Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cold approach yourself out of loneliness

Just walk up to a stranger and start talking
Shilpa Sweth

It’s an often-repeated complaint that our generation lacks social skills. Each time this complaint is voiced, the root cause is different: your mom thinks it’s the result of too many video games, your dad thinks it’s too much time on your phone and your grandpa thinks it’s your mom and dad’s fault: they’ve coddled you.

They’re all right, in some sense at least. This generation has statistically been shown to be subject to the most trying social situation, and thus have developed the worst social abilities seen in recent times. As a collective, relative to our parents and grandparents, we’re struggling to make friends and form real, lasting relationships. Whether that’s because of excessive screen time, social media usage, a lack of outdoor activity, helicopter parenting or something else is the subject of constant study, yet not the subject of this piece.

Plenty of words are typed (and are being typed as we speak), about our declining social skills. The Atlantic, everyone’s favorite center-left “hush now, the adults are talking” publication, self-induces a bi-weekly panic over the issue.

This being the case, I’d like to focus on solutions. Or at least, one solution: cold approaching is a way out of the social decline we’re experiencing.

In the most general sense, cold approaching means walking up to a random stranger and starting a conversation. Recently though, the term has been co-opted by the MRA & Manosphere (think Andrew Tate adjacent) crowd, as a dating strategy, where the objective is essentially to talk to as many women as possible by cold approaching them.

This is not what I’m talking about. I’m suggesting cold approaching in the most general sense: random interactions with complete strangers. The benefits of cold approaching to practice social skills are countless.

First, depending on your own social comfort, these interactions don’t have to be full-fledged conversations, you can begin with a drive-by compliment. If you see someone with a cool t-shirt as you walk past, you can just say “Nice t-shirt, man!” Think of social skills as a muscle: the more you use that muscle, the more it grows, and the only way to grow the muscle is to start small, and progressively ramp up the difficulty. Starting with small observations and compliments can eventually lead you to being able to charismatically hold entire conversations with complete strangers.

You don’t even have to enter these interactions alone. Approaching a group of people while with your own group of friends can be a great starting point for you to build confidence and ability. In fact, the idea for this article came to me when me and a friend of mine decided to walk around campus at 11 p.m. offering strangers lime plantain chips, a decision that led to a lot of fun interactions with complete strangers whom we’ll likely never see again.

The fact that we’ll never see those people again keeps the stakes low, which in my view makes it one of the biggest strengths of the cold approach. If you mess up in a social situation with people in your immediate or extended circle, the memory of that interaction remains with you as you know it can alter people’s perception of you. The concern over other people’s judgment is largely what prevents people from trying to push themselves socially. Cold approaching eliminates this problem entirely; if you mess up, you face some momentary awkwardness, and then you move on, never having to deal with it again.

All that being said, cold approaching does have its limitations. It assumes that the one being approached will be receptive, which isn’t always the case. Especially given our generation’s declining social abilities, the possibility of cold approaching someone entirely unfamiliar with you, and thus uncomfortable with the idea of being approached in such a manner, always exists.

Still, I would argue that the response to this counterargument is built in, if someone is not receptive, you can always exit the interaction and then forget about it.

Ultimately, cold approaching may not work for everyone. It is just one idea among many that we can use to try to solve the problem of declining social aptitude. The cold approach is a tool that we can use, though it requires a lot of work, patience, understanding and realistic expectation from us.

Manas Pandit can be reached at [email protected].

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