Dear 100 Hour Board,
I’m in need of dire assistance; I think my dating compass is broken. Which wouldn’t be that much of an issue if I wasn’t 26. Living in a state in the Midwest. And a college graduate with a dislike for moving back to Utah just to find a husband. Granted, I am not looking to get married at this precise moment but I realize that I need to work on improving my dating skills if I wish to do so in the future.
Now this is where the broken compass comes into place. I am literally incapable of flirting thus I haven’t gone on a date in 2 years. Now, I realize this is an assumption and the not going on dates might be due to being in a smaller ward where no one really sparks my interest, but I bet the flirting could bump that number past the zeros. Is there a way I can flirt without feeling like a complete idiot? I’ve heard the whole “ask someone about themselves” spiel and I actually do but it seems like after small talk stalls, there’s nothing else I can do without me hating myself for it. Overly smiling and physical touch just seem so odd for me to do but I guess it’s what I need to perfect. And how do I get said practice without getting into issues at my ward for that matter?
-The Single Pringlette, who reflecting on the situation is starting to think an incapability to love might be her real issue
Just ask them on a date.
I agree with Zedability that you can totally ask someone on a date. That being said, I also think that flirting is a skill of itself and that it's one valuable tool in the quiver of dating skills.
I therefore link you to a previous answer I wrote on how to flirt. To go into a few of your struggles more specifically:
I’ve heard the whole “ask someone about themselves” spiel and I actually do but it seems like after small talk stalls, there’s nothing else I can do without me hating myself for it
Two main thoughts on this:.
1) On hating yourself when conversations end and feel awkward:
"Life is pain," per The Princess Bride. So, this isn't always great news, but on the other hand it sort of is great news. Why? Because it means that it is totally fine and normal if conversations with somebody (even somebody you like and are interested in) are initially (or even later on occasionally) difficult or awkward or hard to maintain. Man, Certainly and I had specific conversation about how I sometimes felt like it was hard for us to talk early on in our relationship. It wasn't always easy, but I married and am thrilled to be married to someone who I didn't have immediate, perfect conversational chemistry with. ESPECIALLY when we're talking to someone we don't know and might like, I think it's generally way MORE realistic to expect to occasionally feel awkward, especially about silences. So don't consider that a failure. If you had a great 10 minute conversation with someone and now it's lulled down, it's okay to say to yourself "good work for today" and head off to a different corner of the party. It's okay to go back later on and resume conversation after you hear a joke you think they'd appreciate. It's okay to stay with the conversation when it lulls by changing topic or maybe inviting a friend over to chat too, though forcing something that's totally not working for too long will probably feel awkward for both of you and might leave a negative impression.
But in any case, don't hate yourself, because, your efforts are "a sign from one worthwhile person to another worthwhile person of potential interest." I want to make it clear that I'm not condoning people who ignore social cues from others or who reject the need for another person's consent to a developing flirtationship (if they want you to go away, do), but for those of us who are sometimes overly harsh on ourselves, especially as we critique the 'worthlessness' or 'awkwardness' of our flirting attempts, I say: be nicer to yourself. If you wouldn't think your friend was an awkward weirdo for doing what you just did, reconsider whether you should so judge yourself.
2) On "small talk"
This may be part of the problem. Now, I'm not suggesting that you go up to random cute people you don't know and ask them what their darkest secret is, but there is just only so much small talk to be had before you should be moving to slightly 'bigger' talk. So, if the 'tell me about yourself' has elicited information about their major/work field (physics), their major hobby (Revolutionary War Re-enactment) and their favorite food (Thai), each of those opens up follow-up questions that can elicit more significant (and potentially more interest) conversation than the initial 'name/hometown/work or major' convo. Now that you've done the 'small talk' bit, you can elaborate:
- Why physics? How did you choose that particular area? What do you enjoy most about physics? Etc.
- What got you into Re-enactment? Do you make your own costumes? What's your favorite battle? Do you have a 'character' that you typically re-enact as? How did you design them? Do you have any Re-enactments coming up? (Note: the last one, especially, can turn into further activities together or even a date invite going one way or the other: "Oh, cool - I'd love to come to that and watch! Maybe we could grab froyo after?" or "Oh, cool, I think that would be so neat to watch" depending on your level of confidence and how likely you think he is to pick up on a hint)
- How did you get introduced to Thai food? ("Oh, really, that must have been an interesting mission! Was the language hard?" or "Oh, cool - where else was your family posted during your dad's military service? What was your favorite place to live?" or "Yeah, my favorite food is Indian, and I've never even been there either! My mom never served it growing up but my Aunt took me once and I was hooked! Where's the best Thai you've ever eaten?") What's your favorite dish? Have you been to [local Thai joint]? I've heard about it, but I've never tried it.
It's totally true that eventually you may still end up in a lull, especially if the person you are talking with is relatively quiet (or, frankly, if they're just totally uninterested and want you to stop talking to them, which is FINE because there are other people out there). That's fine. See point one, and don't overstress it.
Overly smiling and physical touch just seem so odd for me to do but I guess it’s what I need to perfect.
I think that an appropriate level of smiling and physical touch are helpful, but being "overly" smiley and touchy are obviously not what we want. And that means two things: 1) you should NEVER be more touchy than someone else is okay with (being overly smiley than they are comfortable with is perhaps less morally objectionable, but still unlikely to help your situation) and 2) you should also not be overly touchy and smiley to the extent that you feel like you're being unfair to yourself or to them. Now, I'm not going to tell you that anything that ever makes you uncomfortable is a terrible idea, because if that were the case probably nobody would ever go on a date or get married. There has to be some room for being willing to go a bit outside your comfort zone by smiling at that guy who is 'too cute for you' or by tickling back that guy who tried to tickle you even if you think it's a bit awkward or whatever. This is going to sound super cheesy, but the goal here is to be the version of yourself you want to be, not to stop being yourself. I know that's not super concrete advice, but maybe it's a helpful guideline: consider whether your level of smiling/touchiness is in line with what you want to be (e.g. if you think you can come off as unapproachable and you think you'd like to change that by smiling more frequently, or if you really want to show this particular person that you like them and you think they'd pick up on it if you reciprocated (or initiated consensual) physical signaling, or whatever).
And how do I get said practice without getting into issues at my ward for that matter?
This goes back to me to two main principles:
1) Flirt with people you are interested in, and not with people you aren't interested in. Generally, having people that you have no interest in that you just flirt with 'for practice' does seem like something that could get you into trouble to me, and I think misleading others is less than honorable. So, if there aren't people in your ward you're interested, maybe you need to go elsewhere for flirting practice.
2) However, remember that much of flirting may just be very focused friendship overtures, and friendship more generally is something we can practice everywhere. For example, look at the questions above in the conversation section: you won't use date lead-in language when talking to your BFF or a new person in the ward you have no interest in, but you could totally still practice coming up with good questions to elicit deeper conversation and other tactics to strengthen platonic friendship. I do believe that a lot of those skills can transfer if we realize that they are transferable and then work to transfer them to flirting.
You can't totally eliminate the risk that people will misinterpret interest one way or the other. However, being willing to be communicative is helpful and being thoughtful about whether you're creating a situation that's unfair to others is good.
You can do it!
Zed and Anne, Certainly's thoughts/advice are very sound.
Anne, Certainly mentioned transitioning from small talk to deeper topics. The small talk conversations that lead nowhere are the ones I dread most on dates. I recently listened to this Modern Love podcast called, "The End of Small Talk" and was quite inspired. Makes first dates more of a challenge/discovery, instead of something to dread.
As for asking people on dates, I've always found the art of persuasion more effective than the art of force. However, this is a personal preference. I've had more success covertly persuading people to take me on dates than straight up asking them. There's less pressure.
Speaking of that, I've found a universal truth among single people. When you start "not caring" about getting dates/getting married, things come easier. I guess you just act more like yourself and others are drawn to that. You sound like you're in a good starting place; you're not too concerned about getting married right away, but want to hone your skills. Just roll with it. Try to learn more about people. Put yourself in new situations and see how you handle it. Savor each awkward and not-so-awkward moment. And don't beat yourself up.
Okay, I'm done.
The Lone Musketeer
I agree with Zed. You are making it harder than it needs to be. I don't think you need more tips and skills, I think you need to act. It's going to be uncomfortable, but that's just how dating is.
Ask someone if they will go on a date with you and plan a date that is more involved than just a picnic or something like that or else you will probably run out of things to say.
Have some confidence sister!
-Sunday Night Banter