The Best Kinds of Pick-Up Lines

With research to prove it! More tips from sexpert and flirtation consultant Judy Dutton, author of the brand-new book How We Do It: How the Science of Sex Can Make You a Better Lover.


Today, I'm running Part Two of my conversation with sexpert and flirtation consultant Judy Dutton, author of the brand-new book How We Do It: How the Science of Sex Can Make You a Better Lover.

During Part One, on Tuesday, we talked about how, surprisingly, it is not the most beautiful people who get the most attention in public places Check out the post to find out who DOES get the most attention--and how you can become one of those people!

And read on right here if you want to hear about what Judy learned--from reading a number of psychological studies--about pick-up lines.


ME: Which kind of pick-up lines work best: harmless ones (like "What do you think of the band" or "Hey! What do you think of this crazy weather?")? Cute or silly ones? Or direct ones?

JUDY: For men, the direct approach is best. In one study, the opener "I feel a little embarrassed about this, but I'd like to meet you" scored the highest with an 82 percent success rate in getting a conversation rolling. The innocuous approach came in second, with lines like "What do you think of the band?" scoring 70 percent. The more cute or silly the come-on, the worse it fares. "Bet I can out-drink you" will work only 20 percent of the time, "You remind me of someone I used to date" only 18 percent. Really cheesy pickup lines like "I may not be Fred Flintstone, but I can make your bed rock!" pretty much bomb across the board.

ME: Why?

JUDY: It's no secret that women are attracted to confidence, and the direct approach indicates that a guy is willing to stick his neck out and sincerely state that he's into you. The innocuous approach is fine but could be interpreted that someone's hedging their bets by not coming on so strong. As for those cornball openers, any guy who invokes anything remotely like that Fred Flintstone line screams insecurity.

ME: All right. So now we know what works for dudes; what about what works for the ladies?

JUDY: Women can utter pretty much any opener with an 80 percent success rate. That's because women rarely make the first move, so when they do, men are flattered.

ME: Hear that, girls out there in Reader-land? You can say anything! So go ahead, give it a shot!

JUDY: That's right. Try any of the above lines. Even that Fred Flintstone line might convince a guy to hang around to see what you'll say next.

ME: Can you give us some examples of the best ones for both sexes to use?

JUDY: Your classic "Hi" always rates well for both men and women, or else you can embellish with "Hi, having fun?" which works well in bars, clubs, and even in Laundromats provided it's delivered with a hint of sarcasm. The trick is to tack on a question, since questions demand a response. Men and women can also ask for help, like "Could you help me pick out a gift for a friend?" or "Hey, I need some advice about something, care to put in your two cents?" or "Which kind of beer should I order?"

ME: I'm going to put in my two cents here and say that the two times recently when I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone to flirt--with the friendly-faced stranger at a bar in DUMBO and with Elevator Man--I was fairly direct myself, and that seemed to work out pretty well, at least with Elevator Man. Of course, I'm sure nothing would have worked with the other guy!


ME: As the conversation (hopefully) progresses, should you be agreeing with your potential mate all the time? Or should you argue a little? What kind of mix works out best?

JUDY: Agreeing non-stop is definitely not the way to go. Instead, try disagreeing a bit at the outset then agreeing more later on. In one study where pairs of volunteers were asked to talk about certain topics, those who agreed with their partner 100 percent of the time were found to be less likeable than those who disagreed at the outset, then later yielded to the other person's opinion. Why? Because no one likes a yes man (or yes woman)--it suggests you're spineless. If you put up a fight then acquiesce later, though, you're making the other person feel as if they've earned it. It's the core formula to any Meg Ryan movie--and she always gets the guy!

ME: Are short interjections that show you are following a person's story—interjections like "Wow" or "I see" or "Interesting"—good or bad? Any rule of thumb about how much interjecting is good?

JUDY: Peppering your conversation with interjections like "I see" or "I'm with you, go on" might not seem all that impressive to you, but it's actually the best thing you can do. (Another good interjection is: "What happened next?") Comments like those encourage the other person to keep talking, and make you seem like a good listener, which is gold. Good listeners use as many as thirty such interjections every five minutes, while bad listeners use as few as five. And if you want to bond, lay 'em on!


What did you find out about the pitch of a woman's voice during a flirty conversation?

JUDY: Women who vary the pitch of their voice are more attractive than those who speak in more of a monotone. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found this out by analyzing speed-dating conversations, only instead of focusing on the content, they garbled the words so they could examine the tone, pitch, and pacing. They found these patterns could help them predict with 75 percent accuracy who was attracted to whom, which just goes to show that it's not what you say, but how you say it that really matters.


PS: COMMENTERS! I feel lucky to have you guys, as my cheerleading squad, my counselors, my friends! Thanks for helping me to keep it real.