The Art of Conversation
Even thinking of approaching her makes you break out in a cold sweat. Muster up your courage, get up from your chair, and walk forward. Smile warmly, or shyly if you prefer, as you draw near. If the woman desires your presence, she will return a smile. You will feel her warmth, though you have yet to touch. Awareness of and sensitivity to subtle visual cues, discreet signals and body language provide the clues that your attentions are welcome (if they are not, proceed no further). Rely on your judgement and perceptions, as well as your intuition, to guide you in this crucial step. It becomes easier with practice, as you gain experience and confidence.
All of the above chestnuts have been used since "ancient times", and should be honorably retired.
A more straightforward conversation opener consists of simply introducing yourself.
Look the lady in the eyes, smile, and plunge right in.
...and sally forth from there.
Get past the initial awkwardness in the conversation with smiles, jokes, "small talk", banter, inane observations, or whatever else works at the time. With practice, you will loosen up and become more spontaneous, and the talk will flow from you without effort. This, too, is an acquired skill.
Remember her name. She spoke it when you introduced yourselves. In the excitement of talking to her, of sharing feelings, of comparing life experience, it is all too easy to forget, to forget her name. Remember it. Use it. Address her by name. "Melissa, a name that flows like honey from the tongue." Indeed. People are in love with their own names, and, ofttimes, it is the key to their heart.
One conversational gaffe to avoid at all costs is asking, without
"What do you do?". There seems to be an epidemic of this sort of rudeness in certain metropolitan areas, most notably New York City and environs. Besides making you look like a fool, this tactless question is pushy and intrusive.
With the conversation underway, relax and enjoy yourself. Let the woman talk about herself... ask encouraging, but not intrusive questions. Let her charm you. Show respect and interest. Listen attentively and be responsive. Give her your full attention. Be totally there for her. Try to participate without monopolizing the conversation, and speak of things other than yourself. You need not force the pace, let it flow. Feel under no pressure to "accomplish" anything, and likewise refrain from pressuring the fair lady. Nurture the conversation and cultivate the person.
Then there comes that dreaded moment when the talk stops, when neither of you has anything further to say. Dead silence. Embarrassment, nervousness, a tight knot in the pit of your stomach. Unluckily, there exists no magic formula for restoring the flow of words. Should you be extremely uncomfortable in the lady's presence, consider at this point excusing yourself, "Matilda, I am at a loss for words just now, but it has been wonderful talking to you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me." ...If instead, you enjoy her company, you might say, "Silences are valuable, too. Would you mind if we just sit?" Then, stay at her side and be amused by the antics of those other hairless apes at the party, or watch the sun sinking below the horizon in crimson splendor, or feel the cooling afternoon breeze whipping past your face. One or the other of you might get up and leave in good time, and that is perfectly all right, for you may meet again, or not, as fate decrees. Accept the parting of your ways with dignity and grace. There will be other times.
And yet, there are those magic moments when everything clicks and you both know you would like to become better acquainted. Comes the time to say adieu for the evening, the lady will subtly or not so subtly hint that she might like to see you again. Depending on the situation, you might ask for her telephone number, or, if that seems too forward, give her your card (you carry professionally printed business cards in anticipation of just such occasions). A kiss on the cheek or a hug would certainly be a nice ending to the occasion, but should you be in the least bit unsure that this is what the lady desires, ask (do not under any circumstances force unwanted attentions on her). Kissing the lady's hand is considered somewhat old fashioned, but romantic and very "European", to be sure. A gentle squeeze of the hand works, too.
The outcome of a simple conversation with a woman can thus range from the pleasure of her company for a few brief moments, to a de facto "date", to the beginning of a deep involvement. With that in mind, treat every lady you encounter with the utmost respect, even with reverence. You may be speaking with your future beloved.