bborg

Anyone been "speed dating" before?

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A meetup.com group I joined recently is offering an event on the 31st and I signed up for it. This is definitely not in my “comfort zone”, but of course that zone hasn’t really gotten me anywhere. There are a few things I like about the concept: none of the awkwardness of approaching women, since that’s arranged for you; guaranteed 4 minutes (in this case) of her time and no commitment past that; and you write down the people you’re interested in and they send mutual matches by email, so it’s no pressure while still having the opportunity for follow through.

 

However, I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to talk about in 4 minutes. Any advice? I’m not very good at small talk, but bringing up the same topics with everyone could get old, since there are quite a few women signed up. What's the best approach?

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A meetup.com group I joined recently is offering an event on the 31st and I signed up for it. This is definitely not in my “comfort zone”, but of course that zone hasn’t really gotten me anywhere. There are a few things I like about the concept: none of the awkwardness of approaching women, since that’s arranged for you; guaranteed 4 minutes (in this case) of her time and no commitment past that; and you write down the people you’re interested in and they send mutual matches by email, so it’s no pressure while still having the opportunity for follow through.

 

However, I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to talk about in 4 minutes. Any advice? I’m not very good at small talk, but bringing up the same topics with everyone could get old, since there are quite a few women signed up. What's the best approach?

If your willing to listen to an old guy, what do women always complain about? Men just talk about themselves, don't listen, etc.

So, being relaxed, warm, and confident to set it up, then, take the initiative and:

Ask them questions, not about work or beliefs because you want sense of life and you don't want them to feel that you are doing any kind of judging on first impressions or one-up them.

Ask them about what they like to do, what is fun in their life, what was the most interesting thing they have done, stuff that lets them smile and laugh. And listen, closely, because they will like it and because they will tell you a lot about themselves which is what you want to know.

If you notice some small thing about her clothes or hair or something, say that you like it. Such a compliment has to be specific. It says that you noticed her, you really looked at her, you're paying attention to her.

Every other guy will be trying to impress them. You will be the confident guy who was interested in them and listened.

A few years ago, after a few years of being alone, I came up with a new strategy and said to hell with my old reserved self. I decided to talk to every attractive woman within 10 feet (I didn't always find a way to do that). I decided that it didn't matter what I said, just that I be warm, friendly, funny if I could be, and say things to which someone could respond. I didn't try to impress, just open a channel of communication. It worked. My girlfriend and I are going on 5 years. What was really fun was that in our first telephone conversation she was the one who brought up Ayn Rand. Wow!! I moved fast then!

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A few years ago, after a few years of being alone, I came up with a new strategy and said to hell with my old reserved self. I decided to talk to every attractive woman within 10 feet (I didn't always find a way to do that). I decided that it didn't matter what I said, just that I be warm, friendly, funny if I could be, and say things to which someone could respond. I didn't try to impress, just open a channel of communication. It worked.
Okay, I think this is great advice. It sounds exactly like it would work: I'm generally very reserved and quiet, unless I know you. I think I'll adopt this strategy and just see how it works. Thanks for reminding me that I need to change if I want to get a date!

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Don't go in to the event with the mindset of I'm going to get a date out of this. The pressure you put on yourself this way will undermine your confidence.

Forget about trying to get a date. Just go with the intent of: this is a new experience. I just want to enjoy the moment. I want to try it and see what it's like.

Then you can challenge yourself: you are now a master detective. You have 4 minutes to find one interesting thing about each woman you talk to. So ask lots of questions. Observe their accents, their demeanor, their vocabulary, hairstyle, clothing... if something is a bit new or unexpected ask about it. Then if something comes up which you have in common, you can talk about that.

I bet you have a good time and discover that it's fairly easy to find interesting things about anybody. Focus on that, and you'll be relaxed and have fun, and women seeing a guy relaxed and having fun with them want to spend more time with such a guy.

So the point is, don't focus on trying to "win" a date by impressing a woman. Let them impress you.

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However, I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to talk about in 4 minutes.

If she's the right girl you'll find this won't be much of a problem :D

Like the others said, relax: you are going fishing for romantic prospects, not putting on a performance. Relax and enjoy talking to interesting people.

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Forget about trying to get a date. Just go with the intent of: this is a new experience. I just want to enjoy the moment.

This is good. Really, the thing that you can really come out of this with is the understanding that it is fun and not hard to talk to women. Most of them like to talk to men, especially if the man is confident and fun. There is all kinds of fun. There is intelligent fun. At first, it is just the fun of connecting. Even if you decide that you don't want to see any of these women again, you can still enjoy the contact.

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This is good. Really, the thing that you can really come out of this with is the understanding that it is fun and not hard to talk to women. Most of them like to talk to men, especially if the man is confident and fun. There is all kinds of fun. There is intelligent fun. At first, it is just the fun of connecting. Even if you decide that you don't want to see any of these women again, you can still enjoy the contact.

I hope so. Thanks for the advice guys. I especially like Ed's suggestion that I play the "master detective" and find something interesting about the women I chat with. I'm generally very bored talking to people for the first time, and I know that's a problem with my approach.

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I haven't been speed-dating, but have been to the business equivalent, "speed-networking" (exactly what it sounds like).

My impression was negative in terms of concrete results. I never really clicked with anybody - could have been due to lower quality people, but also the context. When working a room, I can choose who to talk to based on appearance and demeanour and recommendations (and here the above advice applies: you can choose to talk to other analysts/lower execs, or you can hunt the CEOs/MDs provided you can add value to them), I can end it quickly if they are not relevant (and therefore there would be no chance of further value exchange), or talk for longer and establish rapport if relevant. In 2 hours I can easily work a room of 50 people, having arranged meetings with the 3-4 that are relevant to me.

Still, maybe dating is different. Best of luck and do report. Hopefully this is a relatively targeted speed dating session (e.g. Ivy League, or Libertarians/Objectivists like the NY Junto) which increases your chances of clicking with somebody relevant; but then again, sometimes as you say just trying something completely out of your comfort zone, habits and networks yields great results, and indeed whilst in the US the best people I met were those met through Ivy League networking events as this is where everybody is smart (or academically so, anyway :D) and the wide mix of personalities guarantees some degree of click.

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Bborg, another option you might want to try, if they have it in your area, is a company called "Just for Lunch." I have a few clients that have tried it and they had very similar responses; it was easy, enjoyful and without commitment. The company sets you up on a date at a local restaurant and you have lunch with someone that meets your general standards and if you enjoy it you let the company know and they set up another lunch date. This might give you a little more time to get to know the person across from you which might make it easier to choose who you like.

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Tonight I felt almost normal. After the "dating", during the mix and mingle, that feeling of awkwardness came back and some of the time I was on my own and paralyzed. But based on talking to a couple people, I was much better at having a meanigful conversation than others. Other people complained that 4 minutes wasn't enough time, that all they did was ask stupid questions. I didn't really have that problem,  and a few times the 4 minutes cut into an enjoyable chat. Even with one girl, who I found out did research for a lobbyist group, I found I enjoyed the process of discovery. One girl I discovered had lived in Japan once, and we chatted about that because I started learning the language last week. There was one girl I enjoyed talking to who came up to me afterward and teased that I should be mingling. Think she might have written my name down.

What I learned is my social skills - if narrowly defined to communication - are just fine, and maybe better than average. My weakness is lack of courage. When I was put in front of someone I did great; when left on my own I was the odd man out.

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Sounds like you had a pretty good time and that it was an interesting experience. :D

What I learned is my social skills - if narrowly defined to communication - are just fine, and maybe better than average. My weakness is lack of courage. When I was put in front of someone I did great; when left on my own I was the odd man out.

You had the courage to go outside your comfort-zone into a difficult situation and not knowing exactly what to expect. Maybe summoning more courage would have helped in this situation, but I don't think that's the main problem.

I'm only speculating here and relating from my own experiences, but it seems more like you later lost objective and did not know what to do. When presented with the situation with the girl in front of you it was pretty simple; just say something and start learning about her. Later you are in a situation where you need to take more initiative, other people are maybe percieved as obstacles, and you have already had that initial interaction so you need something to follow up with.

Would you have acted the same if, say, one of the girls proved really interesting but the time ran out before you had the chance to ask her some really important question. Later you find her standing alone and smiling at you. All you'd have to do is walk up to her and say; "Hey, I never got the chance to ask you...". Is it fair to assume that in such a situation it would have been much easier? Maybe a little nervous, but not so bad that you couldn't give yourself a kick in the butt and do it?

I could be wrong of course but looking at my own experiences this has always been the biggest problem. When the situation changes, or when presented with an unfamiliar situation, my mind shifts focus(getting caught in my head).

The good thing is that it's a lot easier fixed than summoning all your courage and force yourself to do it. Either you come up with a question or subject you like to talk about or you can try simple routine questions, like; "did you guys have a good time?", "what did you think of blablabla?" or "have you ever tried something like this before?". If you see groups forming(which often happens around pretty ladies), just dive in with a friendly smile and a "hi!"(and also take the chance to chat with the other guys).

Courage is important, especially to push through those difficult and awkward situations - which are inevitable - but a good aproach and mindset makes things sooo much easier.

And regarding feelin awkward... stop feeling awkward and be awesome instead. :D If you don't have anything to say it's perfectly fine to just shut up, so don't worry about it. If you are comfortable in your own skin it could even make you stand out in a positive way and spark some interest. :D

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Interesting to know your experience, bborg, and I'm glad you posted it. I had wondered about this sort of "speed" interaction myself; it certainly seems like a much more efficient approach than traditional ways; like a problem-solver's approach so to speak.

Some thoughts: I think I'm in a similar boat as yours where social interaction is concerned. Like you, I have no problems communicating per se, as I do on this forum for example. Rather, I have the hardest time taking the first step, i.e. breaking the ice, getting the ball rolling etc. Once I get moving though, it's smooth sailing from there. I'm beginning to think of something I hadn't considered before: the setting of a context for social interaction.

Take the workplace, for instance. I have no problems calling new suppliers at work for pricing on something or to sort out a customer issue. Whether it is a gentleman or a lady on the other end of the line, and she is a total stranger to me, I don't have to ponder what to say. It's so simple because the context has already been set, and there are no uncertainties!

Could that be done for dating? I wonder. Perhaps speed dating helps remove some obstacles by creating an environment more like the workplace? Safe, organized, efficient, task-oriented... Seems like a context for social interaction that makes it easy to know what to do.

Perhaps you could add some thoughts here, bborg. And don't hesitate to keep us updated! I didn't think much of speed dating before. Your posts have given me cause to reconsider.

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If you want to practice the first step and get used to meeting strangers, you should try things like meetup.com (better for large cities). You come to an event and meet loads of strangers, and the fact you have some shared interest of some kind (whether it be ballroom dance or ice skating) gives you an immediate conversation starter. And everybody is like you, so there's no tension as you watch polished MBA networkers work through a crowd.

For example, whenever I visit a new city I try and hook up with foodie groups, this also gives me a chance to eat better when I get there.

It's less costly than speed-dating (usually is free/you pay for your own meal), less formal too, and easier than say signing up for dance classes at your local club.

Meeting new people is fun!

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Red, I think you are partially right when you say the lack of objective was responsible for my experience after the speed dating part. I had a vague objective to talk to people I hadn’t talked to yet, but everyone seemed already occupied and I didn’t know what to do. My impulse was just to leave, but I stayed anyway and the remainder of my time there wasn’t very productive. You ask if I would have behaved differently if I had a question I wanted to ask a girl I had already chatted with. Sure, I think that would have been easier, if she appeared to be available. If she was talking to people I probably would not approach and drift in limbo instead, wanting to chat with her and feeling like I should be moving on to other people but not wanting to.

 

I have never been comfortable approaching groups of people and including myself in their conversation. It feels like I’m intruding. And it really doesn’t matter what the crowd is, I’ve had the same problem around other Objectivists.

 

LHM, it sounds like I’m the same way. Right now I am limited by whatever context is presented to me. Approaching someone without a given context, or switching contexts, seems insurmountable. But I don’t think speed dating is an answer to that, because the chance of meeting someone that way is pretty small. It can happen, but my primary goal was just to learn more about my inhibitions and to practice talking to people. I guess if you tried it and really liked it you could do it regularly, but I found it to be pretty intense and not something I want to make a habit of. What I want is to be able to change, to free myself to feel comfortable talking to people anywhere, and to set the tone rather than just react to it.

 

Rtg, this was actually a meetup event in a 20s and 30s group. The week before I joined a “social anxiety” group downtown walking around the monuments. This weekend I’m thinking about joining them at a Dave & Busters. I’m also a member of a local Objectivist group, but they weren’t very active last year. It’s been a challenge to find groups that actually have meetings at times and places I can make, doing things I’m interested in doing. But I’m giving it a shot. Meeting new people is still not what I would call “fun”, but I’m not so bitter about it as I once was.

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What I want is to be able to change, to free myself to feel comfortable talking to people anywhere, and to set the tone rather than just react to it.

I think one needs to shift the focus from oneself and how one feels, to the other person. The human brain can only do one thing at a time consciously, and it puts a strain on one to split the focus between concern with one's performance, and the other person. When I was learning to fly, I had one flying instructor who was very discouraging. Every time I flew with him, I kept worrying what he thought. This took my mind off what I should have been focusing on, and resulted in a performance that only reinforced this negative atmosphere. It took real effort on my part to break this cycle and concentrate on the job rather than how I looked to him. Fortunately he was replaced soon after by another instructor who had a much better attitude, and was able to bring the best out of me.

Set a goal you can focus on, then go for it. The particular goal is something you must work out for yourself before hand. e.g. I am going to find such and such out about these people, and this is the limit to what I will say of myself.

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If you want to practice the first step and get used to meeting strangers, you should try things like meetup.com (better for large cities). You come to an event and meet loads of strangers, and the fact you have some shared interest of some kind (whether it be ballroom dance or ice skating) gives you an immediate conversation starter. And everybody is like you, so there's no tension as you watch polished MBA networkers work through a crowd.

Oh, I agree, which is why I've been to dozens of meetup.com events such as hiking, biking, canoeing, astronomy and laser tag to say the least. I enjoyed nearly every single one of them and had good fun with the people I met.

I may have unintentionally conveyed it, but I do not have an anxiety of meeting people. The trouble is what happens after the introduction and initial small talk, and by that I mean boredom in conversation. I find myself getting bored very easily in social situations without much else to focus on, most often with people I don't know. What do you say when you've run out of things to say?

I think Arnold's post is a good solution, however.

I think one needs to shift the focus from oneself and how one feels, to the other person.

Wise words, yet also easy to forget. Thank you, Arnold. I had known this. Also, one of the most important integrations I had to learn to make about selfishness is the vast difference between concern with one's self and expecting the universe to revolve around oneself. Only one of them is rational. The other one makes it very difficult to get along with people.

bborg, thanks for the additional details you provided.

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Red, I think you are partially right when you say the lack of objective was responsible for my experience after the speed dating part. I had a vague objective to talk to people I hadn’t talked to yet, but everyone seemed already occupied and I didn’t know what to do. My impulse was just to leave, but I stayed anyway and the remainder of my time there wasn’t very productive. You ask if I would have behaved differently if I had a question I wanted to ask a girl I had already chatted with. Sure, I think that would have been easier, if she appeared to be available. If she was talking to people I probably would not approach and drift in limbo instead, wanting to chat with her and feeling like I should be moving on to other people but not wanting to.

 

I have never been comfortable approaching groups of people and including myself in their conversation. It feels like I’m intruding. And it really doesn’t matter what the crowd is, I’ve had the same problem around other Objectivists.

Sounds like you are giving yourself way too little value here. I think the right way to look at it is that you are a good person with a lot to offer, to those who meet your standards and have some value to offer you in return. So if your aproach is just regarded as an annoying intrusion, and they are not even willing to give you a chance, then it really is their loss.

Most of the time though people will be friendly and inviting. Especially in a setting like this where the whole purpose is to meet new people. Other times you may be intruding and disturbing, but you have every right to be that(within reason, of course). I mean, it's a part of life to seek to connect with others in all kinds of different places and settings. So do that, without apologizing for it, but respect other wishes not to talk to you if they make that clear.

In case you see other people in the group(ie other than the girl) as obstacles or competition, I might add that it's good to aproach them as potential friends instead.

 

LHM, it sounds like I’m the same way. Right now I am limited by whatever context is presented to me. Approaching someone without a given context, or switching contexts, seems insurmountable. But I don’t think speed dating is an answer to that, because the chance of meeting someone that way is pretty small. It can happen, but my primary goal was just to learn more about my inhibitions and to practice talking to people. I guess if you tried it and really liked it you could do it regularly, but I found it to be pretty intense and not something I want to make a habit of. What I want is to be able to change, to free myself to feel comfortable talking to people anywhere, and to set the tone rather than just react to it.

Try exposing yourself to all kinds of different situations. You can start with smaller tasks and challenges. For example; asking people about the time or directions, giving random compliments, starting a small conversation in the line at the grocery store... baby steps at first, then more difficult and challenging.

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If you want to practice the first step and get used to meeting strangers, you should try things like meetup.com (better for large cities). You come to an event and meet loads of strangers, and the fact you have some shared interest of some kind (whether it be ballroom dance or ice skating) gives you an immediate conversation starter. And everybody is like you, so there's no tension as you watch polished MBA networkers work through a crowd.

Oh, I agree, which is why I've been to dozens of meetup.com events such as hiking, biking, canoeing, astronomy and laser tag to say the least. I enjoyed nearly every single one of them and had good fun with the people I met.

I may have unintentionally conveyed it, but I do not have an anxiety of meeting people. The trouble is what happens after the introduction and initial small talk, and by that I mean boredom in conversation. I find myself getting bored very easily in social situations without much else to focus on, most often with people I don't know. What do you say when you've run out of things to say?

At the risk of sounding terribly obnoxious, it is because most people just don't really have much to say...

The average person will just live their life quietly, esp. in the US where international travel is more limited, surrounded by much the same culture and things they grew up in. So their experience base is more limited. But, there are things everybody is passionate about. The key is to listen out for words that they insert in the conversation with no seeming need to. For example, I was once having dinner with some West Coasters, and the person talking to me was a middle-aged trophy wife who had lived in the same city half her life, never worked, never got out of her neighbourhood. Conversation looked rather dry, but then she mentioned Arizona out of the blue, so I asked her about it, and she launched into a half hour enthusiastic conversation (one way :D) about where she grew up and the great times she had when she visited again. It's easier to interest yourself in people if they open up and speak passionately about something!

You can pick up more "long conversation" ideas from two books, the well known "How to make friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie and "Talk Language" by Allan Pease; if you're very keen, the next step is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (on which countless books have been written). NLP is powerful but I never actually use it.

Understanding people is an art, and some people are lucky enough to be naturals (not me!). But it's an art that can be learnt and with enough time and effort, you can really have a lot of fun and expand your knowledge. Definitely a worthwhile investment in time and effort.

For me the key was to avoid any talk of politics of philosophy. Provided this happens, I can talk with anybody :D

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At the risk of sounding terribly obnoxious, it is because most people just don't really have much to say...

Yah! I'm one of them. :D

The average person will just live their life quietly, esp. in the US where international travel is more limited, surrounded by much the same culture and things they grew up in. So their experience base is more limited. But, there are things everybody is passionate about. The key is to listen out for words that they insert in the conversation with no seeming need to. For example, I was once having dinner with some West Coasters, and the person talking to me was a middle-aged trophy wife who had lived in the same city half her life, never worked, never got out of her neighbourhood. Conversation looked rather dry, but then she mentioned Arizona out of the blue, so I asked her about it, and she launched into a half hour enthusiastic conversation (one way :D) about where she grew up and the great times she had when she visited again. It's easier to interest yourself in people if they open up and speak passionately about something!

You can pick up more "long conversation" ideas from two books, the well known "How to make friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie and "Talk Language" by Allan Pease; if you're very keen, the next step is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (on which countless books have been written). NLP is powerful but I never actually use it.

I have read parts of Carnegie's books and agree that they do provide useful information but I think they are long-drawn-out. I like this summary of his books better than his books.

Interesting that you mention NLP. I was familiar with aspects of NLP a decade ago, before reading Atlas Shrugged actually.

Understanding people is an art, and some people are lucky enough to be naturals (not me!). But it's an art that can be learnt and with enough time and effort, you can really have a lot of fun and expand your knowledge. Definitely a worthwhile investment in time and effort.

For me the key was to avoid any talk of politics of philosophy. Provided this happens, I can talk with anybody :D

You make good points, rtg, but I should say that, for me, meeting new people and conversing with them is a small means to a much bigger end. My challenge is finding people whom I can call my soulmates, including one special lady whom I can call my twin flame (I just learned that term; I love the Internet!).

I think improving my skills at meeting and conversing with people is like learning to read and play music. How much comfort would it be to know that I am an excellent pianist if I was never able to find the kind of music...

That's not a good comparison. If one can't find the music one wants, one can possibly create it; but if one can't find the person one wants... I'm going to stop here before I depress myself.

I need a massive dose of humour to be injected directly into my brain. I'll be back to complete my thoughts later.

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I'll be back to complete my thoughts later.

Ok, here's the rest of my post. There was no danger of depression of course. I was looking for an excuse to get away.

The thread seems to have veered slightly off course from the original topic of speed dating so I'll try to steer it back. My reason for participating here was to ascertain whether speed dating might be useful to me, based on bborg's posts. I thought it might be more efficient compared to traditional dating. Reading his last post, I'm not sure if it is all that great but I'd like to ask more people. I'm not in any rush for it at the moment. That's it for now.

Regarding my own thoughts on searching for The One, it is as a couple of members have said: talk to people and develop an interest in them. I think that about sums it from my perspective.

That being said, the shell I've built around myself does seem very very cosy. :D

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I wanted to give an update, since the year is closing and I've done a lot of work in this area. Since I started the thread, I went to two other speed dating events, and a host of other general social events (including a scavenger hunt at a museum, a Halloween party and a happy hour). I'm incredibly proud of how far I've come since then, so here are some observations.

Certainly a major lesson I had to learn is I have a lot more to bring to a conversation than I ever gave myself credit for. The obstacle wasn't learning to talk to people, but being comfortable with myself and having and projecting a lot of confidence. Something I noticed is that when I'm in my element, talking about something I'm passionate about, people turn their head to listen to me, they want to know what I think about things and I find it's easy to be positive, inquisitive and funny. The perspective I had to gain then was that when I go out to meet new people, I'm not entering their world, but including them in mine. It makes all the difference.

Prior to the speed dating in November, I had basically given myself pep talks so that going there that night I felt amazing about myself. I was relaxed, I had fun, and I walked away with two matches. I'm going on a third date with one of them soon.

If you go to people with the attitude that you are an awesome person (and I don't mean in a boastful way, just in your bearing, smile, and humor), they will respond accordingly. You can say virtually anything to them to start a conversation. Some people go into speed dating with a list of questions, but the goal isn't to conduct an interview. The only purpose is to enjoy yourself. If a girl is a drag, then you don't mark her name down. If she responds to your humor, if she says interesting things or you find you're busting each others' chops, you do. ;) A good indicator is if the 4-6 minutes you get seem slow or fast.

Also, don't think of meeting people as a means to anything. Not a means to making a friend, not a means to finding a girlfriend or a wife. Take opportunities as they present themselves, but otherwise just have fun going to new places and having interesting conversations. That was one of the harder lessons for me to learn, but once I got it all the frustration I used to feel just melted away.

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Congratulations! It seems you are doing very well and I hope your progress and enjoyment keep moving forward.

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I second Ray's congratulations, Bryson. Stepping out of one's shell can be daunting, especially if you've spent many years alone, doubting your ability to meet someone special. You might be surprised to hear that I struggled with this somewhat upon moving to Sydney. Shocking I know: Jason the man about the world worrying whether he can get a date. Nevertheless, a place like Sydney CAN be daunting in that it was not only a new city, but also a new country to get used to. Over time, however, as I grew more comfortable and found a friendlier neighborhood to live in, things began to pick up. Now, when I have friends visit me from overseas, they're amazed to see the niche of friends I've carved for myself in this wonderful but sometimes quirky little country on the bottom of the planet.

I've even been dating again.

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Thank you Ray and Jason. ;) Jason, I would never have known you weren't a socialite, you seem so in your element in Aussieland. lol Good work!

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Thank you Ray and Jason. ;) Jason, I would never have known you weren't a socialite, you seem so in your element in Aussieland. lol Good work!
Ah well, you know, it happens to the most socially adept people sometimes. ;-)

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