As a woman, I’ve been approached once or twice in my lifetime. And while I wish I could say all of these interactions went swimmingly, that would be a lie, and while I am many things, I am not a liar. Some men’s efforts have come off as super aggressive or too cocky. Some men have used the negging technique (don’t do this), and others were just straight-up creepy. Guys, I know that approaching women is an art, but really, you can do it in a non-offputting, dare I say, even charming way. Basically, don’t be creepy, be nice, and you’ll probably be OK. But, if you need further instruction on how to talk to girls, cis hetero men, this one’s for you.

Find your way in.

Cher Gopman, NYC Wingwoman and dating coach, teaches two different types of approaches: direct and indirect. Direct is going over to someone and stating why you’re there. Say something like, “Hey, this is totally random but there’s something that stands out about you. I love your vibe and wanted to come over and meet you and say hello.” It’s putting yourself out there and telling her what brought you there. Some girls will be taken aback by or not such fans of this, and that’s OK too, says Gopman. Still, it’s not creepy.

There’s also the indirect approach, where you talk about something going on around you. So, comment on the cute dog in the park or, if there’s a band playing, bring up the music. Say, “The music here is amazing. Do you know the name of the singer?” and go from there. “Sometimes that beginning small talk allows you to show you don’t have an ulterior motive,” says Gopman. “Then, lead the conversation to start to get to know her better.”

Be confident.

It’s scary to go up to a woman, and that fear (of rejection) is upped by about 300 percent when she’s surrounded by her friends. But confidence is key to making a good impression. “You have to love, know, and be sure of yourself before she can be sure of you. Why would she want to take a chance with someone who is unsure of themselves?” asks Gopman. Stand up straight, look excited to be there, and speak loudly and clearly. That’s not to say you should yell — aim for a dull roar. And try your best not to fidget, which makes you seem nervous. Plus, touching your hair arms, shirt, or any other part of your body shifts the focus there and away from what you’re saying.

Make eye contact.

Make sure you’re looking her in her eyes and not up and down — it can feel lecherous, says Gopman. But also, please take a break every now and then. Staring into her soul for a full 30 minutes will most definitely be filed under creepy.  

Don’t be dry, but don’t be overeager.

“There’s something we teach called a mirror technique, where you give off the energy you want to receive,” says Gopman. If you go up to someone and you’re not smiling, that’s the tone you set. When you talk, try to seem excited to be there. This will help bring her energy up to your level. That said, seeming too excited can be a turn-off. It comes off fake, and, to be frank, a little weird. If you word vomit about how cool or awesome she seems, she’ll probably find it odd given you don’t even know her yet. “This comes back to having that confidence,” says Gopman. “[Strike] that right tone, and speak loudly, clearly, and calmly while smiling and projecting the energy you want.”

Give the right kind of compliments.

Look at her for who she is, not what she looks like. Does she have a bubbly personality? Comment on that. Is she funny? Tell her so. If you give her a compliment on her physical features, like telling her she’s fit, she’s going to wonder why you’re staring at her body. “This can make her feel more uncomfortable,” says Gopman.

Make (good) conversation.

“You never want to start the conversation with, ‘Hey so think you’re really cute. I’d love to go out sometime. Can I have your number?’ because then she doesn’t feel any connection,” says Gopman. “If she did give you her number, [chances are] she’s not going to text you back because she doesn’t owe anything to you, doesn’t know you, and is not excited about you yet.” Take this opportunity to get to know each other, and make sure the conversation is not one-sided. Once you’ve built a rapport, then it’s OK to say, “I have to run, but I’d love to get a drink sometime. Let me grab your number.”

You do you.

Dudes, we know when you aren’t being genuine. “Guys read so many forums about techniques, which tell them they’re supposed to say certain things,” says Gopman.” And then they do it, and it doesn’t fit with their personality at all.” Skip this in favor of talking about what appeals to you and your personality and talking to her like she’s, well, another human being. When you use a pickup line, we may not know that it’s a “pickup line,” but we do know something seems off.

Do not corner her.

If you are at a bar, do not trap her. If you stop her on the street, don’t block her path. Always give her a right of passage so that if she feels uncomfortable, she’s able to walk away. “If someone stops and corners a woman, her guard is going to come up,” says Gopman. “You never want that. You want her to feel comfortable enough to start talking to you because she knows she can exit if she wants to.”

Do not overstay your welcome.

There may be a girl sitting in the park reading, and you might want to go talk to her — and you should. But you don’t want her to spend the entire conversation thinking, When is this guy going to leave? Gopman suggests always acting like you have somewhere you need to be. Kick it off by saying, “Listen, I only have a couple of minutes but…” She’ll relax knowing that you’re not going to sit there for hours, and she’ll be more likely to give you the time of day.

Be OK with her saying “no.”

If she is not interested, do not try to change her mind. Accept her “no” with respect. Be positive and say, “I get it, that’s totally fine. I hope you have a great day.” You put yourself out there, and if she’s not on the same wavelength, keep that positive energy and vibe and know there’s always going to be someone else. If you don’t move on, you’ve immediately situated yourself firmly in the creep zone.