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There is nothing creepier than telling a woman God told you, “we should be together”! I can’t even imagine (well, actually I can because it’s happened to me before … but let’s not bring back those awful memories).

Please don’t ever do that one.

Another thing you should definitely not do to come across as creepy is approach her with a guitar. Keep the over-the-top romantic gestures like flowers, songs, poems and candy for at least the second conversation. Or the 10th. Any woman will tell you that they want you to get to know them before you try to impress them.

You should not start the conversation in any way implying you’ve been stalking them on Facebook or Instagram. “I was looking through every single one of your Instagram photos the other night at 2 a.m. and I noticed your interest in coffee!” Nobody’s got time for creepers.

Truth is, no matter how old you get, for some reason, the guy-girl dynamic we struggle with in middle school tends to stick around much longer for those of us interacting within Christian culture. We’ve been wired to take relationships so seriously that an innocent interaction with the opposite sex can end up being just plain awkward.

Approaching someone of the opposite sex can be daunting, but it’s an important skill to learn because it’s one that’s going to come in handy. In fact, I would venture to say that those with the most successful dating life are those with the most successful social skills.

Because to put it plainly, socializing is a skill. And skills have to be learned along the way. So, here are some things to keep in mind as you’re honing in your “relationship skills.”

Find common ground.

When I met my husband John for the first time, a group of us were at a conference and someone in the group started talking about movies. After a few minutes of small talk back and forth, it was evidently clear that this new guy (John) and myself, had completely different tastes in movies (and funny thing is, we still do to this day. He likes superhero movies, I like sad dramas).

But rather than let the conversation linger in an area where we had absolutely no common ground, and in an effort to get to know me better, he decided it was time to change the subject. So instead of talking about movies, we starting talking about education (we were both grad students) and volunteer work (we were also both involved in different ministries).

Knowing how to find common ground with someone is an important social skill that will not only carry your romantic life and conversations, but your professional and personal social life as well.  I believe that you can find common ground for conversation with anyone you come across, but it takes the next step to stay there.

Ask a lot of questions and then LISTEN for the answer. 

A few days ago I was talking with someone I had just met, and asked for her name. She told me … and within minutes, I totally forgot. How embarrassing is that?

Listening — I mean really listening — is one of the biggest factors in your communication skills. I used to teach a college class on communication and leadership, and found myself constantly drilling the importance of listening. Research shows that in passive listening, we retain less than 25 percent of what we actually hear.

So when you’re approaching someone for the first time, come prepared with a lot of good questions, but then be even more prepared to listen and remember the answers. Not only that, be aware of the vibes she’s giving you to clearly assess if she’s interested in what’s going on. Is she asking questions back? Is she keeping the conversation going? Is she trying to escape? Be in tune and then go with the flow.

Make a personal connection. 

If things seem to be progressing well with the conversation, then go ahead and think about taking the next step by making it personal. One thing I will always remember is how well John listened to me when we first met … but then he took it to the next level by making a personal connection. After that brief conversation we had had about movies, a few weeks later he sent me a copy of my favorite movie in the mail with a little note just to say hello (if you’re wondering what that movie is, it’s The Sandlot!)

That little note started a series of phone calls, texts, and interactions that led to our steadily developing friendship and eventually, our dating relationship. He made our relationship personal by showing me that I was the person he was interested in getting to know.

So make a connection. Ask her for coffee. Invite her to a get-together. Send a thoughtful text and figure out a way to make the connection a little more personal.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form at truelovedates.com. Used with permission.

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