How to Approach Anyone with the 3 Second Rule

How to Approach Anyone with the 3 Second Rule

Have you ever seen a really hot girl and wanted to talk to her, but couldn’t figure out what to say?

Or have you ever walked into a room full of strangers, and felt extremely uncomfortable?

Maybe even pulled out your phone and pretended to be texting, hoping someone would come up to you and save you from your awkwardness?

We all have.

When it comes to meeting new people, one of the biggest obstacles for most people is simply building up the courage to approach a stranger and start a conversation.

Last month I revealed in my monthly newsletter that I was taking on a new 30-day challenge, which was to talk to someone new every day.  The idea was that this challenge, similar to the 30-day cold shower challenge would force me to get out of my comfort zone on a daily basis, and at the same time, allow me to make some new friends and connections while improving my social skills.

Unfortunately, I failed.

Out of the 30 days, I only managed to talk to someone new for 18 days. However, I don’t consider it a complete failure because in those 18 days I probably met more people than I had the entire semester. The days that I actually made an effort to meet someone new I usually ended up meeting at least 2 or 3 new people.

Going into this challenge I thought that it was going to be difficult because I thought there would be some days when I would have very few opportunities to meet someone new. But the truth is, there are always opportunities to meet new people.

The days that I didn’t talk to someone new weren’t because I didn’t have the opportunity to, they were simply because I didn’t make the effort. While it was easy for me to meet people at parties and in other social settings, I also met people in elevators, waiting in lines, and even at the library.

When Was the Last Time You Met Someone New?

Just think about how many opportunities you have every single day to meet someone new. Even if only briefly, chances are you see people constantly throughout your day.

Obviously, you don’t have to talk to every single person that you see, but the point is that if you were to see someone that you really wanted to meet, would you be able to walk up to them and start a conversation? Or would you be too self-conscious about what they might think or how they might respond to you?

I use to be terrified of approaching people I didn’t know. Especially girls. I would think of everything I could possibly say, I’d imagine every possible way the conversation could pan out, I’d practice saying it in my head multiple times, and then I’d end up not saying anything at all. Usually by that point it’d be too late. Another guy would start talking to her or I’d just convince myself that she probably wouldn’t be into me anyway.

But why is talking to a cute girl so difficult?

Just think for a second about the worst thing that could possibly happen, and then think about the best thing that could possibly happen.

You’ll never know what you missed out on unless you put yourself out there. – Tweet This

Worst case scenario, she’s not into you. If that happens, you’ve lost nothing. Learn what you can from it and move on.

Best case scenario, you meet a super cool, super cute girl that’s super into you. And it all started with a conversation.

The First Step is Overcoming Your Psychological Barriers

Aside from being able to talk to cute girls, being able to approach anyone and start a conversation, in any setting, might be one of the most valuable skills you can possibly have. After all, as I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

While technical skills are important, socials skills are arguably the most valuable skill of all, regardless of what career you choose to pursue. The truth is that talent alone isn’t enough, and if you don’t improve your social skills, you’ll never be able to put your best foot forward.

Whether you decide to do something about it or not, the fact remains: people with amazing social skills are more successful than those without.

So you can continue live your life comfortably in the comfort of your comfort zone (that’s a fun tongue twister), or you can overcome the barriers that are holding you back and actually make an effort to learn how to improve your social skills and meet more people.

Personally, my biggest barrier was overcoming my bias against socially adept people. It was a psychological barrier that prevented me from making an effort to improve my social skills. I didn’t want to become one of those “douchebags” and start changing the way I talk. I was stubborn and judgmental. Why should I have to change? People should like me for who I was.

But over the last few years I’ve realized that a big part of being social is less about you and more about others. It’s about exhibiting a genuine interest in others and being able to connect with them. In order to do that effectively, you need to understand some basic principles about social etiquette.

It amazes me that while social skills might be the most important skill you can have, we rarely look at it as a learnable skill that can be systematically improved.

The 3 Second Rule

When I started looking into the challenge of talking to someone new every day for 30 days, I read about something called the 3 second rule.

The 3 second rule happens to be the most powerful pickup tool a guy or girl could have and is often referred to in these terms, but it’s a great tool for meeting new people in any context. The rule requires that if you see someone you’re interested in talking to, you have 3 seconds to walk up to them and start a conversation. It’s very simple, but extremely effective.

The reason why it’s so effective is because if you wait any longer than 3 seconds, you’ll probably end up over-thinking it and never say anything at all. With only 3 seconds, you don’t have enough time to let anxiety get the best of you. If you see someone you want to talk to, you must immediately go over and talk to them.

Stop worrying about what to say. Anything is better than nothing.

Plus, you’d be surprised by how much people actually like being talked to. Think about the last time a stranger started a conversation with you, were you weirded out or were you pleasantly surprised? And if we go back to the anecdote of being in a room full of strangers, how do you feel when someone comes up to you and starts talking to you? You feel great, right? No one wants to be the person who’s standing alone.

To reframe the way you think about talking to strangers, realize that you’re actually doing them a favor by talking to them, because out of everyone in the room, you specifically chose to talk to them. If anything, they’ll be grateful that you chose to talk to them, not weirded out.

Two Lines You Can Use To Start a Conversation

Alright, so you’ve decided to implement the 3 second rule and approach someone you’ve been dying to meet. But what do you say? How do you introduce yourself?

Well, obviously there are lots of different ways you can start a conversation, and depending on the social situation one way might be more appropriate than the other, but here are 2 lines you can use that have worked out great for me. Test them out for yourself, make your own variations, and see what works best for you.

  1. A simple introduction followed by a question.
    “Hi, my name is _____, what brings you here?”
    A variation of this line is, “Hi, my name is _____, how do you know _____ (name of mutual friend or host)?”
    This line usually works best in large social settings such as at parties or networking events.
  2. Make an observation or compliment.
    “Whoa, those are awesome shoes. Where’d you get them?”
    This line works great anywhere. People love compliments. However, be careful not to sound phony. Only compliment someone if you really mean it.

Notice that each of these lines starts the conversation with something shared in common—an event, a mutual friend, or a shared interest (i.e. awesome shoes).

Connecting with people is all about finding something that each person can relate to.

**********

The next time you see someone you’ve been dying to meet, give yourself three seconds to walk up to them and start a conversation. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

If you found the 3 second rule helpful and are looking for more ways to improve your social skills and meet new people, check out my article on 5 Ways to Improve Your Social Skills and Conquer Your Ego

I also highly recommend checking out Ramit Sethi’s article “Instant Irresistability: The 7 Keys to Advanced Social Skills” and his 30-minute “Small Talk” Hacks video

Image Source: Elite Wallpapers

About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

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  • Luu

    Great article, great read! Should’ve read this before NYE, would’ve been much easier to talk to girls lol. I’ll sure try this out!

    • At least now you’ve got a whole year to practice before next NYE haha. Let me know how it goes!

  • Kayla

    Hey there,

    Found your blog from stumbleupon.com and just wanted to letcha know I definitely dig it and find your blogs helpful for sure! Subscribed it upppp. :)

  • Stumble to your blog. The approach is quite normal, but the decisive factor is 3 seconds. Great post. Very appreciate!

    • Thank you and you’re welcome!

  • Abner

    Hey really liked this, today was the first time I tried this and now I have a date this coming Thursday!

  • TJ

    Wow, wish I read this article this morning coming to work when I saw this pretty girl on the train.

    • You always end up regretting it after when you don’t say anything!

      • JJ

        Wish I had read this before today. Saw a gorgeous girl on the train who I’ve seen a few times on my way to work. She usually gets the later train so I rarely see her but I saw her again today as I got on and she even smiled at me. That was my cue!!!

        Ahhhhh!! It became too awkward to speak to her when everyone was getting off. She caught me looking at her so she knows that I like her.

        Praying that I will get one more chance to redeem myself.

        • I’m sure you’ll see her again, but I’ll be praying for you too. :)

          P.S. The whole, “oh, I didn’t say anything soon enough and now it’s too awkward” thing is all in your head. It’s never too late. Just give yourself the 3 second count down and do it!

  • John

    Stumbled into this and having some problems socializing but the 3 second rule is something that can really help me out because I really do overthink stuff all the time when ita about talking to people. Hell, I even almost didn’t put this comment I don’t know why. Awesome read by the way, read the cold shower one to. Trying it out tomorrow! lol

    • Thanks for the comment, John. Don’t worry, you’re not alone–we all tend to over think things. But combine the 3-second rule with cold showers and you will be unstoppable!

  • Dylan

    Well there’s a cute girl I’ve been wanting to talk to at school, but it seems random walking up out of nowhere and introducing myself or giving a compliment. I’ve kind of been waiting for that moment when I’m behind her in the lunchline or when one of my friends invites her over to the table I always sit at.

    I’m probably over thinking it, but I’m not sure how to approach anyone outside of situations like that.

    • It’s a little different when it’s someone you regularly see around. At this point it probably would be a little weird to randomly walk up to her to introduce yourself. It would’ve been best to introduce yourself when you first saw her. You could’ve pulled something like, “Hey, I’m Dylan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before, are you new here?” But now that you’ve seen her around you’re probably better off waiting till you are in a situation when you can start a conversation about the situation (like waiting in a long line).

      But you’re definitely overthinking it. Forget about it for now, and when you get the chance, just go for it.

  • Mike

    You should cite your sources. I believe u got most of this from, “The Game”

    • Actually I’ve never heard of “The Game.” This is my own original content, with bits and pieces of information you can find all over the internet. But the biggest influence for this article came from Ramit Sethi, who I link to at the bottom of the article.

  • james

    What if (95% of the time this seems to be true) they’re not wearing anything special you could compliment without being obviously fake? And #1 seems to ONLY work for big parties/social settings/networking events, I think it’d be really weird to go up to a girl randomy at a community college and say “haven’t seen you here before” she’s gonna think ‘well no crap, there’s thousands of people that go here’

    • Try “Hi, I’m James. What’s your name?” Keep it simple. It helps to follow up with a question, but like I said, people will usually be more than happy to talk to you.

  • Kevin

    Good article. The 30 day challenge is something I really should do. Other than maybe public speaking, I think talking to strangers is my worst skill. I particularly like your advice that you’re doing them a favor by talking to them. This is a good way to think of it for me because I’m someone who actually doesn’t like it when people talk to me (depending on the situation anyway), so I feel guilty and phony when I’m trying to make conversation with a stranger.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kevin. If it’s something that you know you really should do, then do it. What have you got to lose? Being able to walk up to anyone and start a conversation is an extremely valuable skill to have, along with public speaking (which is actually something I’ve been working on recently).

      I can see why you might feel phony, but I don’t see why you would feel guilty. I think most people like it when strangers talk to them, even if it maybe makes them a little bit nervous.

  • Jesse

    The 3-Second Rule has always led me to have some awesome days/nights meeting new people when I lived in West LA and went to Santa Monica Community College.

    Cheers mate this is some good stuff you’ve got right here! Love the energy in your writing too :)

    • Thanks, Jesse! Apologies for the late reply here, but I love Santa Monica! Where do you live currently? I’m in DTLA right now, but going to be moving back to the OC area (where I grew up) in the next couple of weeks.

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  • I’ve been out of college for a bit but I wish I had stumbled upon the 3-second rule years ago. Although, like you mentioned, I could use this now to network and just get out of my comfort zone. My best experiences with girls/meeting randoms were basically an inadvertent 3-second rule where I accidentally struck up a conversation and just joked around a bit. Thanks for this!

    • Right? Almost always leads to something good. Don’t think I’ve ever regretted striking up a conversation with a stranger.

  • Gabby

    Mmmmmh. 3 second rule! huh! Saw that somewhere and wanted to know what that is all about. Apart from the reason you gave for the three second rule, i think applying the three second rule would help make it less weird to talk to strangers.

    Imagine a scenario where you were sitted next to a person for hours, or minutes. Its definately less weird if you talked to them shortly after you met them instead of waiting. After some time, you will start asking yourself what he/she will think that you did not talk to them in the first place!

    But talking to new people takes a lot of courage!

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  • george

    hey man the approach has been my worst thing to do because once i have talked to someone there the conversation is a smooth sail.. so let me try it and see… i will let you know how it goes

    • Yup, the approach is always the hardest part. But it gets easier the more you do it!

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  • Ryan

    Hey, I just finished my freshmen year in college. But in the beginning of my freshmen year I didn’t go out much and made friends. Now everyone around me has friends and I don’t. And people in my dorm are never around. My sophomore year will start in 3 months. I am also staying over the summer and i will return to my college within 2 weeks.

    My question is
    1) how do i go about making friends after freshmen year?

    2) How do i approach people now?

    3) And after approaching strangers how do i turn them into my friends? Or get to know their friends and become a part of their social circle?

    4) I am also afraid of coming of as clingy if I invite people a lot to get to knoe them better. So how much should I call people I just met?

    5) How do i make friends in summer school?

    (I am asking because it is much easier to make friends in the first month of the college and people are actively looking for friends and it’s much easier to approach people then, but now everyone around me has friends they hangout with and I think if I approach peop it might make me look weird. Or i dont know what they would think if they find out I don’t have friends I can hang out with even though I have been here for about a year.)

    • Hey Ryan,

      Totally get where you’re coming from, but I think you’re overthinking things. Sure, people might be more actively looking for friends during their freshman year, but you can always continue making new friends even during your sophomore, junior, or senior year. So, to answer your questions…

      1) & 2) Nothing should change. You should approach people the same way. You don’t need to feel awkward to introduce yourself just because you’re a sophomore now. It doesn’t matter. Just do it.

      3) Don’t try to force anything. Just talk to people and be friendly. If you click with someone, then ask them for their number so you can meet up / hang out again sometime. If they’re in your class, ask if they want to work on an assignment together. If they’re not in your class, ask if they want to grab a cup of coffee. Just take it one step at a time.

      4) Again, just take it one step at a time. Pay attention to how they’re responding to you and you’ll be able to tell if they’re interested in continuing to build the relationship. You might find this “creaky door technique” helpful: https://youtu.be/B-xgdqNtcDI?t=7m34s

      5) See my answer to 1 and 2.

      Hope this helps!

      -Stefano

  • Taylor

    Thank you for the wonderful article! Out of curiosity, what would you think if a girl came up to you and started talking to you (using this technique). Being a girl, I would think that the guy would find it weird or strange, and be a little rude if they didn’t find me attractive enough for a conversation… any thoughts?

    • Let me ask you this. Do YOU only have conversations with people who are “attractive enough”?

      I think you’re overthinking things here, but even if this were to happen, SO WHAT? You have nothing to lose as long as you go into without any expectations (which you shouldn’t). And if someone is rude to you for no reason, don’t take it personally because it says more about them than it does about you.

  • Carrie

    Just came across this article and think it’s perfect! I always wanted to talk to a guy at work. We work on the same floor and I see him sometimes in the break room and when he fills his water bottle. I will definitely apply the 3 second rule but how can I start a conversation with him without being too weird when I’ve already seen him here and there for the last 6 months?? If I bump into him randomly again, can I just simply say something like, “Hi my name is xxx and what’s yours?” Will that be too weird?

  • Carrie

    What if I’ve been bumping into this guy here and there at work (we work on the same floor) for the past 7 months and I haven’t even talked to him yet? I used to be a very shy person and I’ve been improving a lot, but when it comes to someone I like, I always wanted to play it cool. I know this is not good because I should be more approachable.
    I think he is aware of me so what would be my best approach if he is not really stranger stranger now?
    Can I just simply walk to him and introduce myself directly? Or it will be weird when we know each other’s existence? I’m hoping to bump into him again on Monday…

    • Stefano Ganddini

      Just say something like, “Hey, I don’t think we’ve formally met! I’m Carrie, what’s your name?” This acknowledges that you guys have seen each other around, but just haven’t formally met each other yet. Don’t worry too much about what you say, it doesn’t really matter.

      Think of it from the perspective that you’d be doing him a favor by “going first” and being the one to finally initiate a conversation. He’ll probably be relieved because he’s probably been thinking the same thing. :)

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  • disqus_1GeYDGLVjQ

    This is a great article for over-thinker/indecisive types such as myself, thank you! I’m a super shy girl and always have been but I’ve been working a lot on getting better with that. Even still, I’ve seen a guy around a few times. We’ve never spoken, never met, just only glance at each other from across the station where we then take the same train. It’s very sporadic. But there’s just something about him! The last time I caught him looking at me before I even had the chance to notice it was him. Not that he has to be the one, but I can’t think of the reason as to why he wouldn’t have approached me by now. Unless he’s just as shy. I’d rather not be the person to do it but I also don’t want to be the one sitting there wondering “what if?” I’m still not sure how to approach him though! Especially since we don’t see each other that often (but always notice when we do)

    • Stefano Ganddini

      It literally doesn’t matter what you say :) People think that “not knowing what to say” is what’s holding them back, but really what’s holding you back is your emotions–fear of rejection, anxiety, worry, etc.

      Personally, I’ve found that I can live with rejection, but what I can’t live with is the regret of wondering “What if?”

      • disqus_1GeYDGLVjQ

        Yes, that’s what I keep being told- that it doesn’t matter what is said, literally anything! Working my way up to this, thanks :)

        • Everest

          Next time you see him just compliment him or talk about the weather. Very cliché but the weather is a really easy thing to talk about with someone you don’t know. (:

          • Stefano Ganddini

            Yup. It’s important to remember small talk is the first step to building a meaningful relationship with someone. And again, it doesn’t really matter what you say, you just gotta break the ice :)

          • disqus_1GeYDGLVjQ

            I finally did it. He looked pretty bewildered that a girl ran off the train after him haha. He happens to be engaged unfortunately although he did seem slightly disappointed in having to say that!

          • Stefano Ganddini

            Ahhh, that’s a bummer. But I’m happy for you! Now you don’t have to spend the rest of your life wondering “what if” :)

  • Rachel Hexamer

    What if there’s this guy I’ve been seeing at my church for the past month? I recently participated in a church event with him for Christmas. I am interested in meeting him, but I don’t know if I should stick with a brief introduction for a first meeting or try to branch out more into common interests. If I did the latter, what would be a good question to ask to lead into that?

  • Alvin Joseph

    what if your always been a shy guy when it came to talking to girls because I either think I’m gonna get rejected or they’re not interested in me…? college is about to end and I really want to talk to this girl in my humanities class but I’m just too fucking shy

    • Wonderland

      Just talk to her. Who knows you guys may have many things in common? You could invite her for a coffee or also maybe be subtle and ask for help on a question. Its a great way to start a conversation.