The Casual Pick-Up: Is There A Script?

Over the past two months I’ve done a number of interviews for MWF Seeking BFFQuite often, an interviewer will ask me, “We all know the usual ways to make friends—at the gym, say—so why was it so hard for you?”

To which I will usually respond that yes, we’ve probably all spoken to someone at the gym or the coffee shop or the grocery store. Wherever. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what to say to turn that casual conversation into friendship, or even a friend-date.

I’ve spoken to the girls on the treadmills next to me plenty. But how do you go from commiserating over the misery of a hard workout to “let’s have lunch and maybe be best friends soon?”

It’s tricky. And people glaze over this most important step.

In the dating world, I guess this is what guys call “closing.” You can flirt with a woman all night, but you haven’t closed until you’ve gotten her number. Before I did my Year of Friending, I couldn’t close. I’m pretty good at chit chat, I could throw out a quick quip and give someone a laugh. But then I’d flounder, stretching the small talk for too long while I tried to figure out how to non-awkwardly ask for digits. I’d usually walk away with nothing but the hope that maybe she and I would meet again. And maybe next time she’d be braver and more socially competent than I.

I’m still not great at this aspect of making new friends. I’m good enough at writing the “want to have lunch?” email, or following up for that second date. But that moment when you ask for a phone number or hand someone your card is still tough. These days I say some variation of “We should totally get together! What’s your email/number?” (I switch back and forth between these methods of conversation depending on the person.)

I’m still not great at using that line on someone I’ve only spoken to once or twice in line at the grocery store or at yoga. I can manage it with someone I’ve met for an extended period (an airplane ride, for example), but if it’s a casual neighborhood acquaintance…that’s tough.

But like I said, I keep hearing from interviewers: “I’m just the type of person who makes friends everywhere…”

So what I’m wondering is simple: what do you say to close?

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Filed under The Search

13 responses to “The Casual Pick-Up: Is There A Script?

  1. Janelle

    Psshh, still trying to figure that one out! That’s why I’m reading what you write!

  2. Laurie

    Like Janelle, I am fascinated by your work because I’m not a natural Closer, either. I wonder if the interviewers you are talking to really are closing that much? Maybe something about the personality type attracted to interviewing makes one a Closer? Like, they’re used to asking personal questions and taking the risk of a negative reaction?

    I guess I do have one technique that is working out for me–I ask for the intermediate step of social media connection. (“Are you on Facebook? Can I friend you? What’s your last name?”) It’s not as strong a close, but easier for me to ask. A couple of my online friends just invited *me* to face-to-face get-togethers over the last couple of days!

    Love your work, Rachel! It’s really made a difference for me.

  3. Maybe it wouldn’t work – but could you ask readers to post where they are located? I feel like if I already knew that someone else was interested in being my new BFF I wouldn’t have such a hard time closing. Forgive me in advance for this reference, but it’s sort of like on Jersey Shore when the girls are DTF. Once the guy knows this – the pick up lines are secondary. Ha. (Ok, I might have bad taste in TV, but I am a GREAT friend, lol.) I am so happy to hear that I am not alone in my quest for a friend. And cheers to finding a way to meet and mingle that’s less aggressive and creepy than chasing around my future besties with half-heart necklaces! 🙂
    (PS: I am in DC)

  4. Chloe

    I love that you wrote about this! I’m not only bad at closing, but I’m painfully shy when it comes to the opening. If I ever talk to a stranger, it’s because something just pops out of my mouth before I can stop it, and after I’ve realized I’ve spoken, I want to clam up all over again! BUT, I’m getting better and your writing has helped me realize that we’re all trying to make friends, and it’s harder for ALL of us than it was when we were younger. So now I’ve started being a little more confident in my openings and closings. And sometimes, I just admit that I’m looking to find a new running buddy, or a fellow teacher friend who can hang out during school breaks, etc… and can we get together? So far, so good. 🙂

  5. Ashley

    Is it just me, or do these interviewers saying that sound like complete jerks? I don’t know a single person who moves to a new city and just automatically makes friends while shopping or at the gym. There has to be some effort which is what you showed in your book. Are these people so popular that everyone just flocks to them? Must be nice.

    • Laurie

      No, it’s not just you. That’s why I wondered if they really are closing. Maybe they just assume they could close if they tried? And shame on anyone who tries to make Rachel feel bad!

  6. Anonymous

    I think you just have to be aggressive, go for broke and say ‘can I get your number’ and then actually call. Sending a Facebook message (which you can do without friending) is also a safe bet, especially if you have a question they have to respond to. It’s incredibly hard to get conversations started, bu if you’re actually a friend match, they should start to flow. Friend hunting requires a bit of shamelessness I’m finding, but it generally pays off!

  7. I used to work in retail while in school so I think it’s a bit more natural for me to approach others and talk to them. I met one friend at the bus stop last year (we were complaining about the bus never being on schedule and I asked for her number so we could give each other a heads’ up if we missed the bus) and another at Starbucks (we sat next to one another, discussed our books and then exchanged email information). I haven’t managed meeting people in the gym yet, though.

    @ Rachel: I’m in DC too!! If you ever want to meet for tea or anything, let me know.

  8. anonymous

    I’m introverted AND shy (and awkward), so this is so difficult for me!

    Rachel–you should have a forum on here where people can plan BFF get togethers!

  9. Cassie

    Right now, I’m running into fear. I see some people everyday. On the train, in my neighborhood, etc. What if I take that chance to say hello, ask them for a friend date, and they say no? What happens to those day to day interactions? I guess there’s really only one way to find out!

  10. Tracy

    I love the honesty of the reactions on here – and I agree about the interviewers. (Do they have a magic friend-making line that always works?). I, too, am shy and introverted and can really struggle on coming up with something to say, even while standing in line at the market, or at yoga, etc. And Cassie, I have dealt with the same thing as I regularly see other moms at my son’s school, other co-workers in common areas, or other yoga class attendees (even the instructors) – let’s say I strike up a conversation, and I’m reading what I think is mutual like, and then they decline??? I’m still gonna see them almost daily! So awkward.
    Love these discussions Rachel.

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