If you play chess, you’ll recognize the term “opening gambit”.  If you don’t, here’s an explanation:

It’s a way of opening the game that involves sacrificing a pawn or other piece in order to gain some advantage over your opponent.

The term is also used in the context of dating.  It’s the way in which a man approaches a woman and initiates a conversation.

Like offering one’s pawn, the man sacrifices something – his time, his money (when he buys her a drink) or, most notably, his ego.

He’s putting that on the line by risking rejection, maybe even embarrassment, with the hope the woman will actually “see” him and be open to his advance.

As it turns out, there have been studies on the different types of gambits and their effectiveness.

Despite being glamorized in pop culture, the “smooth” or flippant approach was the least successful.  This is “using a line” like “I couldn’t help but notice you look a lot like my next girlfriend.”

Ask most women and they will tell you they hate this approach.

And the science bears that out – Michael Cunningham’s 1989 study found the smooth approach to be only 20% effective.

What worked best?

The direct approach – just being honest.  The statement “I feel a little embarrassed about this but I’d like to meet you” garnered an 80% success rate.

So what does all this mean?

For one thing, men are confused about what works.  We grow up believing we have to manufacture an air of smoothness when trying to meet a woman when in fact, that doesn’t work well at all.

It is the honest and direct approach that works best, which is good news, right?

If you’re a smooth operator, go with that approach.

But most of us are not and that’s good news because we’re more naturally inclined to say something women want to hear.

The next time you show the courage to make an opening gambit, take solace in the fact that your nervousness and awkwardness are normal and perhaps they’ll both abate when you realize you don’t have to put on a show. 

You can just be honest.

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