Student dating for the socially awkward
Lucy Watson and I are hardly dating aficionados, so we caught up with Hayley from the London School of Attraction for a few hours of dating confessions, tips, and frightening encounters with members of the opposite sex.
Hayley is a personable and open young actress from Birmingham, who is currently working as the chief men's coach at the School of Attraction. We were a bit unconvinced as to how her dating tips would relate to us, seeing as how many of her anecdotes began with the prefix 'I was on my way to a modelling gig.' Being that she was incredibly beautiful not many men would turn her down. But we were surprised to find that her worries were the same as our own, and that her advice was fresh and interesting, nothing that a magazine such as Cosmopolitan would normally give.
For example, some of her advice struck a chord with my inner/outer ranty feminist; she said that women should stop being so afraid to approach men.
"You can be so confident in so many ways, but approaching someone can be the scariest thing in the world. There are so many social conventions that say women can't approach men; that you can give signals to make it okay for men to approach you.
However, she doesn't have a problem with doing this herself, and advised us on how to approach men (which I did, as you will see later!)
"I go on probably three dates a week. I meet these people on the street, in supermarkets, anywhere! I approach people who seem like they are my 'type' and ask them out. It's a numbers game- there are six billion people in the world and only a few will be right for you. How do you know Mr. Right isn't that hot guy you just passed in the street?
Use the element of surprise; you aren't going to get a punch in the face, especially during the day. Acknowledge that what you are doing is weird. It's flattery! The worst that can happen is for them to say 'No.'
Lucy and I were a bit dubious at this point- who approaches random people on the street? You'd have to have bags of confidence, and I embarrass myself enough already. However, we kept listening, and she told us how to approach someone who you think is freaky fine.
- Get in front of them and stop them. Use body language- this is the element of surprise
- Draw attention to the weirdness of the situation, so they know that you don't just randomly approach people all the time!
- Give them a compliment.
We had a chat about our own relationships, and in the unlikely event that any of you are avid readers of my lifestyle articles, you will know that I am not exactly the most suave of people. You should read that as 'I've probably had more embarrassing love life moments in my two terms at University than most have over three years'. But we three girls got on really well; the atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly. She was around our age and we kept going off topic, and I wasn't afraid to open up to her.
She said that people shouldn't be afraid to be themselves:
We bring an organic approach- we don't do 'the game' style tricks. Those are more for if you just want a one night stand, our dating service is for those who want to find a long-term partner. Be direct and honest, if you're fake you just have to keep up the facade, and you can't build a relationship on that!
This was a welcome relief from the advice that I often get from my friends; 'Be yourself - but just, y'know, a little less weird. Tone down the eccentricity and don't say any weird stuff!' People are going to find out that I am a bit weird eventually and if they can't deal with that then they aren't right for me! Profound stuff.
She said that the London School of Attraction advises against small talk. They have a sliding scale from chaotic, exciting conversation, to small talk and questions. If you keep asking someone questions they feel like they are being put on the spot. Also, you know loads about them and they know nothing about you! Ask them one or two questions then stick with them. Expand the conversation.
Hayley said on awkward silences:
There shouldn't be awkward silences. There is an infinite number of things to talk about. Talk about what pops into your head, no matter if it is weird. When you tell a story, make it interactive and interesting- say what occurs to you. You need to be as much of an extrovert as you can! And if you talk about something, no matter what it is, if it interests you then you will talk about it in an interesting way and it will make you seem interesting.
They use actors and actresses at the School to bridge the gap between the real world and the class, going from being really receptive to conversation to being guarded and quiet, to get customers used to dating conversation.
Now to the juicy bit. Helena Horton was put in a social situation. Here's some schadenfreude for you.
Hayley took us out of the cool London bar that we were speaking in, to walk around London and see the sights. As an almost-local this wasn't all that exciting for me but it was great for Lucy who was staying at mine. However, it had a catch. We had to try to boost our confidence by approaching random people and telling them that they were attractive which ironically would presumably boost theirs more.
First, we did the 'easy' bit- practicing in Trafalgar Square. We had to pretend to approach Hayley. Lucy was a whizz at it, but I couldn't do it without dissolving into fits of giggles- it seemed so ridiculous! I managed in the end though, and Hayley was very patient.
Then we had to try it for real. We walked for what felt like hours to find men that we thought we could approach- it took a lot of psyching up but in the end I was basically forced into stopping a couple of guys in Soho. As I wasn't actually looking to date, especially not randoms off the street (this was all for journalistic purposes of course), I didn't really have a reason to talk to them. I complimented someone's sunglasses, and told them that they looked interesting so I wanted to chat.
They probably thought that I was trying to sell them something, or that I was insane. I got some very strange looks and I can't say that it bolstered my confidence at all.
Sadly, Hayley had to go before she had the chance to force Lucy into a similar situation, and I tried to get Lucy to embarrass herself in TopMan (yes we went on the prowl in TopMan, what of it?), but to no avail. Being a dating coach is harder than it looks.
To conclude; I am probably not more confident about stopping people in the street and asking them to date me. I am probably more likely to stop someone in the street to coerce them into writing for The Yorker. Be warned. However, it's nice to know that the main dating tip was to basically be weird and chat a lot. I can do that with ease- that's basically my personality. I also think that it boosted my confidence in a way. I'd say that the advice that they gave was nicer and more realistic than the stuff you find amongst the Lifestyle pages of magazines.
Here's an article I wrote ages ago- read this if you want some dating tips from a relatively inexperienced singleton.
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