One of my overarching goals in life has been the bringing together of people through cross-cultural exchange and educational programs to increase understanding, friendship and fun all over the world. I don't worry about 'world peace' so much, because when people are having a good time, they usually don't have the time or patience for war.

So, from Johannesburg to Jakarta, from Kuala Lumpur to Kansas, from the Faroe Islands to Frankfurt, from Los Angeles to Lisbon, a guten Tag, bonjour, buongiorno, buenos dias, sabah al-khayr, hyvaa huomentaa, rooz bekheir, god dag and a damn good day to you. If I missed your language, drop me a line and tell me how to say 'good day' (and 'Can I get a beer' while you're at it), and I'll be sure to incorporate it next time.

Today, I'm going to talk about a concept called the Third Ball Attack.

Right now, you're probably thinking something along the lines of, "Huh?!," which is right where I want you to be.

See, back in college, I was co-captain of the table tennis (aka ping-pong) team.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear your snickers. But let it be known that table tennis is the second most popular participation sport in the world, after football (aka soccer). And in countries such as China and Sweden, the table tennis champions like Jiang Jialiang and Jan-Ove Waldner enjoyed rock-star status. These guys can walk on water, and if you saw them play the game, their speed, accuracy and skill look pretty much superhuman.

Now one of the central tactics in table tennis is the third-ball attack. As in tennis, the serve starts the point. On the serve, you have complete control of the speed, spin and placement of the ball.

Once you've served, your opponent is at your mercy. He has to figure out what you've done to that ball, neutralize the spin and send it back to you.

What this means to you is that you have a considerable amount of information about where the ball is going to end up when your opponent returns it.

Why? Because your serve determines how that ball is going to come back to you. Which means that you can set yourself up beforehand for a third-ball attack. The serve is the first ball, the return is the second, and your return of the return is the third ball.

I used to have a sidespin serve that would make the return land in the far corner of my side of the table. So after the serve, I would set myself up there for a forehand or backhand kill to win the point.

Now you're probably thinking, 'That's great, and thanks for the mini-treatise on table tennis. Now what the heck is all that good for?'

Well, another situation in which give-and-take responses are happening rapidly in real time are *conversations*. And the main way you convey information about yourself to others -- say, someone you'd be interested in dating -- is through speech.

One of the things that makes conversations fun is that each one is unique. At the same time, there are elements of conversation -- especially those with strangers -- that seem to come up with some regularity.

Here's one: "How are you?" Most people will dismiss this bit of 'formal sound', as Robert Heinlein put it insightfully in 'Stranger In A Strange Land', with a formal sound of their own:

"Fine." "Not too bad." Or, my favorite: "Not much."

This is like hitting your serve out and just conceding the point altogether. It's just not going to go anywhere interesting from there. Dead end. Neither fun nor memorable. A formal sound contains no information.

Now let's examine where things could go if you came up with a different answer instead: "Actually, I'm feeling a little asymmetric right about now."

'Asymmetric'? What the heck are you talking about?

So now, unless you're dealing with an amoeba, the person has no choice but to respond (and if they don't respond, you're pretty much done, unless you have an inordinate fondness for unicellular organisms).

Let's assume that she has a healthy enough sense of curiosity, and she says, "Umm, what do you mean by that?"

Now the third ball attack is yours (and just because it's called an 'attack' doesn't mean that it's an adversarial situation, and you're not going to do anything mean or nasty, and it's just a metaphor, okay? Okay.) You can do with it whatever you want, and direct the course of the interaction the way you want it to go. Exempli gratia:

"Well, y'know, even though our bodies look kinda symmetric from the outside, we're actually pretty asymmetrical on the inside. Your liver's on the right side, your right kidney's higher, the spleen's on the left, your brain hemispheres look different, and you're either right- or left-handed. But even if it weren't for all of that, I have a scar on my left shoulder from an accident when I was 12."

Hmm, I wonder what question's coming next. Do you see how this works? You can effectively take any interaction and steer it towards an interesting, engaging part of your life that will be a lot more memorable than most of the standard answers you've been giving up to this point.

It's still possible that she won't take the bait and the exchange will go flat right then and there. But now the odds are considerably in your favor for things to get more interesting.

This, my friend, is part of the art of conversation. And one of the most effective ways of being *compelling* -- the chief component of creating attraction, as discussed in Chapter 8 and 9 of The Tao of Dating.

If you don't have it already. As with everything else in life, you get out of conversation what you put into it. If you give thought to common conversational sequences, and what interesting aspects of your life you could put in there for a compelling conversation instead of standard patter, then good things will come of it. If you're too lazy to put in the effort, you will get results commensurate with said lassitude.

Of course, if you've read this far, you're clearly a doer and interested in better ways of doing things. Right? Right. So let's examine one common question that comes up and what you can do with it:

"So, what do you do?"

Ahh, that question.

Let's say you answer, "I'm an accountant." What are the chances she's going to respond, "Oh really? Do you guys use FIFO/LIFO, or some other standard? What do you thing of GAAP? How very thrilling! Please don't stop, ooooh yeah..."

Not to say there's anything wrong with being an accountant, but the straightforward, factual answer is like a dead serve. It ain't gonna take you where you want to go.

Let's examine some other possible responses, of varying degrees of adventurousness and cheek. What they all have in common is that your interlocutor has little choice but to think 'tell me more'. Keep in mind: these are merely *suggestions*. You're welcome to borrow these and improvise on them, but I'd rather have you come up with your own:

1) The poetic reframe of what you already do: "I'm a dream manifestation agent." Oh really? Whose dreams? What kind of manifestation? Plug in your own story here. What did you dream of when you were a kid? Did the dream come true? What do you dream about now? Bring that ball into your kill zone.

2) The completely off-the-wall response: "I'm a tantric love instructor for dolphins. Did you know that dolphins are the only other species besides humans who make love for fun?" Obviously more daring here, and can open up some intriguing areas of conversation. If you can run with this, by all means go for it.

3) The utterly unapologetic side-step: "Y'know, do you ever think about how many people end up doing what they thought they would as a kid? I mean, how many astronauts and ballerinas do you know?"

And so on. The point is, there is a structure to conversation. And if your goal is to increase rapport and intimacy with your interlocutor (fancy word for "the person you're speaking to" but shorter by 15 letters), you can use those known elements of the structure as pivot points for moving in the direction you want. Simple.

Here are some other pivot points and suggestions for where you can go with them:

1) "Where are you from?": talk about travel, vacations, identity, foreign movies, kinky French flicks.

2) "Where did you go to school?": best book you ever read, how you used to be the school bully but met a Buddhist monk who turned your life around, kinky French flicks.

3) "How do you know the host/hostess of the party?": talk about that night when you went for a 3am joyride in a 'borrowed' maintenance go-kart in college; hey, what's the craziest thing you've ever done; how you and the host went from cellmates to soulmates at St Quentin; kinky French flicks.

That should give you some stuff to work with. Use these suggestions as points of departure, and realize that all you need is a "by the way" to segue into virtually any topic of conversation, including but certainly not limited to kinky French flicks. Serve to set the ball up, and get it in play in a way that's most fun, intriguing, memorable and compelling for both parties.

The power is within you,
Dr Alex

PS: Can you think of two friends who would also find this article useful? Then send it to them! They'll thank you for it.

PPS: I'm interested in your questions and comments regarding dating, persuasion and networking, so please do send them to me. I can be reached at

Author's Bio: 

Dr Alex Benzer is the author of 'The Tao of Dating: The Thinking Man's Guide to Success With Women', 'The Tao of Persuasion' home study course and the booklets 'The Tao of Social Networking' and 'The Tao of Sexual Mastery'. His approach combines principles of Eastern wisdom and Western science to bring greater fulfillment to your life. He has a B.A. from Harvard, an M.D. from UC San Diego Medical School, and an MPhil from Cambridge University. He is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and conducts seminars on dating, persuasion and networking. Visit for more information.