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What Is Cold Approaching? The Complete 3 Part Guide

Cain Parish

In This Article:

A cold approach, or the act of cold approaching, is the process of introducing yourself to someone you don’t know. It was given prominence, particularly among male spaces, by pick-up artists and the like, as a reliable and consistent way to meet women.

On that note, they’re not entirely wrong.

Cold approaching is, for all intents and purposes, the simplest way to meet someone new.

It doesn’t require any activities or circumstantial contexts. You simply see someone you’d like to meet, and you take the steps to introduce yourself.

This guide is separated into three parts – the first for how to prepare yourself, the second for how to actually approach someone, and the third will be troubleshooting and some tips & tricks. Let’s get into it.

Man sitting at coffee shop looking receptive to a cold approach

Preparation For A Cold Approach

There are two parts to preparing for a cold approach – the physical and the mental. We’re going to start by getting your attitude in order, and then talk about physical prep.

PLEASE NOTE: Whilst we traditionally think of a cold approach as the job of a man, this advice applies to EVERYONE. Ladies, you have NO IDEA how much your dating life would improve if you develop the ability to go and approach people you find attractive. Men traditionally know we have to do this, we just suck at it.

This advice is for EVERYONE. We support equality in our cold approaches here.

How To Think About Cold Approaching

So, first and foremost, I’d like to distance myself from the pick-up community by going against their advice. I do not recommend going out alone to public spaces and putting yourself in front of people one after the other. It’s strange, ignores all social norms, and is honestly fairly uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Now, there may be some people from those communities that say “just don’t be anxious, bro”, or “social norms are for loser normies”. And yes, whilst it is possible to become comfortable doing back-to-back cold approaches at a shopping mall, that doesn’t mean the people you’re approaching will be comfortable.

Doing an approach for the sake of an approach is not good advice.

When you employ the shotgun method (blindly shooting your shot with everyone you see to play a numbers game), the people you’re speaking to quickly become statistics. People that get into this habit rapidly become transactional in their interactions. You lose the point of a cold approach – to see if there’s a genuine connection.

A man rushing around employing the cold approach shotgun method, creeping out multiple women

Don’t be this guy…

Instead, use this three point checklist to evaluate your person of interest (I refuse to use the word target):

  • Is the person going to be severely inconvenienced by me talking to them? Staff in the middle of their job, people rushing for public transport, pedestrians with headphones in and their head down, all of these people are unlikely to be receptive whilst they’re distracted. Unless they have a sign on their back saying ‘Approach Me’, do not approach.
  • Am I genuinely interested in this person? Can I point out a characteristic of theirs that I actually appreciate and makes me want to talk to them? It’s okay to simply just be attracted to someone or merely want to strike up a conversation, but you do need to have genuine interest in some part of the interaction.
  • Has this person shown any signs of interest or indicators they would be receptive to meeting someone right now? There is a stark difference between a private party in a booth and the two friends at the end of the bar that are laughing and chatting with everyone around them. Use context clues and indicators of interest to figure out if the situation makes sense.

If all else fails, just remember that you’re offering an interaction with another human being. There’s nothing bad about that, but the circumstances do have to support BOTH of you for it to be a good idea.

Now, there’s also the question of your attitude. This is important, because it affects everything from your presentation to your body language and attitude. Let me make this clear.

Cold approaching is an opportunity to see if BOTH of you like each other.

You are evaluating the other person as much as they’re evaluating you. Just because you are the one that broke the ice does not mean that you two are not on equal playing fields. You MUST respect your own values and boundaries, and exit the interaction if the person you’ve just met is not someone you’d get along with or has too many conflicting values.

DO NOT let people shame you or attempt to make your interaction into a imbalanced power dynamic.

YOU DO have the option to walk away if you’re being made fun of, or made uncomfortable, or shamed in some way for cold approaching someone.

The practice of getting outside your comfort zone and meeting new people is not pathetic or worthy of shame. You’re creating opportunities, and if you’ve been doing your self-improvement homework, you’re giving the other person a gift in the form of yourself.

If you don’t believe that you can be a genuinely positive addition to someone’s life under the right circumstances, you have some work to do on yourself.

And speaking of working on yourself…

Physical Cold Approach Prep

You might be sick of hearing about this by now, but standard grooming advice applies. For better or worse, cold approach is based very largely off a first impression.

Your physical appearance matters. A lot.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a model. You just have to avoid giving off red flags and demonstrate that you put effort into yourself and your appearance. You’d be surprised how attractive the simple act of self-care is.

A small aside, I’m not talking about subjective things like tattoos, features or clothing choices. I’m talking about the things within your control that are generally regarded as universally attractive.

Here’s a list of mandatory steps before you start to go out and put yourself in front of people:

  • Get your hair under control. You don’t have to get it cut necessarily, but make sure it’s well maintained and suits your face shape. The more dishevelled one of your primary features – your hair – is, the worse a first impression you’re going to make.
  • Take care of your grooming and your hygiene. Do not smell. Do not have bad breath. Do not have visible nose hairs. There are times for nuance and there are times to be straightforward in not disgusting other people. Showering is an aphrodisiac. Or at least, not stinking up a room is.
  • Wear something that fits. I know I said I wasn’t talking about clothing choices, and I’m not. Subjectively. What I am talking about is looking at a mirror on your way out of the house and making sure your outfit actually fits your body and does what you want it to do.
  • This is not a quick fix – but take care of your body. Being in shape – universally attractive. People respect and appreciate someone that takes the time to take care of themselves. Pay yourself forward and give your future self the gift of being better suited to meeting people in public by working out today. Having said that, your body is not an excuse not to approach someone you are interested in. You might have a 5% better shot six months from now with a gym membership, but you’ve got a 0% shot today if you let your impression of your own body stop you here and now.

That’s about it. Other than that, don’t be too drunk, don’t be sloppy, and don’t annoy anyone.

How To Cold Approach Someone

Alright, let’s break down how to do it. Firstly, some ground rules.

Number One: No cheesy lines or canned openers. It’s not a romcom, recycling the same line on a dozen people is cheap, low effort and very noticeable. If you have the charisma of James Bond, then go right on ahead, but then you wouldn’t be reading this guide, would you?

Number Two: Be VERY aware of your physical positioning. We do not want to make anyone uncomfortable or prevent them from feeling able to exit the situation. People get nervous when put in new, uncomfortable positions. We need to give them ample opportunity to leave if they should so desire.

Number Three: DO take no for an answer. There is a time for persistence and tenacity. That time is not when you’ve just met someone brand new. I will give you two cheat codes: “I’m not at all surprised.” & “Fair enough. I hope you have a lovely rest of your day.”.

If the person you’re talking to mentions they have a partner, you say – “I’m not at all surprised.” with a gentle, warm smile. AND THEN EXCUSE YOURSELF AND WALK AWAY. The number one concern ALL people have when being approached by someone they don’t know is worrying they will not be able to get the person to leave if things go south. MAKE CERTAIN that is not an issue with you.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES do we want to seem offended or angry because of rejection. By complimenting them indirectly and smiling, we show that we are accepting their rejection with grace and poise, which will make EVERYONE much more comfortable.

If you get any other type of rejection, use the other line – “Fair enough. I hope you have a lovely rest of your day.” You are rewarding their honesty and ability to state directly that they’re not interested by wishing them well and walking away with everyone’s dignity intact.

Tolerating rejection well will remove 90% of the potential issues that come from cold approaching.

How To ACTUALLY Do The Approach

Okay, we’ve set our ground rules. We’re confident in ourselves, our presentation and our ability to not creep anyone out. Here’s how we go for the cold approach.

First – find something to say to the person. BY FAR the easiest tools are a question, an observation or what’s called an ‘opinion opener’. If you’re not confident in being direct, I would strongly recommend any of these.

The reason an indirect statement works so well is that it gently presents them with an option – to engage with what you’ve said/asked and continue the conversation, or to be terse and shut down the interaction.

We effectively dip our toes into the water and make sure we’ve not misread the situation – that the person isn’t comfortable chatting or want nothing to do with us. This should ease everyone’s anxiety (especially yours), by giving the other person an out if they want it.

Most of the time, you’d be surprised. Once the ice is broken, people open up and are remarkably chatty in the right contexts.

Second, consider your physical presence. Can you simply walk up to the person and get their attention 1 on 1? Do you need to insert yourself into a group dynamic and manage your presence with multiple people? Is there a convenient way to place yourself near the person of interest that facilitates conversation rather than making it harder/more awkward?

These are all factors that go into becoming ‘smooth’. When you put yourself in the right circumstances, an approach should feel like a natural extension of the situation, like a romcom or another meet-cute.

Look how smooth this guy is, and not at all creepy…

Your success rate goes way up with this approach (no pun intended), as the more organic the situation feels, the more comfortable you both become and the better your personality gets to shine through (which is a good thing, remember…)

Now, if the situation truly isn’t helping you at all, you can still try the direct approach. This is a very literal term, describing the process of walking directly up to someone you fancy and telling them that, to their face.

The reason I don’t typically advocate for this first is because, whilst it is simpler and gets to the bottom of the conversation quicker, it can be completely AGONISING to do.

Let’s face the facts, as much as the pick-up community might be able to train themselves to be comfortable in these situations, for us normal folks, telling someone we think they’re attractive comes with a few nerves. And if we’re a touch anxious, think about the poor person that was probably thinking about dinner, or their cat, or any number of other things that had nothing to do with the stranger standing right in front of them.

I would only recommend a direct approach if you’re comfortable in your own skin, confident, and able to push past the tense, awkward first few moments of the conversation.

If you’ve ever watched a clip of a guy approaching a girl online, you’ll know what I mean. Even in situations where the two people hit it off, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch at first, whilst both of them struggle to adjust to the moment.

Indicators of Interest

As I mentioned before, one way to evaluate whether a cold approach makes sense or not is to check for signs that the person might be receptive to a conversation. These can be signs that a person is receptive to ANY conversation, or to conversation with YOU in particular.

Signs that someone is liking what they see when they look at you are called indicators of interest, or IOI’s, and they are a nonverbal green flag that you are welcome and encouraged to come make a move. If you see three to five of these in a very short time period, you can have more confidence that your approach is welcomed with (ideally) open arms:

  • Prolonged or frequent eye contact. Multiple stolen glances or a steady stare are both good signs, especially if a smile or giggle accompany them.
  • Closing physical distance. People that are interested will find excuses to place themselves near the person they like. You might find someone coincidentally back to back with you on a dance floor, or a person picking a bar stool closer to you than would be traditionally polite.
  • Open body language. We close ourselves off when we are sending the message that we are closed for business. We will literally physically open our bodies up (mind out the gutter, folks) to people we’re receptive to.
  • Pointing themselves at you. This one is a little weaker and I probably wouldn’t pay any attention to it on its own, but if someone rotates themselves to face you, especially when it’s inconvenient or makes no sense, that’s a good sign.
  • They find excuses to walk past you frequently. This is an extension of the proximity one, but people that are interested will go to such lengths as walking back and forward in front of you when it makes no sense whatsoever. They’re putting a sign up that says ‘APPROACH PLEASE’.
  • When you laugh or make noise, their eyes jump to you. People pay more attention to those they find interesting or attractive. If you’re in a prolonged setting together but not speaking, they’ll have one ear out in case you say anything about them.

IOIs are not a crutch – they’re not an excuse not to cold approach. Just because you didn’t see everything on the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot your shot – it just smoothes things out if you do see a few.

Conversation & Sealing The Deal

Once you’re in and a conversation has been sparked, you have two goals:

  • Find out if you two like each other
  • Develop enough rapport and comfort that makes asking for what you want (usually a phone number or social media) a natural extension of the conversation.

Don’t mince around. We’re not here to make friends (unless you are, in which case disregard that), we’re here to meet attractive people.

You’re allowed to acknowledge that what you’re doing is out of the ordinary. You might even choose to be authentic and honest – mentioning your nerves or that you’re not accustomed to talking to people you’ve not met.

The important thing is to be genuine and put your personality forward – your looks did their job by not getting you immediately bounced, so now you have to carry a conversation and see if the two of you have chemistry. I would recommend learning how to flirt.

IOIs become doubly important when the conversation is actually underway. The article I just linked has everything in it, but there’s also a handy Reddit thread here with a simple list if you just want that.

One sign that I particularly pay attention to is if the other person, without prompting, asks my name. That’s usually a good sign that they’re invested and interested in you in some capacity.

When you go to ask the BIG question, be straightforward. There’s no magic combination of words that will change a NO into a YES if you just phrase it a certain way. It’s very likely the person has made their mind up long before you actually go to ask, so all that’s required is mustering the confidence to shoot your shot.

Try one of these lines if you’re stuck:

  • “Well, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. Can I have your number, I’d love to go out sometime.”
  • “I’d be kicking myself later if I didn’t ask for your number. You mind if I borrow it?”
  • “Would you like to go for a drink/hike/game of table tennis/other first date idea? (proceed to offer your phone for them to add their contact info)”

As you can see, they don’t need to be complicated, or even very good. They just have to get the job done.

You don’t need to wait very long to ask, as long as you’re both comfortable and there’s some chemistry in the air. People are pretty smart – they’ll figure out your intentions. If it’s a yes, it’s a yes, no matter how long you beat around the bush.

A quick bonus tip, if you are the one that gets their number, call it immediately in front of them. This not only provides a simple way to give them your number in return, it also determines if they’ve (accidentally or on purpose) given you a wrong number. I’ve lost too many strong connections to wrong numbers to leave things to chance anymore.

Cold Approach Troubleshooting & Rejection

So unfortunately, not even Brad Pitt can hit 100% success when it comes to cold approaches. Sometimes people aren’t interested in meeting new people, or they have partners, or any number of a dozen issues that make things unviable for the two of you.

That’s the game you’re playing when you decide to cold approach. You risk that for any one of a hundred reasons, the two of you aren’t compatible. It’s a big world, and there are a lot of types of people out there, many of whom are horrible matches with each other.

The important thing to remember is that you’ve barely met. You don’t know each other, and this person’s first impression doesn’t make up even a fraction of your overall worth as a person. Rejection is always going to suck, but you absolutely must not interpret it as a judgement of you.

Rather, rejection is an extension of incompatibility.

You don’t know this person at all. You might’ve thought they were attractive, or interesting, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing. You two may have absolutely nothing in common, or be interested in totally different things in life. Hell, they could be gay. They might not even speak the same language as you.

If you ever hear the phrases “Sorry, I have a boyfriend/girlfriend/other/weird thing with an AI chatbot”, or “It was nice talking to you, butttt….”, or “Sorry, not interested”, that’s rejection. Use the tips I gave you earlier and get outta there.

We cannot avoid rejection, whether in cold approaches or in life. We can only steel ourselves against it and make sure we take it with grace and understanding. That having been said, here are some common mistakes that might be shooting you in the foot.

Common Mistakes of Cold Approaches

None of these are dealbreakers on their own, just things to tighten up if you feel like you’re doing worse than you should.

  • Your body language may be timid and anxious.
  • You might be fidgeting too much with nervous energy.
  • You might be cornering people in.
  • You might be opening with a line that sounds forced or canned.
  • You might be struggling to drive the conversation in a natural/enjoyable way.
  • You may have forgotten to shave your mutton chops off.
  • You may have slept with their roommate and not known.
  • You may have failed to involve their friends.
  • You may have struggled to break the ice or the tension.
  • You may have played it too safe and been too friendly instead of flirtatious.
  • You may have waited too long to ask for their number.
  • You forgot to psychically divine the correct star sign for the other person.

Anything and everything can go wrong in a cold approach. Their friends can intervene (which there is very little you can do to stop), they might not be in the mood, or they may just not like what you’re offering. As much as I advocate for an individual approach, cold approaching is a game of quantity at some level.

Beating Approach Anxiety

One significant roadblock is approach anxiety – the inability to push yourself into a conversation with the person you’re interested in. Here’s the thing, it’s not actually a real thing. It’s just regular old social anxiety, but with higher stakes because you’ve convinced yourself you like this person.

The only solution is exposure therapy. Try and find more excuses in your day to spark up conversation. Baristas, service people, co-workers, old people are all great for this, because they’re either enthused about the prospect of conversation or contractually obligated to have one with you.

You can force your way through Approach Anxiety, but it really pays dividends to just be more comfortable striking up conversation as a whole. The more positive experiences you have with talking to others, the better you’ll feel, and the more natural conversation will seem.

Additionally, one of the benefits of an individualised approach like this, favouring people that have shown receptiveness or interest, is that you’re much less likely to receive harsh, rude rejections. You’ll find if you’re not shotgunning your cold approaches, that people are generally either receptive to a conversation, or at the very least polite about shutting it down.

Conclusion

Somehow I managed to string together almost four thousand words on how to simply talk to other people. It’s a hard skill. It takes practice and comfort to get used to. But at the end of it is a big reward – the ability to control your own romantic destiny and be in charge of finding new and exciting connections. It’s not always going to go perfectly, but that’s what makes it fun. Get out there, have a bit of a flirt, have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re worth it.

F.A.Q.s

What is “cold approaching”?

Cold approaching refers to the act of initiating interaction with someone you have never met before, without any prior introduction or connection. This practice is commonly associated with dating, where a person approaches another individual they find attractive in an attempt to start a conversation and potentially form a connection.


Where can cold approaches take place?

Cold approaches can happen in a variety of settings, including but not limited to bars, clubs, parks, streets, and even during daytime activities. The key element is that the approach is unsolicited and initiated without any previous contact between the two people.


Are there any benefits to learning cold approaching?

Absolutely there are! It can significantly improve social skills and confidence. You become more accustomed to initiating conversations with strangers. It also opens up opportunities to meet a wide array of people who you might not encounter normally through your usual social circles or online platforms.


What are the main challenges of cold approaching?

One of the primary challenges of cold approaching is overcoming the fear of rejection. This fear can be significant because the person initiating the approach risks being turned down, which can be a blow to their confidence.

Additionally, working out the right moment and way to approach someone without appearing invasive or disrespectful can be really tricky.

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About

Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of cainparish.com. A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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