Reading time: 180 Seconds

The three-second rule

The longer you put something off, the harder it is to do it. Did you ever miss out on an opportunity because you were too slow off the mark? Or talk yourself out of doing something and then regret it later? Have you ever sat in a bar nursing a glass of wine or beer all night, watching other people enjoy themselves while you never budge or make a move? “I’ll just order one more drink, then I’ll go for it.” “Next time she looks this way, I’ll smile at her.” “Maybe that new guy that just walked in is more my type.” Then you end up disappointed with yourself at the end of the night because you talked yourself out of something or just plain chickened out.

Were you hoping, consciously or unconsciously, that if you hung around long enough something might just happen on its own? This is the social equivalent of putting your dirty dishes in the sink and hoping they’ll wash themselves. Opportunities multiply as they are seized. What if you had approached all those people?

By now, you might have a whole new social network. One of those folks at the bar might have taken you to a barbecue, and there you might have met a gal who invited you to go to a play, and her brother might have come along, and he might have brought a buddy who in turn might have invited you to go sailing with friends. And next thing you know, you could’ve been hosting a potluck for 16 great new people, one of whom could easily be your matched opposite.

But if you just hang around wishing, waiting, and hoping for something to happen, nothing ever will. The more you wait, the greater the chance that the guy you have your eye on will leave, or someone else will join that cute blonde woman for a conversation. Then you’ll have even more reason to beat yourself up for procrastinating.

Remember the advice Christina, the horsewoman, gave Laura when she was new in town in Chapter 3: three seconds. Make your move within three seconds. Seize the moment and take action.

Exercise: The Three Second Rule
Today, go out and assume rapport with three strangers. We’re going to start small, so choose three people who aren’t intimidating in any way. The goal is simply to say something to a stranger, not to start a conversation. You can say whatever you like, but statements are the easiest: just some remark about the location or occasion. Of course, you should adjust your attitude, open your body language, and be charming. This is a given for any encounter. But here’s the important part of this exercise: You are going to make your way over to the person the moment you spot them. In your head you will count to three, then go over without hesitation.

You are creating a new habit, with “one, two, three” as your trigger. Practice, practice, practice—just do it. The key point is that you’ll get comfortable breaking the ice and taking action. The more you practice chatting with strangers, the easier it will become.

Most people are eager to connect, and nothing’s sadder than two lonely people coming within greeting distance of one another without either of them taking the opportunity to offer a word, build a bridge, or signal his or her interest. They pass each other on the street, sit next to each other in cafes, and see each other every day as they go about their lives. They may be longing to connect, but nothing is going to happen until somebody makes an effort. So, when you spot an opportunity that’s too good to pass up, don’t: Just count to three, adjust your attitude, and make your approach.

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