Dating Advice For Wallflowers

A little shy when it comes to meeting men? Try these easy confidence-boosters and icebreakers… then watch your love life blossom.

By Ellen Collis

o exaggeration: I lived in New York City for almost two years before I went on my first date. I’ve never considered myself a “wallflower,” but living in a city full of beautiful and fashionable women was definitely intimidating. I had no idea how to compete, so I didn’t really try. Eventually, I caught the attention of a great guy in spite of my demure exterior, and we’ve been dating for seven months. But I often wondered: If the ball were in my court rather than his to make the first move, where would I be? I know I’m hardly alone here—female wallflowers abound who feel awash in missed opportunities. That’s why I’ve interviewed experts and some of my more aggressive female friends for tips on how to emerge from your shell and get the attention you very well deserve.

Talk to him like he’s your pal, not a paramour
It might seem silly to approach a potential love interest in the same manner as you would a guy pal, but this tip may be just what you need to put your nerves at ease. “Talking to a
Shy women can seem to send out “keep away” signals.
guy like he’s just one of your friends takes away the pressure,” says Jessica Slotnick, LCSW, a psychotherapist in New York City says. Kateri Lopez, 25, of Bronx, NY, agrees: “I talk to guys like they’re my brother, just no one special,” she says. “When I’m out, I’ll usually just be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? Are you having fun tonight?’ It puts me at ease—and them.”

Be aware of your body language
Shy women often unintentionally come across as cold and aloof all due to the simple fact that their body language is transmitting “keep away” signals. To avoid this, “hold a drink in your hand to keep you from crossing your arms,” says Robin Gorman Newman, author of How To Marry a Mensch. And self-proclaimed wallflower, Lauren McCormick, 20, of Lexington, KY, shares her secret to appearing open and friendly at a party, even when she’s feeling nervous. “To feel more comfortable at social gatherings, I like to help the host with anything that needs finishing,” she says. “This gives me something else to focus on other than forcing a conversation. Offering food or drink to people always seems to lead to an easy flowing conversation.”

Use friends to your advantage
Shy people are generally more confident when they’re in their comfort zone, so bringing along a few close friends when you go out as support is a good idea. Beth Shapouri, 28, of New York, NY, says that she’s always helping her shy friends branch out and that talking to guys is all about teamwork. “It’s usually easier if there’s more than one of you so you can tag-team the guy in a cute way,” she says, explaining how one night, they devised a plan together to attract the interest of a group of guys sitting next to them. “We started talking loudly about how we were curious what the guys were talking about,” she says. “They ‘overheard’ us and filled us in. I told them our topic was better, and they agreed, and we hung out for the next four hours.” Just make sure you aren’t out with too many pals, since packs of people can be intimidating. “Going out with two girlfriends is perfect,” Slotnick says. “You have a backup if one leaves the group, but you also don’t come off as a woman who is unapproachable because she is out with all her friends. The guy will feel more comfortable to make his way over.”

Temper your expectations
There isn’t a single gal out there who hasn’t time and time again made the mistake of hyping up an evening out by saying, “Tonight, I have to meet someone!” But Newman insists that you need to ditch this approach. “Sometimes women set their expectations so high that they get anxious and put too much pressure on themselves to meet someone, which takes away the fun,” she explains. “You have to tell yourself, ‘It’s just another night.’ The idea is just to make a reasonable effort, whether or not you connect with a prospective love interest. You cannot control the outcome of the evening, but you can control your approach and mindset.”
Not every guy will ask for your number.
Lopez has an attitude everyone could learn from. “One time I went up to a guy and flat-out told him I thought he was attractive,” she says. “He didn’t ask for my number, but I didn’t feel rejected. Not every guy will ask for your number, but you can’t have fear. I just remind myself that these guys will not make or break my life.” Amen, sister!

Set small goals
Before you step out the door, take a minute to set a couple small goals for yourself. Jodie Gould, best-selling author of Date Like a Man: To Get The Man You Want, suggests, “If you’re going to a party, set a goal on how long you’re going to stay—it’ll help your attitude before you go out.” Not only does striving toward a goal keep you focused, but it can also take pressure off the situation. “Just say to yourself, ‘What’s an hour of my time?’ Plus, the next time you might challenge yourself to stay at a party a little bit longer.” Another goal you could aim for is “talking to at least one person,” Gould adds. Even if the night is a bust, you might be surprised how good you feel if you accomplish your mini goals, and you’ll look forward to giving it another try.

See shyness as a positive
Aggressive women may seem like they’ve got it all, but shy women possess appealing qualities, too—and those traits can and should be used to your advantage. “Shyness can be very sexy,” points out Debra Mandel, Ph.D, psychologist and author of Healing the Sensitive Heart. “Shy women are often better listeners and more thoughtful than aggressive women. They also spend a lot of time observing others from the outside the center of the action, so they often see things others don’t notice and hence can offer many important insights into people. All these qualities can be very attractive to the opposite sex.” So get a little confidence boost from knowing that people can be drawn to your subtlety…and make a bit more of an effort to smile and open up when you are approached. Dylan Solise, 25, of Athens, GA says, “I don’t like aggressive girls because they usually want to be the center of attention all the time. Quiet girls seem more mysterious, which makes me want to make the effort to get to know them better.” Exactly—why lay all your cards on the table right off the bat?

Ellen Collis has written for First For Women and other publications.
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