinions, their interests, their history. If you are uncomfortable approaching others, the easiest way to take the heat off and to not be uncomfortable is to become a good question asker. (See Issue #41 for suggested questions.) That keeps you off the hot seat and makes you less responsible for being entertaining and interesting. And people naturally like others who are interested and listen to them. Of course to get anywhere, eventually you need to share some of you too, but initially make it easy by being more interested in them.

Another problem facing many singles is that they only spend energy on "potential partners." They forget that their next partner could be a friend of a friend, or someone who notices how wonderful they are from a distance. So they go bowling, to a bar, or a company picnic and don't see anyone that interests them, so they only converse with their friend who they went with.

Develop the habit of making friends everywhere you go, regardless of their attractiveness or gender. It's not only good practice, but it also opens up your world to many other possibilities. The new friend may invite you to a barbecue where you meet a recently divorced friend of theirs. Or you may end up knowing mutual people, one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden you're re-connecting with past friends and meeting all kinds of new people through them.

The more fun you're having, the more friends you have, the more happy you are being single, and the more possibility you have of attracting a healthy person who is attracted to your energy instead of someone who tries to save you from your despair and loneliness.

Hosting parties is another great way to expand your circle of friends. Invite people you know, and ask them to bring friends too. Or get together with another friend and place a personal ad for a "dinner party." Let's say you and two friends plan a nice dinner party, and you are all advertising for candidates to have over. The three of you select from your responses and share a fun night with the 3 potential prospects. Maybe who you choose will be a flop, but your friend's choice may be more interesting to you instead. Who knows? The key is you're taking initiative to make something happen, and reducing the risk by having the evening shared by all 6 people instead of just one on one.

One last thing - when asking someone out on a first date, I encourage you to make it easy for them to say yes by asking to do something non-intimidating. Going to a family reunion with you or a romantic dinner could both seem like a lot to ask. Why not go for a walk around the lake, or for coffee some Saturday morning, or lunch at a playful bistro. Limit the time they will have to spend with you to an hour or two the first time, don't make it too formal, and let them know you're flexible if they need to change the day or time. Be casually interested. But be assertive, take a risk, and mix up your environment a little. That may be a little scary, but that's when you really feel alive too.

Next week, we'll jump to a different subject - ending relationships. Because not everything you start is something you want to or need to stay in. So go out there now, set yourself a goal, such as, "I will meet at least 5 new people this week." Swallow your pride, take a deep breath, I know you'll be scared. But do it anyway!

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

Building Bridges Table of Contents

Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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