We’ve all been there, somehow finding ourselves stuck at a bar, social function or charity event, caught in a conversation with someone who we can’t quite venture free from or steer clear of. We turn to our friends to “rescue” us but they have given up patience standing idly by and are now out of sight. Great. You don’t want to be rude, so you nod along to what he or she is saying, despite your eyes that glance over their shoulder to see where your friends have gone, what else is happening and even to check out other “talent” in the room. Minutes can seem like hours.
Perhaps the conversation isn’t even boring, the pursuer may ooze charm and attractiveness, but for one reason or another you’re not into it. Maybe you’re simply not in the mood to pursue the conversation further even if Mr. or Mrs. Right was indeed right in front of you. Either way, you don’t want to offend or embarrass or turn and walk away the way you may have in college – YP circles are small in our cities, after all. That’s rude.
We applaud the “pursuer.” It takes a lot of risk, even among the most confident young professionals, to approach another from across the room and actively strike up a conversation. This may not always be well received, however, and that must be anticipated. That intriguing stranger may not want to spend (or waste) precious minutes at bars and events stuck talking to someone but feels too awkward/bad to walk away or simply doesn’t know how. Or he or she may indeed be into it, and trying to play it cool, especially at work-related events.
We are here to offer help on both sides of the unwanted pick-up coin.
For the pursuer:
First and foremost, get out of your head and amazement that you actually so slyly approached this person and really try to judge their body language and their level of interaction. Have a game plan and give yourself a set period of time (less than 5 minutes) to determine whether or not he or she is feeling it. Be mindful of his or her time and agenda for the evening, which could very much be more business-oriented than pleasure seeking, especially at after-work bars or networking events.
Remember to keep it short and sweet – all those questions you have, witty jokes to be made and stories to be exchanged can be saved for a first date should one materialize. If he or she seems genuinely engaged, and you want to go in for the “contact info kill,” offer him or her a business card. This way, you are not asking them for anything and the business card keeps it from venturing to too personal of a level. If they so decide, they know how to reach you, whether to plan a dinner date or to collaborate professionally. You’ve said your piece, made the introduction and (hopefully) left a good impression. With that said, when you see him or her later on in the evening (and a few cocktails later) don’t try to talk to them again unless he or she initiates it. You don’t want to be that girl or guy.
For the Approached
First off, recognize that the problem of the “unwanted pick-up” is not a bad one to have and try not to be so annoyed. If you are not feeling it, or not in the mood, there are ways to dodge the conversation gracefully. Especially if the environment is civilized and YP-filled (as opposed to a frat party-esque bar at midnight on a Saturday), give the pursuer a few solid minutes of your attention and don’t assume right away that he or she is talking to you because they may be romantically intrigued. It could be purely friendly or business-related as well.
Don’t be so quick to turn away – you never know who the pursuer is, or who they know. We’ve made that mistake, and dealt with the subsequent b*tch label. After a certain amount of time (a good 3-4 minutes), if you’d like to end the interaction, tell him or her how nice it was to meet them, then offer a no-fail exit excuse: “I was just on my way to find my boss/co-worker/friend, so I better go to that,” or “I told my friend I would meet her at the silent auction now”…or the classic bathroom excuse. Don’t tell him or her that you are going to the bar unless you want their company because he or she will likely be in need of a drink as well. Then go on your merry way. If you see him or her later on in the evening, offer a friendly smile and wave, not a back turn.
It is a tough dating scene out there in our YP-filled cities and singles are constantly in a game of the “hunt and hunted,” finding themselves on both sides of the pursuit. Remember: disappointments and successes are inevitable, but it’s all in how you play the game. Play it with grace.