Confidence is key. University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment/Flickr
Asking someone on a date is objectively less difficult than starting a fire from twigs or sending a rocket ship to the moon.
And yet, over the course of human history, we've managed to figure out the latter two pretty well, while the first is still somewhat of a problem area.
That's probably because there's no one, right way to say, "I'm into you." But there are ways to avoid making a fool of yourself when you do it.
According to relationship expert Andrea Syrtash, author of "It's Okay to Sleep With Him on the First Date," it's all about confidence. We consulted Syrtash on the best way to communicate your romantic feelings un-sheepishly — whether the object of your affection is a stranger on the train or one of your oldest friends.
Here's what she told us.
If the person is someone you just met:
Unless you want to end up in Craigslist's "Missed Connections," don't let that person you met on the line at the drugstore or at the bus stop get away.
The first step, Syrtash said, is looking for signs that the person is unavailable, like a ring. But if you can't see anything, don't ask, "Are you single?" They'll let you know.
Then say: "I would love to get to know you. Would you be open to going out for a drink with me?"
Make sure to be confident and friendly; keep your body language open; and maintain eye contact. In this situation, your delivery is just as important as your language, Syrtash said.
Remember: Worst-case scenario, they'll decline, and you'll probably never see them again.If the person is a friend:
This scenario is a bit more high-stakes than asking out a total stranger, because you don't want to jeopardize your friendship. That's why Syrtash recommends trying to suss out whether your friend might be interested in you, too.
For example, if they only invite you over to build furniture and they're always talking about their crushes, you might want to ask yourself if it's really a good idea to ask them out.
Another strategy is to start dropping hints before asking them out and see how they respond. You might try flirting more or touching them gently, for example by putting your hand on the small of their back.
If it seems like they're responding positively, you can take the plunge by saying something like: "I need to tell you something and I feel a bit vulnerable right now. I would love to take you on a romantic date — not a friend date — and just see what happens. Would you be up for that?"
Remember, Syrtash said, that it's okay to be vulnerable. But it's still important to maintain confidence — if your feelings aren't reciprocated, that doesn't make you a fool. It just makes you a human being.