It seems so simple: You like a woman. You ask her out. She says yes. You go out. She falls in love with you. She rubs your feet at night during SportsCenter... Ah, but were it so easy.
Asking someone out on a date is similar to asking for a raise. Even when you know you’re worthy of a “yes,” success lies in the delivery. (And when you get that “yes,” you feel like a lotta bucks!) Now, since every delivery could use a little improvement, here are some dos and don’ts compiled from interviews with precisely the people you want to impress: women.
1. DO be straightforward. If you want her to go out with you, say so. Get right to the point. When Dave first called Mimi, a 35-year-old retail supervisor in Connecticut, he asked her for suggestions of business books that helped her be successful. They hit it off so well, he decided to take the connection further. “A few days later,” says Mimi, “he called again and said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to call and thank you for giving me the title of that book.’ I said, ‘Oh, you didn’t have to call to say that.’ And he said, ‘I didn’t. I called to ask you out.’ I was so surprised. I didn’t know a lot of people who were doing that honest and straightforward approach. It was a very refreshing thing!” She said yes, by the way — and one marriage and two kids later, she’s glad she did.
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2. DON’T ask her out via email. Even in the Internet age, the best way to ask a woman out are the old-fashioned ways: face-to-face or by phone, because she’s more likely to say yes. Why? “In the moment of asking, she might not want to hurt your feelings, so if she’s so-so or not sure about the date, you have a better shot at getting a yes,” explains communication expert Laurie Puhn, J.D., author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life. In fact, according to Puhn, economic research even shows that asking for things in “real time” creates an important emotional connection that makes it far more likely for an askee to say “yes.” And as a woman, I can attest to the fact that email provides a too-easy out. When guys I wasn’t into asked me out by email, for instance, I would just wait a few days to reply, then finally write something like, “Oh, sorry I didn’t write back, but work has been nuts! I’m actually going to be working late for the next couple of weeks, but we should catch up next month. Take care.” It was easy to say no over the impersonal computer connection. But I’ve gone on more than a few dates with guys I wasn’t sure about who went for it in person. There’s just something about being asked in the moment that just makes a woman say yes. Online daters, take note: Even though you begin by emailing one another, make phone contact at some point before you suggest a date. Not only does it give you a better sense of the person to find out if you “click,” but — once again — it ups your chances of getting a yes when you do finally ask.
3. DO look her in the eyes and smile when you ask her. Obvious stuff, right? But if you’re nervous, you might not do it! You might look from side to side, or down at your feet with an expression of fear or doubt or uncertainty. And while some girls go for the utterly adorable anti-social shy type, most women will appreciate a guy who is confident enough to look her in the eyes, smile, breathe, and say, “Hey. Wanna go out next week?”
4. DON’T pass the buck to her. If you meet a woman you like, don’t hand her your card at the end of the night and just say, “Call me if you want.” Instead, take control and get her phone number or email (which you’d use to email her for her phone number…). Doing so actually widens the net for the type of woman you’ll get to go out with. Here’s why: “If you give women your card, the ones who call you are all going to be assertive and confident types,” explains Puhn. But if you also like women who might be shy, or just don’t feel comfortable going out on a limb for a date, giving those women your number isn’t going to get you a date with them. “If you call the women yourself, says Puhn, “you’ll get a larger pool of women.”
5. DO practice your cool, can-do tone. When you like a woman and really want her to say yes to a date, the pressure may come out in your voice. Your goal is to get rid of that fearful timbre and replace it with the tone you use when you ask for other things in life: When you ask the waitress if you can have the garlic mashed potatoes instead of the baked potato, she might say no... but you still ask. When you ask your buddy if you can borrow 50 bucks, he might say no... but you still ask. The same goes for asking a woman out. She might say no, but you should still ask. And do it in the same nonchalant tone you’d use for those other questions. In fact, practice asking all three of those questions — out loud — together: “Hi, can I have the garlic mashed potatoes? Dude, lend me 50 bucks? You want to go to dinner some time?” That’s the laid-back tone that says, Hey, I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. And it’s the one that will make her think, Hey, it couldn’t hurt to say yes...
6. DON’T be vague. If you want to go out on a date with a woman, make it clear right upfront. This helps on many levels. First, being specific makes it more likely you’ll actually go out on the date. See, if you just say, “Hey, we should hang out sometime…” and leave it hanging, you haven’t closed the deal. Instead, suggest, “Hey, would you like to go out for coffee next Thursday after work?” and you probably will. Being specific also shows you’re serious about her. “You want to lay it on the line,” says Puhn. “If you say something like, ‘We should get coffee sometime,’ it shows you’re testing the waters. It says to her you haven’t decided if you want to go out with her. If you say, ‘I want to spend two hours having coffee with you at five o’clock,’ it says to her, ‘I thought about this. I’m not just Mr. Cool. I actually want to talk to you and get to know you.’” Show that you are a man with a mission, and she’ll be more likely to accept.
7. DO knock it out of the park with originality. The more specific ideas you have about a potential date, the more impressed she’ll be. And if you want to impress her, take her to something memorable. So skip the movie first date (so you don’t spend the first two hours of a date sitting in a dark room, not talking, facing away from each other…). If you really want to up your chances, offer her something original that she’ll want to do regardless of the company she’s with: a new tapas restaurant, concert tickets, sunset on a catamaran, a picnic in a Japanese garden, seats at a daytime talk show. Mimi and Dave (the retail supervisor and her now-husband) had such busy schedules, they couldn’t find a night to do dinner. But instead of acting deflated, says Mimi, “Dave suggested flying kites on a Sunday afternoon.” That’s the key: Get her by your side first, and then you can turn on your true charm. I once agreed to go on a date because the guy said, “Meet me at the ferry dock on the West Side, and I’ll take you to my favorite secret place.” The relationship didn’t blossom, but I’ve never forgotten the boat ride and the chocolate shop he took me to for spicy hot chocolate.
8. DO make it clear it’s a date with one specific phrase. Ever been on one of those, I’m-not-sure-if-it’s-a-date dates? If so, you know how awkward it can be as the two of you figure out who likes who (and how much), who’s paying (and how much)... and if you’ll get a kiss at the end of the night (and how much...). Avoid this by being clear it’s a date when you ask. The best thing to say? “I’d like to take you out to...” If there is a chance she might be confused about your status, the phrasing should be very specific. “Saying, ‘I’d like to take you out to’ puts a woman at ease,” explains Puhn. “It says it’s a date. It says he’s paying. And it shows confidence.”
The bottom line? Handle the situation of asking a woman out the same way you’d handle scoring tickets to your favorite playoffs: If you were standing next to the guy who could give those tickets to you, would you make small talk and beat around the bush over the course of a few months? Would you ask your friend’s friend to ask for the tickets? Would you be vague about whether or not you wanted to go? Would you hand the guy your card and tell him to call you if he wanted? No, no, no and no. You’d go right to the source, be direct, and ask for what you want! It works in life, and it works in love. So try it! There are women out there right now wondering why guys never seem to ask them out. Next time, step up to the plate and be the one who does.