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Parallax - Advice            August 21, 2000

   He wants to improve his phone rapport with the ladies

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I'm kind of a shy guy when I talk to girls on the phone. I want to know if you have any good conversation starters?

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Her view:

Dear Phone-phobic,

Hmmm... a good starter. Well, how about 'hi' plus a bunch of questions about her? What's going on? What is she up to? Then you can take your lead from there and follow up on something in which she has an interest. She will be all excited to contribute to the conversation that way. And before you know it, you'll have a raging dialogue.

Alternatively, you could take the Seinfeld approach. Identify an observation that amuses you and offer it up as food for thought. For example, I was at the theatre and... You know, tell a little story. Of course this all comes after 'hi, how are you, what have you been doing,' etc. Then you launch in to your own stuff. Or, you could tell her about a recent event you've attended, perhaps an art exhibit or sporting match.

The one caveat is to not sound rehearsed - girls smell that a mile away - and nothing scares them like an over-rehearsed nervous guy. So be smooth. Don't think too hard and just launch in. I bet you'll be yapping it up before you know it.

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His view:

Dear Phone-phobic,

I'm sure there are entire books and websites dedicated to conversation starters and proper ways of asking women on dates over the phone. The problem is none of them will necessarily apply to you, or they'll sound phony when you use them. Instead, I suggest you follow the set of easy steps below.

Begin with a greeting. Something like 'Hi, it's Joe.' Then ask a general question about her well-being. One of my favorites is: 'How are things?' (Note: 'Things' are very important in these calls, and you will use the term again.)

At this point, pause and ask yourself two questions. One: Does she know who I am? If she doesn't, it may be good to spend a few seconds reminding her where you got her number or where you met her. Two: Is she using one-word answers, like 'fine' or 'O.K.'? If so, she may not be very keen about you. You may want to pretend your cat just dove into your toilet and tell her you'll call back (but don't).

Next, ask her a specific question based on your knowledge of her. Try this: 'How are things at blank,' where blank could be 'work' or 'school' or 'the brain depository.' If things are fine, and you've called to ask her on a date, try the 'hey, listen' transition (it warns them to pay attention and indicates that the pointless talk is over), and move quickly on to 'why don't we do something soon?'

But don't wait too long to ask her out because the more time passes, the more obvious it will be that you are procrastinating and that you don't really have the things it takes to ask her.

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