When to Approach a Large Group

by GK on July 4, 2011 · 2 comments

We’ve often heard about the “three-second rule” when it comes to approaching people at a bar or party, but I was reminded of one scenario where waiting a little longer can pay off.

Watch out for those big waves, dude.

I was with a student at a bar in the Mission recently, and over our shoulders stood a party of perhaps eight people — guys and women, including a couple of approach-worthy girls. The student  bravely entered, and it turned out he’d joined a birthday party — in fact, he’d approached the birthday girl. She had friends around her, but she remained in one-on-one conversation with him for perhaps 10 minutes.

(And though he was my student, he already showed far more social grace than a certain athlete at a birthday party I recently wrote about.)

My student got a little nervous and left the birthday girl prematurely, but I’d be hornswoggled if I was going to let the story end that way. Always be closing, remember? I was going to send him back in, but before I could, we noticed something.

Every now and then a new arrival would join her group, and each time it would start a wave effect. Everyone would stop what they were doing and greet the friend in excitement, and after a minute or two, things would die down and they’d go back to their conversations.

I did not want to send my guy in there during such a wave, lest he be drowned in it. The girl would be too distracted to talk to him, and he might feel too awkward to carry on. So we waited for a lull where she was only talking to one person, and we sent him in then.

Like the hero he is, the student got back into conversation with her, and he even survived a little wave or two when other friends were around. He ended up with her phone number and let her get back to her friends after that.

I still think it’s better to approach sooner rather than later, but sometimes, waiting for an emotional ebb in the group has its logistical advantages. If you get caught in a wave after your approach, don’t panic. Just keep your cool, let the girl give her hugs and have her talk, perhaps talk to someone else in her group, and re-engage when you can get her attention again.

And when possible, swim with a buddy.


1 scn July 5, 2011 at 6:22 am

My hat’s off to the student with the balls to go into a tightly knit group like that not just once but twice.

This question is a classic, but recently I’ve been thinking neither the wait-and-observe approach nor the just-go-in approach is necessarily always better. I find one or the other will often seem a better fit for the situation and my internal state at the time.

2 alpha wolf July 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I was a virgin by 23. You beat me by two. BTW you need to expand that video and make it controllable by the user. Great intro for you.

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