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The casual pick-up: is there a script?

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Rachel Bertsche photo 2

Over the past two months I've done a number of interviews for MWF Seeking BFFQuite often, an interviewer will ask me, "We all know the usual ways to make friends—at the gym, say—so why was it so hard for you?"

To which I will usually respond that yes, we've probably all spoken to someone at the gym or the coffee shop or the grocery store. Wherever. But that's not the issue. The issue is what to say to turn that casual conversation into friendship, or even a friend-date.

I've spoken to the girls on the treadmills next to me plenty. But how do you go from commiserating over a hard workout to "let's have lunch and maybe be best friends soon?"

It's tricky. And people glaze over this most important step.

In the dating world, I guess this is what guys call "closing." You can flirt with a woman all night, but you haven't closed until you've gotten her number. Before I did my "Year of Friending," I couldn't close. I'm pretty good at chit-chat; I could throw out a quick quip and give someone a laugh. But then I'd flounder, stretching the small talk for too long while I tried to figure out how to non-awkwardly ask for digits. I'd usually walk away with nothing but the hope that maybe she and I would meet again. And maybe next time she'd be braver and more socially competent than I.

I'm still not great at this aspect of making new friends. I'm good enough at writing the "want to have lunch?" email, or following up for that second date. But that moment when you ask for a phone number or hand someone your card is still tough. These days I say some variation of, "We should totally get together! What's your email/number?" (I switch back and forth between these methods of conversation depending on the person.)

I'm still not great at using that line on someone I've only spoken to once or twice in line at the grocery store or at yoga. I can manage it with someone I've met for an extended period (an airplane ride, for example), but if it's a casual neighborhood acquaintance…that's tough.

But like I said, I keep hearing from interviewers: "I'm just the type of person who makes friends everywhere…"

So what I'm wondering is simple: what do you say to close?

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