How to ditch the apps and date offline : Life Kit Tired of swiping through dating profiles on your phone? Maybe it's time to get out there and meet people in real life. A sexuality and relationship educator shares advice about how to meet new people, strike up conversations and move on from a love interest if the vibe isn't there.

How to ditch the apps and date offline

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MARIELLE SEGARRA, HOST:

You're Listening to LIFE KIT from NPR. Hey, everybody. It's Marielle. If you've ever done online dating, you know that it can be exhausting - the endless swiping, the conversations that go nowhere, the weird interactions where it feels like somebody is just on a different planet than you. Like, you've exchanged two messages and suddenly, they're sending you naked pics. Not to mention the emotional roller coaster of really vibing with somebody on the app and then getting to the date and it's just nothing. Nothing there. It can make you want to stop dating entirely. But there is another option. It may not seem like it, but you can meet people to date in person.

JAYDA SHUAVARNNASRI: If the apps are not feeling good anymore, then I would suggest folks, like, all right, let's try other ways that do feel good for you.

SEGARRA: Jayda Shuavarnnasri is a sexuality and relationship educator. Now, dating offline is a mindset shift. You don't instantly get the information that you would from someone's online profile, like whether they're available or interested in your gender or what kind of romantic connections they're seeking.

SHUAVARNNASRI: In the offline space, it's often a little bit challenging to know if someone wants to be approached or if someone is looking for that type of connection.

SEGARRA: But that's not an insurmountable challenge. It just makes dating offline more of a long game.

SHUAVARNNASRI: When we're dating offline, it's just how do we open up all these different avenues of people coming into my life?

SEGARRA: On this episode of LIFE KIT - how to find folks to date out in the world. We will walk you through some of the steps to take to start noticing other people, make yourself approachable, spark conversations and get to the point where you're exchanging numbers. And we'll talk about how to manage fears of rejection and make sure you're respecting other people's boundaries.

So I feel like ever since we got so attached to our phones, and since online dating became a thing, we have stopped noticing people in real life as much. Like, if I pick my head up and look around when I'm on the subway or at an outdoor cafe or maybe at the park, if people aren't talking to someone else, then their head is usually buried in a phone. And I wonder if one of the first steps to finding folks to date offline is just noticing other people or being present in the moment.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes. I 100% agree, as well as, you know, thinking about this conversation of how have I met people in real life in person, and I think a big part of it is because I am actually a really big advocate of spending time alone and doing things solo. If I'm sitting at a restaurant, I'm trying to take in my surroundings. I'm trying to notice what's in front of me. I'm not just engaged in my phone. And with that, I look more approachable. But I'm also noticing who else in the room is approachable. And so I agree that, like, the first kind of step into meeting people in real life is to actually be present in your surroundings.

SEGARRA: OK. so one takeaway, it sounds like, it's to be in the moment, right? Be present, not be buried in your phone. And also, try going places alone. So let's say you're doing those things and you do notice somebody. You think they're cute.

SHUAVARNNASRI: (Laughter).

SEGARRA: What do you do next?

SHUAVARNNASRI: What happens? What happens after you notice someone - right? - or they notice...

SEGARRA: Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: ...You? You know, the first thing is deciding whether or not you want to open a conversation. So I'm really big on, like, if you're going to engage with someone, and even if you're someone who's available for dating and you want to date, the goal isn't to just get a date. The goal of engaging in a conversation with someone isn't to get the phone number, secure a date right in that moment. The goal is to just have a pleasant interaction.

SEGARRA: Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: And so actual things that you can say - asking for suggestions about, like, anything. So, like, ask them, hey; have you tried the food here before? What are you drinking? Would you recommend it? A great opening question is, like, hey; so what brought you here today? What are you up to today? What are you here for - you know, so opening up the conversation beyond a yes or no kind of question answer around and actually being curious about why that person is there.

SEGARRA: Do you ever just, like, compliment something, like - or, like, you're sitting at the bar next to somebody, and they got the rosemary bun. And you're like, ooh, how is that?

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah, that's a great one. How is that? Do you like it? Is there other things here that you like? Those are just, like, really simple interactions that you would want to have with anyone regardless of whether or not it's for dating potential.

SEGARRA: Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Right?

SEGARRA: The thing about asking a question that is, like - they're not sure if you want to talk to them because you think they're cute, or because you just want to know how the rosemary bun is is that someone who's, like, maybe a little shy or reserved would be like, oh, it's really good. And that would be it, you know? Like...

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes. That's true.

SEGARRA: The conversation can easily, and you'll never know if that's because they weren't into or because they just didn't know what else to say after that.

SHUAVARNNASRI: That is true. That is very true. And I think if this person is shy, that person is shy. And that's very OK. And there's no, like, forcing or pushing anything onto someone if they're going to be shy. I try and take the pressure off myself and them by paying attention to the body language, to the way that they're answering the questions. If they feel short in answer, then I'll let that be, and I'm not going to try and force them to engage in a longer conversation with me. And I've gotten really comfortable at asking people if they want to continue engaging or, like, are you OK that I'm talking to you right now, or would you like some quiet time? And that gives you a very clear indication of whether or not that person is feeling shy or if they're interested in you.

SEGARRA: So maybe another takeaway here is to just keep the pressure low when you first approach somebody. Just - you know, maybe you ask them an open-ended question, and you also give them an out. Like, you could say, oh, by the way, feel free to go back to your book if you want, or...

SHUAVARNNASRI: Exactly.

SEGARRA: No worries if you want to go back to what you were doing.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Exactly. Yep. Yeah. Oh, if you wanted to watch the game that's on - totally fine if you don't want to chat, you know? Just...

SEGARRA: Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Feel free to go back to your friends. You know, there's no pressure here. And if you want to keep the door open, be like, I'll be around. You know, if you want to chat at some point, feel free to find me. When you're not going into it with, like, I'm trying to date this person, or, I'm trying to figure out if there's a romantic connection there, I think that really sets us up for these expectations that might not be met, right? And so to me, when I'm meeting someone new, meaning someone for the first time, I like to keep it really spacious. The goal, again, is to have a really nice conversation, to be curious about someone, like, genuinely wanting to get to know them in that moment. And if that also includes, like, OK, I don't really know this person - I don't know if they're really wanting to engage with me in the same way, so I'm going to give them an out, right? I'm going to give them out with also an open invitation if they want to continue.

SEGARRA: Yeah because it's sort of that scarcity mentality. If you meet someone or see someone, you're like, oh, they're so cute, but I don't think I'm ever going to see them again. So I think some people get in their heads then, and they're like, I think I love you.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes.

SEGARRA: And it's like, no, no, you can't. It doesn't matter if you're never going to see them again. You really can't come at people like that.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah, yeah. And I think you're right. And I when I work with folks, I'm shifting from, like, that scarcity into, like, abundance. Abundance is like, have a lot of good interactions, have a lot of pleasant moments in your life that feels like, yes, I can go out, and I know how to talk to people and feel good about it. I can go out and have these interactions where people receive me well, and I feel great at the end of the day. It could be two minutes. It could be two hours. It could be two days. But as long as it feels good, that, to me, is how I want folks to be moving in the world versus this, like, kind of goal-oriented, like, yes, let's get married right now, or else I'm going to be alone forever.

SEGARRA: Yeah. Like, you're my last chance. Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: You're my last chance. Right. I think that's a lot of the times we're approaching dating - is, like, this is my last opportunity at happiness. And I'm like, oh, that sounds terrible. That sounds - right? But if you're approaching your life from, like, I just want to have really great interactions with people, then I don't know. That sounds pretty good to me even if you're, quote-unquote, "alone."

SEGARRA: Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: I think dating is this space for a possibility. When we're dating online, we're trying to streamline that possibility, right? We're trying to, like, streamline it because we know, OK, all these people are in there to meet a potential dater. But when we're dating offline, it's just like, how do we open up all these different avenues of people coming into my life?

SEGARRA: Yeah. So another big takeaway here then would be not to be so results driven when you're dating offline. Maybe try to play the long game rather than the short game.

SHUAVARNNASRI: I would say so, yes, I would say so. And that's one thing. So for me and the clients that I work with, I'm always reminding them that building trust and safety in any kind of connection is not automatic. It's not like this spark. There's no like, OK, all of a sudden I meet you and I feel so safe with you emotionally, physically, all the things. That's not what happens. That stuff takes time. It takes time to know if someone is capable of meeting your needs and your desires to be in a romantic relationship. That's why I kind of frame dating as more like putting friendliness and general friendship at the center with the possibility for romance.

SEGARRA: Yeah. So going back to, like, let's say you are sitting at a bar eating dinner and there's somebody next to you, and you're like, hey; was that good, or whatever. And you talk a little bit back-and-forth. Now you're at the point maybe you're leaving or they're leaving, and you're - you want to maybe see them again outside of this scenario. Do you ask for their number? Do you exchange Instagram? Like, what is the language you might use?

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah. So the language that I would use if I'm interested in someone and I want to see them again, I'm not asking them to give me their personal information. I'm going to give them mine because it's me that has the desire. I'm the one that has the request. And so I'm going to be the one that puts it out there that, like, hey; I really enjoyed this interaction. And I don't usually meet people this way or whatever. You know, this was just really pleasant. And if you're interested in talking some more or hanging out again, here's my information. So either - do you want to take my Instagram if you're comfortable with it? If you don't want to follow me back, that's fine. Like, I give a lot of outs on, like, what their comfort level is. If you want to take my number, feel free to text me. Call me. Even if you don't, that's OK. Like, no pressure at all.

SEGARRA: So you don't have to make it clear in that moment, like, I think you're cute. I want to put my face on your face.

SHUAVARNNASRI: (Laughter) You don't have to. You know, I do think it works for some people. I'm not going to lie. I think that some people maybe prefer that, like, really direct I'm interested in you. I think you're hot. Like, let's do this. And that's fine. I personally come from a line of, like, I'm still gauging comfort levels. I don't know how comfortable you are with me yet or how safe you feel with me yet to think of anything physical with me. So I'm just here taking little baby steps to show you that, like, hey; I'm curious enough about you to continue getting to know you, and hopefully you're curious about me too.

SEGARRA: All right. So I'm hearing express your interest and be the one to offer your number or contact info. But let's say that you are in that scenario. You've been talking to somebody. You've said, do you want to talk again, maybe exchange numbers and they're hesitant or they're straight up, like, no thanks. How do you deal with the feelings that might come up, like the rejection feelings?

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah. Yes. The rejection feelings, yes (laughter). We can't take those moments personally because we don't know these people and we're not entitled to them in any way, shape or form. You know, for me, rejection is never personal, and it really is just someone naming a boundary about how they want to interact with me. And as someone who teaches a lot about consent and boundaries, I love when people know how to say no. I love when people say no, I'm not really interested in that. I'm like, cool. Thanks for making that clear. And so for me, rejection also saves a lot of time so that you can spend your energy engaging with folks who also want to engage with you.

SEGARRA: Yeah. What about if you develop a crush on somebody at work? I imagine some of these same principles could come into play. But there are also other wrinkles. Like, of course, if you're the person's boss or supervisor in some way, like, do not approach them to date.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes.

SEGARRA: But that said, like, any tips for trying to get to know them or see if that could be a connection.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah. I mean, and that's super-common is meeting folks at work, right? And I think it depends on your own personal boundaries and the boundaries of the other person. I think I would gauge that first is, like, does this person seem like a person who's going to, like, have a boundary of professional is strictly professional, and I'm not flirty or wanting to date anyone that I also work with? - because that's fair and valid. And so I would gauge that.

But I think, yeah, so if I have a crush on someone and I'm at work and I want to get to know them more, I think it's actually easier to be like, hey; would you ever be down to hang out outside of work? Like, that's a easy question to ask. Or, like, oh, would you ever want to meet up before a shift, or would you ever want to hang out after? Or just in general, like, when you're at work with someone, you generally can get to know them and what their interests are or what they like to do without the pressure of wanting to date them. It's a very organic way to just learn somebody, right? You learn how they spent their weekend, what they did, who their siblings are, who their family is, things like that. You get to kind of see that when you're talking to them at work.

And so it would be more like, hey; if I knew this person is interested in a particular artist or musician or something, then I'd be like - hey; did you hear so-and-so's in town, would you ever be interested in going together? - and just gauging it in that way. And then because of the work scenario, I would for sure give space to just making sure that they don't feel pressured to say yes and that, like, if they say no to me, if they're not interested in hanging out after work or outside of work, that it's very OK and I'm not going to make it awkward. Like, it's very OK if you want to just keep this as, like, a work friendship. I think that has to be even clearer in a workplace scenario, because yeah, it can get really, really messy very quickly, especially if it doesn't go well (laughter).

SEGARRA: Yeah. I feel like there's a place for playing the super-long game if you're at work and you're crushing on somebody, because it does feel like the stakes are so high. So it's like, very slowly get to know them. Maybe one day you're going to lunch, and you see that they are too. So you ask, hey; do you want to walk down together? Or if you're having a group gathering, you could just invite them and other people from work.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes.

SEGARRA: So it sounds like another takeaway could just be, invite the person to low stakes things.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Absolutely, absolutely. I love that. And I'm a big fan of the slow burn. I think it's hot. I think it can be so refreshing, and that's actually something that online dating doesn't really give us.

SEGARRA: Yeah.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Because you're already kind of engaged. Like, OK, this person's already interested. They've already swiped right on me. So I know it's not for everyone, but I'm a fan of that, like, slow burn kind of build up to a connection. And I think workplace scenarios are pretty ideal for that, actually.

SEGARRA: Yeah, like a Jim and Pam kind of vibe.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes. Oh, my God - so good, so good.

SEGARRA: (Laughter).

SHUAVARNNASRI: That was a little too long. That was a little too messy, but so good (laughter).

SEGARRA: Yeah. I mean, our favorite rom-coms, like "New Girl," Nick and Jess living in the...

SHUAVARNNASRI: Oh, my gosh.

SEGARRA: ...The house together. When they finally kiss, it's just fireworks.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yes. So good, so good. Yes. See? Friendship at the center.

SEGARRA: Oh, my goodness.

SHUAVARNNASRI: And then potential for romance.

SEGARRA: I got to go read a romance novel or something.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah, same, same.

SEGARRA: Now I'm, like, really in the mood for it. All right, Jayda, thank you so much for this I appreciate you.

SHUAVARNNASRI: Yeah, thank you.

SEGARRA: OK, time for a recap. If you want to meet people to date in the wild outside of a dating app, try to be present wherever you are. Whether you're sitting at a bar eating lunch or browsing the stacks at the library, or getting ready for another climb up the wall at your rock-climbing gym, put your phone away and look around. What do you notice? Is there anyone you're curious about who you might want to talk to?

There are lots of ways to start that conversation. Jayda says you could lead with a simple question like, hey; have you tried the food here? Or how long have you been climbing? Or just make a comment about something around you. Now, pay attention to how the person responds, right? If they're giving you short answers and not engaging, let it drop. Don't push. We're never entitled to someone else's time, even if we think they're cute. If you do get into a good conversation, maybe at the end you ask if they want to stay in touch. And again, you don't have to be sure that there's a romantic connection here. As long as you're curious about the person, that's enough for now.

Work can be another fun place to meet people. Of course, this can get complicated. And we want to be super-clear that you should not hit on your boss or your direct reports, or people who are junior to you. But maybe you develop a crush on that cutie who you see in the copy room. This is another place to play the long game. See if they want to walk to the cafe together at lunch or invite them to a low stakes group hangout. Whatever happens, remember; rejection is not personal. And your worth is inherent, it doesn't depend on whether someone wants to date you.

For more LIFE KIT, check out our other episodes. We have one on what to consider before an office romance and another on how to get into romance novels. You can find those at npr.org/lifekit. And if you love LIFE KIT and want even more, subscribe to our newsletter at npr.org/lifekitnewsletter. Also, we love hearing from you. So if you have episode ideas or feedback you want to share, email us at lifekit@npr.org.

This episode of LIFE KIT was produced by Audrey Nguyen. Our visuals editor is Beck Harlan, and our visual producer is Kaz Fantone. Our digital editor is Malaka Gharib. Meghan Keane is our supervising editor, and Beth Donovan is our executive producer. Our production team also includes Andee Tagle, Clare Marie Schneider, Margaret Cirino and Sylvie Douglis. Engineering support comes from Phil Edfors. I'm Marielle Segarra. Thanks for listening.

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