So while the rest of the Internet is frying themselves a rasher of Bacon for ignoring the universal Do Not Disturb sign, I want to break down the mistakes and why they’ll ruin your chances. After all, part of the point of this blog is to teach men to be better men. There’s no point in approaching women if you’re just going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by being an asshat.
1. You’re assuming she’s there for you
Imagine that you are walking down the street. You’ve gone one block and a guy is following you asking you to buy his mix CD. He gives up, but now you see two people with clipboards and you’ve just made eye-contact with them. Now they’re coming up to you wanting money, or your signature. If you get past them, there’s a homeless person who really just needs a smoke, man.
Annoying, isn’t it? Now imagine that you’re actively trying to avoid them… so they’re getting in your face. They’re planting themselves directly in your path. They’re waving their hands in your face, so you have to look at them. You don’t want to be bothered, but they really want your time and attention. After all: why wouldn’t you be open to giving to charity? Or discovering a new band?
Welcome to Dan Bacon’s ideas about approaching women. Let’s kick this off with a direct quote:
These days, many women walk around playing with a smartphone or tablet device and are often wearing headphones and listening to music at the same time.
Yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them.
Of course, not all women are open to being approached because not all women are single and looking.
However, if a woman wearing headphones is single and hoping to meet a boyfriend (or even a new lover), she will usually be happy to take off her headphones to give you an opportunity to create a spark with her.
Right from the jump, we’ve got the first mistake many men make when it comes to approaching women, neatly encapsulated in one sentence. “That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to them.”
Well actually yes. Yes it does.
See, as a general rule, people (not just women, people) who’re wearing headphones are doing so for a specific purpose: they’re choosing to listen to their music or podcasts or even just blocking out the sound of the world around them. Sometimes it’s just because they really want to enjoy some tunes and the glory of music. Sometimes it means that they want something to occupy their minds during their runs or their commutes. Other times, it’s because they prefer to put a literal barrier between them and the people around them.
But to Bacon – and the random /r9k/ gentleman earlier – headphones are less of a “do not disturb” sign and more of an inconvenient roadblock for their penis. They represent something to be overcome because their desire to hit on a woman overrides her desire not to be bothered.
And that is the key first mistake: assuming that women exist for you to hit on them. Or that women owe you anything at all in the first place – whether it be a smile, a hello or even their attention.
It’s the same sense of entitlement that underpins a host of dating mistakes, from Nice Guy behavior to harassing and groping women at conventions. Or for guys to present women with pics of their junk like a cat dropping off a dead bird. Or, for that matter, the belief that you should be getting in a woman’s face and waving at her to force her to notice you.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing inherently wrong with approaching women. It’s fine to want to meet someone. There’s nothing wrong with finding her attractive or wanting to get her number. It’s when you decide that what you want means more than what she wants that there’s a problem.
2. You’re ignoring the social context when you’re approaching women
The next key mistake that guys make when approaching women: they ignore the social context. The social context is, put simply, the rules that govern people’s expected behavior in social situations.
This, for example, is why the fine sport of frozen-turkey bowling is frowned upon in grocery stores during business hours; it goes against the social context. If you start sliding the largest Butterball you can grab at that Dr. Pepper display, you’re going to get thrown out.
Of course, this can be a bit complicated at times. As you might imagine, the social context is pretty, well, contextual. For example, there are restaurants where meals are long and leisurely and it’s generally expected that you’re going to eat at a measured pace. At the same time, there’re restaurants where you’re there to shovel your food in your face and get the hell out. Waiting one second longer than it takes to pull out your wallet and pay is going to earn you the ire of the staff waiting to turn the table over and the diners waiting for your table.
Similarly, there are coffee shops where people are just there to get their muddy bean water so they can face the day and coffee shops where people post up to work for hours.
If you can tell the difference between these, congratulations: you can, in fact, read the social context. Now let’s apply this to approaching women. The question at hand is whether you are in a place where approaching women and men is generally considered acceptable behavior or not.
If you’re at a restaurant, do you stand up and start going over to another table to strike up a conversation just because you think they look interesting? No, that would be weird. That goes against the social context. You’re there to eat; meeting strangers isn’t part of the social context.
Bars, on the other hand, are generally expected to be social spaces. At most bars and clubs, the social context is that it’s a place where people meeting and approaching strangers is acceptable behavior.
As a general rule, people on buses, on the street, or otherwise going about their day aren’t open to strangers approaching them. The social context doesn’t support it, they don’t expect it or even want it. They want to get through their day without people bothering them.
But what if there’s a hypothetical woman who’s single? After all, according to Bacon:
Most single women are open to being approached by a confident guy, so that they can have a chance to meet a potential new lover or boyfriend.
Doesn’t he have a point? Wouldn’t she be open to some charming man approaching her?
In an infinite universe, yes, it is possible that any random woman would be open to being approached. In practice, however, you have better odds navigating an asteroid field in a busted-ass Corellian freighter.
See, part of the social context is that just because you’re open to behavior in one place doesn’t mean you’re open to it everywhere or from everyone. Having an account on Tinder doesn’t mean that you’re also open to randos hitting you up on Facebook. The fact that she’s looking for a new lover doesn’t mean she’s open to anyone applying at any time. She may want to find a boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean right at that very instant. This is doubly true if, say, she has social anxiety or gets flustered or anxious talking to people.
But what about serendipity? The beauty of meeting a charming stranger on the bus?
Ask yourself this: where have you made most of your friends? Like most people, you probably met them at work, at school or through shared interests. How many have you met by approaching random people on the street? Likely in the single digits at best.
Now ask why finding a lover should be any different.
3. You’re approaching women who don’t want to be approached
Let’s go back to Bacon and The Modern Man for a moment. Here’s another direct quote from his post:
The key to talking to a woman who is wearing headphones (or who has her face buried into her smartphone and checking Facebook) is to be confident, relaxed and easy going as you talk to her.
Of course, not all women who wear headphones are open to being approached or hoping to be approached. However, you can only find that out by starting a conversation and seeing what happens.
Actually, he’s wrong – you already know. She’s not; that’s why she’s wearing headphones. She is, quite literally, shoving things over or into her ears so she can’t hear you. She is putting barriers between you and her.
For all you know, she may not even be listening to anything on her headphones. Many women will just leave their earbuds in to signal that they’re not interested in talking to you. Similarly, a woman who’s absorbed in a book or her phone and is otherwise not paying attention to you, is letting you know that she doesn’t want to talk. That, incidentally, is not your cue to block her path like she’s about to step into traffic.
It doesn’t matter how relaxed or confident or “alpha” you are because you are going where you aren’t wanted.
Contrary to popular belief, women don’t just sit around hoping for dudes to assume they’re ready to get picked up. Women actually put a lot of effort into being approachable and showing that they are interested in being approached. Women who want you to approach them will let you know. I’ve written extensively about how to recognize a woman’s approach invitations or how to recognize when women are ok with someone coming up to talk to them.
But what if she’s shy? What if she doesn’t know how to give those signals? Then you test for them. Make eye contact. Give a smile and see if she smiles back. Does she give a perfunctory smile before returning to her phone? Not interested. Does she not pull off her headphones herself, without your doing the “take those off” dance?
Then she’s not interested.
If you want better results when you’re approaching women, stick to women who want you to approach them. If she’s wearing headphones, then she’s already sending you a message.