You've seen someone you like. Maybe the woman in front of you in Starbucks is a knockout, or the new client rep from the printing company is smart and funny and flirtatious, or you spot a major hottie at the bar. It may seem like some people have no trouble striking up a conversation, but if you're shy, this first move can be a major one.
First, try to find out whether the person is single, and prefers your gender. A wedding ring is an obvious red flag, but you may catch references to "our" weekend or a restaurant "we" like. If you know people in common, you may be able to ask friends to play detective and find out if the other person is available.
Offer nonverbal signals -- looking the person in the eye, smiling, laughing. Watch for a reaction, and back off if the person's body language says "no." If you get encouraging signs, offer your phone number, or ask the other person to meet you for coffee. Don't go any further than this until you know for sure there isn't a jealous spouse or partner waiting in the wings.
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