4. The situation: You're at a restaurant. You get up to go to the bathroom and see the famous owner of a company you admire sitting at the bar (or the author of your favorite book or the star of your favorite TV show). She is sitting alone—as amazing, talented people often are because everyone is too afraid and shy to approach them. You don't want to run up to her and say, "Sheryl Sandberg!! I love your work! In fact, I love you!" because then there is nothing for the poor woman to do except say, "Thank you," feel embarrassed and fall silent. You also don't want to run up to her and say, "Are you Sheryl Sandberg, the famous COO of Facebook?" So instead you stand there by the bussing station...wishing you could say something. But what?
The response: "My name is Leigh Newman. I'm so interested in social media. What advice would you give to a person looking to enter into your field?"—all of which is a slight adaptation of what young Henry Cavill (now star of Man of Steel) asked Russell Crowe, back when Cavill was an unknown 16-year-old. First, as with the customer-service agent, introducing yourself is just plain polite. It also reminds the actor/mogul/author that she has something in common with you: you're both humans; you both have names. You don't have to be afraid of her. (And if it turns out that she needs to be afraid of you, she has your name.)
Second, praising an area of her expertise, without fawning over her personally, makes anyone feel open to talking; you're focusing on her interest, not her performance, love life, childhood or hangnails. The best part? You may just learn something that applies to something much bigger. "If you want to go for it, then really go for it," Crowe told Cavill. "Commit."
5. The situation: You're on a second date with a smart, funny guy. But his last 20 out of 21 sentences have been wisecracks or clever comments. By the entrée, you know this isn't a match. You're looking for someone slower, more relaxed, somebody who can be quiet with you. Spending time with him has not been awful. If it had been, you wouldn't be in this situation, because it would have been obvious to both you on the first date that you two should not see each other again. But as it is, you ate another dinner, you laughed, you found out you both fear live lobsters and love chocolate-dipped cones. It's all perfectly endurable. But when he leans in to ask for a third date, how do you make it clear that this isn't possible—without being rude?
The response: "Tonight was wonderful. But I don't feel like we're a shidduch."
Certain, very well-meaning pals will urge you to explain what you like about this guy and what you don't. But men, like many of us, don't need a dissection of their best and worst qualities —most especially at such a moment of open vulnerability. Certain other very well-meaning pals will urge you to identify some flaw in yourself—as if you need to find something wrong with you in order to justify a lack of desire or commitment.
But bringing up sidduch—the Hebrew word for engagement or "match"—focuses your argument on your common connection. What you're saying is: You two aren't suited to each other. Rather than he's not suited to you or you're not suited to him. Those of the Jewish persuasion (fluent in Hebrew) will understand this sentence in a flash. Those of us not of the religion (me!) may require some explanation. Regardless, mentioning the unfeasibility of this particular "match" may just cause you to consider what you are looking for from long-term love—on your next dates, with other people.
Leigh Newman is the Deputy Editor of Oprah.com and the author of Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown Up World, One Long Journey Home.
More Empowering Advice