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Break the Ice: How to Talk to Girls and Guys

How to start a conversation persuasively.

Key points

  • Approaching someone attractive is difficult because it opens oneself up for evaluation.
  • Ways to approach someone that do not open oneself up for evaluation include asking for a favor and simply asking a question.
  • Having the courage to approach someone shows strength and confidence.

Sometimes it can be difficult to "break the ice" and start a conversation with someone attractive. It can also be hard to make a good first impression while doing so.

However, approaching and talking with a stranger can be done easily... and persuasively. You can learn to break the ice with finesse and talk to the girls or guys of your dreams! Read on...

Why Is Breaking the Ice So Hard?

Speaking with someone you don't already know can be anxiety-provoking for a number of reasons (some of which I have addressed in previous posts). These reasons include:

  • Having approach anxiety, social anxiety, or being anxious about dating in general (see here).
  • Worrying too much about your potential date's initial opinion.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Not having the proper motivation to approach.
  • Having a poor understanding of body language).
  • Not having a clear understanding of what you want.
  • Not being prepared to ask for what you want.

Beyond all of those reasons, however, approaching someone is difficult because you are often opening yourself up for evaluation. Essentially, you are saying "I like you" and asking "do you like me?" This gives the other person all of the power in the situation.

Given that, it is no wonder breaking the ice and making the first move is so hard. Who would knowingly want to put themselves in a position of vulnerability? That is the reason why many women prefer to be "attractive" and try to motivate the man to approach them. It is also the reason why many men refuse to do so.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to approach and start a conversation, without opening yourself up to evaluation. Furthermore, they are just as "confident" and "assertive" as putting yourself out there directly. In fact, sometimes these techniques are even more persuasive than the "direct approach."

Techniques to Keep Your Power and Say Hello

1. Ask a Favor

Rather than "putting yourself out there," get the other person to invest a little first. Ask them to do something for you. Make a request. This could even be something small like, "could you grab me a straw?" Or, "could you watch my stuff for a minute while I get a coffee?" Any small request will do the trick.

I have discussed the reason for this "investment" effect elsewhere (see here and here). Known as the Ben Franklin Effect, it is the phenomenon where people like others more when they do a favor for them (Jecker & Landry, 1969). So, forget about buying them the drink as an opener... and ask for one instead!

2. Ask a Question

Most approaches go wrong because the person is trying to impress. They are trying to "earn" the other individual's interest, attraction, or affection. Essentially, they are opening themselves up to "being judged"... rather than evaluating, qualifying, or screening the other person.

So, rather than letting them evaluate you, begin by evaluating them instead! Ask them a question. Be curious. Suspend your attraction to them and make them jump through a hoop or two to prove themselves to you. Ask them something that will qualify them as a partner and see whether they pass.

Don't automatically assume they are perfect. Rather, be a bit skeptical. Quiz them from the start. Ask them if a piece of clothing on them is a designer label. Ask them how they take their coffee (and tease them if it is gross). Ask them why they are shopping on a Sunday afternoon. Ask them if they can make an omelet.

Yes, some people do question others to excess, which is obnoxious. So, when someone answers your question, give them a little back in return! Break the ice on your terms, then show them a bit of who you are. Remember to not play games and reciprocate.

3. Make a Statement

A final strategy to approach, open, and break the ice is to make a statement. This is simply saying something to the other person, or about the general situation, without desiring a response from them at all. It is just you expressing your opinion.

Some examples might include... "I love the coffee here!" "It is a great day out today." "This store has the best shirts." "The bartender here makes the best Jack and Coke!"

If the other person is at all interested, he or she will continue the conversation. If they are not interested and say nothing, then you have not risked anything. You have simply made a statement.


It is possible to get to know someone else without putting yourself at their mercy. In fact, the approaches above show that you are strong, confident, attractive... and not in need of their judgment or validation. So, rather than believing some stranger is "great" and you need to "earn" them, use one or more of the techniques above. Ask them to do you a favor and increase their liking for you. Ask them a question and get them to earn your affection. Or, just make a statement and see whether they react. In any case, you can break the ice, keep your footing, and have a better shot at getting a date!

© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.


Jecker, J., & Landy, D. (1969). Liking a person as function of doing him a favor. Human Relations, 22, 371-378.

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