Relationships can be hard to navigate, so it stands to reason that starting them isn’t easy, either. Approaching a stranger in public is always intimidating, and there are guys out there who want to know how to do it right. No one wants to come off as creepy or desperate, and they certainly don’t want girls reaching for their pepper spray.

So, some girls on Reddit have chimed in with advice – take it or leave it. I’d take it though cause I think they’re trying to help.

15. An interesting tidbit should always grease the wheels.

“Hey, did you know that Pac-Man’s original name was Puck-Man? It’s based on paku paku, the japanese term for chewing. But when the game went to America they got worried people would change the ‘P’ to an ‘F’… So that’s Pac-Man now.”

14. Respect the headphones or book.

Don’t automatically hit on me or just assert yourself. Bring in common interests or ask me a simple question like “Oh is that a Manchester Orchestra shirt?” or something like that. I’m super friendly and will talk to most people as long as I don’t feel threatened or uncomfortable. If I have my headphones in or I’m reading a book, please don’t start a length conversation with me.

13. Try to seem actually interested.

It won’t come off as creepy if you start with something that seems like a genuine interest. I go to book stores A LOT and a guy once chatted to me about how much he liked Murakami since I was looking at some of those titles. This could be something like a band shirt or a video game they’re looking at playing. Basically it’s like you see us as a person with interests and feelings rather than someone you’re just trying to bang.

Not only does it make you seem like you’re actually interested, but you’ll most likely find a girl you actually have something in common with, rather than just a random human you find physically attractive.

12. Guys. Listen to her.

Keep an eye open for signs of wanting to be left alone, like wearing headphones or reading a book.

edit: okay, so 7k upvotes, and an inbox telling me I’m trash and wrong. Okay, Reddit.

11. Genuine compliments take work, but they’re worth it.

give a genuine compliment on something small you’ve noticed – an accessory, personality trait or her laugh. or try to notice something she’s noticing, or looking at, and comment on it!

10. It is true that girls like snacks.

A guy at a bus stop asked me what my favorite snack was. We talked about popcorn for ten minutes before the bus got there. By the time we boarded the bus, I was really wanting some popcorn and he asked me if I wanted to go see a movie and get some popcorn. Of course I did. That guy was a genius. Girls like snacks.

EDIT (since a few people are curious)we dated for 5 months. He was a great man, but we had different goals. I’m sure he’s still hanging out in Austin, you can probably run into him at any S 1st bar.

9. Here’s what NOT to do.

One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of guys don’t think it’s creepy to ask where I live if I’m on/waiting for public transport. If you’ve just met me and open with that, there’s no way I’m telling you any more locally than in the town/city we are already in. I’ve asked guy friends about it though and they all seemed genuinely surprised that I thought it was creepy. Have gotten off buses early before because of this because I’ve felt uncomfortable with a stranger knowing where I live. Don’t get me wrong, if we’ve been chatting and it’s likely we’d chat again then it’s ok to ask, but not in the first 2 minutes.

Edit: for clarification, I understand that a specific address isn’t being asked for, but if I’m on a bus you can guess it’s somewhere along that route or if it’s at a stop ( which in my experience is more likely) you’ve got an even better idea to start with that I live close by. If you’re immediately following up with ‘because I know about XYZ which is local and interesting’ that’s probably fine and not creepy. Sorry to anyone who’s favourite pick up line has been insulted /s

8. He’s not wrong, even if he did jump in on a girl’s thread.

I once said to a girl “hey we are in the same math class right?” And now we are married.

Always take math guys. ALWAYS. that’s the key.

EDIT: Based on the responses I’ve received, math is the way to go. Seems a lot of people out there have meet their SO due to a math class. And for those asking, yes I did actually have a math class with her. No, I did not ask her this while in said math class. rolls eyes Thanks for the laughs and stories guys.

7. Yes. Girls are people.

Guy here that learned a hard lesson.

It’s not about how to approach girls. Learn how to approach people.

The easiest way is to compliment every time something catches your eye. To everybody. NOT something they were born with or generic. Things like “I love the pattern on that shirt!” or “Hey, that necklace is super cool!” I’ve even complimented makeup.

The next step is to read their response. Did they ignore you or just give a simple “thanks” and move on? Move on, they took the compliment but aren’t interested in conversation. Did they get mad? Keep practicing, you picked something they weren’t intentionally trying to show you. Did they brighten up and start talking? Carry on, friend, you nailed it!

The idea is simple. They picked the thing you complimented because they thought it looked good. Complimenting that is validating their taste and nothing more, which if done casually is REALLY hard to be creepy or annoying. And as an added bonus, it’s assumed you are saying they look good in it. So it’s two compliments in one with almost no risk of doing it wrong.

6. Don’t try too hard to keep the conversation going.

Find anything you can in common. Just bring up your common interest. Make sure you ask open ended questions, so the conversation doesn’t seem forced.

As long as it feels like a genuine interest, it won’t come off as creepy.

5. Simple, yet effective.

“Hey, wanna see pictures of my cat?”

4. This would work with graphic tees.

“I like your shirt. I don’t get the reference but it looks cool.” Boom opens dialogue and a interest in what she’s interested in.

3. At least pretend to have a common interest.

One very important thing to keep in mind:

Approaching with no perception of any common interests will make it difficult to have a genuine conversation that doesn’t feel forced. For example, don’t just approach someone random because you think they’re pretty, only to have this be your only point of attraction. Many girls will write off guys who do this because their intentions are clearly superficial from the get go. Sure, he was interested in starting a conversation, but his initial attention wasn’t drawn by anything substantial.

Instead, try to observe a possible common interest to start your conversation with. This could be anything from a band t-shirt from a band you like, to something you overheard her say earlier that shows you have something in common you can talk about. If you want to increase your chances of success with this, try meeting people at places where common-interests congregate. For example, people who go to art exhibitions generally have an eye for art. People who go to comic conventions are generally nerdy. People who go to video game tournaments are generally gamers. People who go to sporting events are generally sport fans. This automatically gives you something to talk about, or a small base on which to build a more stable conversation.

If you want to further avoid being creepy or annoying, don’t go into it with a “flirting” mindset. Girls know that guys who flirt with them before even knowing who they are tend to be shallow men with superficial motivations. Get to know someone based on conversation first. IF that conversation goes really well and you feel like you’re hitting it off, and you’ve guessed that they’re single, playfulness and mild flirting isn’t out of the question.

Tips for the nervous and socially awkward!:

Don’t push yourself to get to know people who aren’t reciprocating your conversational attempts, or who seem disinterested. It’s usually not a reflection on you, it’s a reflection of you BOTH. The other person may just not be interested at the time, or may not share your enthusiasm for the topic at hand. That’s ok! A simple “it’s been nice chatting with you, see you around!” Will suffice.

Don’t force yourself to be interested in a PERSON for the sake of conversation. Try expressing your interest in something within the ENVIRONMENT and then bring the person into that conversation. Examples: art at a museum, cheer stunts at a sport event, video game demos at a convention, pool game at the bar, there’s always something in the environment that they may already be engaged with. This is a good chance to talk to someone. It puts a lot less pressure on a stranger when they feel like your mutual interest in something ELSE is the reason to continue the conversation, not your interest in THEM. (This also takes pressure off of you, because you can direct “get to know you” questions at them, or you can talk about the thing in front of you both).

If you get rejected or have a disinterested reaction at any point, remember that this is a reflection of your compatibility with THAT person, not all people.

EDIT: thanks to everyone for the massive support and appreciation on this comment. Dyadic relations is my field and I’ve helped a lot of people with this irl. I’m MORE THAN happy to share this advice with Reddit. Thanks to whoever gave me Reddit Silver AND NOW GOLD! You’re a true gem <3

2. Extra tip: actually listen to her answer.

Yes! This is exactly it! Approaching girls is just approaching people. I agree with all the examples given in this comment, but would also add that I particularly like when people start talking to me about random observations that we sort of share in, about wherever we are.

For example, we’re in line at the grocery store. Someone behind me might say, “Hey, do you always come to this store? Is it always this busy on Sundays?”

Then we’re going to have a conversation about what time of day is best at all the nearby grocery stores, including that one.

If we’re at a restaurant, someone might say, “Have you ever tried the the chicken cacciatore here?”

To which I would reply, “Well, I’m vegetarian, so I haven’t tried that, but can very positively recommend the pasta primavera. What are some of your other favorite Italian foods?”

Or if we’re anywhere, and someone drives by in a really interesting car, point it out! I love stuff like that!

Just any question or observation that you’d make with a fellow human being is the way to go.

1. It’s okay to back off if she – or you – aren’t feeling it.

Make a comment about something happening around you. If you’re at a bar or coffee shop or restaurant and some random is doing something funny or wearing something weird, point it out. Say a guy across the room is wearing a huge purple hat, say something like “Do you see that guy’s hat? It’s crazy. Would you wear something like that?” And if she responds with a grunt or a single word answer, then she isn’t interested and go back to your friends or do your own thing. If she responds with a whole sentence, like “I like his hat, I’d wear that,” then go ahead and keep talking to her.

Three pieces of advice:

Back off if she doesn’t seem interested in the conversation.

If you have a genuinely good conversation (meaning you actually got along well), offer her your number. If she’s interested, she’ll reach out. If she takes it and isn’t interested, she felt obligated to take it but she wasn’t interested. If she doesn’t take it, say something like, “Well, thank you for the conversation!” or “Have a good night/day!” and smile, then go do your own thing, especially if you’re sat next to each other at a restaurant or something and there’s no leaving until one of you gets the check. Go on your phone or something to end the conversation fully so she can relax and get back to her own stuff.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. If you’re going to talk to someone, don’t make it about getting her number or seeing her again before you even know if you connect. Conversations with strangers are only creepy if you feel like they are trying to get something from you. If they’re enjoying the conversation and are happy to stay at a conversation, it won’t be creepy. Think of the difference between having chill small talk with the cashier at a grocery store and the kiosk guy who follows you a few steps at the mall. One feels desperate and annoying, and the other is relaxed and can be fun.

If you’re looking for a new podcast and are interested in dating, I highly recommend “U up?” The hosts are a man (Jared Fried) and woman (Jordana Abraham) in their 30s and take listener emails about dating and relationships. They do a good job at presenting actionable steps towards being a more fun dater. I listen to it every week because they are hilarious and have very different perspectives on most of dating issues young people face.

As a woman, I have to agree with these ladies!

What do you think about pickup lines, and meeting strangers out in public? If you have any tricks for weeding them out, please share in the comments!