Talk the talk

Even for the most confident sort, chatting someone up can be terrifying. But here are some tried-and-tested tips on how (and how not) to ease the fear…
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Be direct
‘Sometimes, going back to basics is best. Forget all the fancy, over-planned introductions, and go for a simple ‘Hello, how are you?’ No one can tell you to go away, or tell you they’re already seeing someone to fob you off, because you haven’t asked that; all you’ve asked is how they are. Nine times out of ten (OK, maybe 8, but it’s still good!), you end up having a nice conversation. Think of it as chatting rather than chatting up and it becomes much less scary.’
Ian, 35

Be silly
‘I was recently in a bar, chatting to my mates – everything perfectly calm and normal. Then suddenly this guy appeared by my left elbow. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘Look.’ Then he started leaping up and down, hands by his sides. ‘I’m a penguin and I’m trying to break the ice.’ And yup, he broke it! I couldn’t stop laughing at how totally ridiculous it was, and soon the laughing led to chatting. By the end of the night, it led to swapping numbers – and three months on, we’re still dating! So if in doubt about how to chat someone up, my advice would be; do something silly!’
Laura, 26

Be cheesey
‘Shall we talk or continue flirting from a distance?’, ‘Apart from being beautiful, what do you do for a living?’, ‘I seem to have lost my phone number, can I have yours instead?’. I used to think they were all urban myths, clichés that people laughed about but nobody actually said. Until one night, a few years ago, when a grinning drunk man came up to me in a pub and announced: ‘Is it hot in here or is it just you?’ I told him it was the worst line I’d ever heard, he protested, I insisted…and suddenly, we were in the middle of a conversation over how bad his line was. In the end though, it didn’t matter; what mattered is that we were chatting, and realised we got on so well, we even went on a date a week later!’
Sara, 34

Be polite
‘It’s a bit of a minefield nowadays. Opening a door or giving up your seat for a girl isn’t seen as nice, it’s seen as sexist. But standing at a bar, waiting to get served, everything goes a bit retro; every girl appreciates you letting her go first in the queue for the barman! So I always say ‘After you’ to a girl I fancy, and she’ll think you’re such a nice guy, you’ll easily start chatting. It might mean you have to wait a bit longer for your pint, but there are always pros and cons!’
Danny, 25

Be tactical
‘I’m not talking full-on military tactics, but I think a bit of an agenda does help when you’re trying to chat someone up. Like if there is someone I fancy but am too scared to talk to, I’ll go and say hi to one of her friends instead, or I’ll ask if she has the time or knows where the toilets are. It’s a bit of a cheat’s way out, but it does get you in the picture, and then you can move on to phase 2- actually trying to impress her!’
Pete, 30

Don’t be rude
‘I was once dancing around with my mates, having a really lovely night, when this guy who’d been checking me out walked over and declared: ‘Don’t worry, I can’t dance either’. He laughed afterwards, implying it was a joke – but I was horrified! I get that some gentle teasing can be good flirting, but there’s a fine line between teasing and outright rudeness – a line this guy massive over-stepped!
Lara, 29

Don’t be too clever
‘I work in quite a stressful job, so often when I go out with friends I like to forget it all and chat about trivial stuff like reality TV or what colour shoes to buy next. Once, we were sitting next to a group of guys who were clearly listening in on our conversation. Eventually, one leaned over to me and said: ‘I read a lot of books, so if you’d like me to teach you a bit about culture, here’s my number.’ Ummm…thanks, but no thanks!’
Janie, 34
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