Improving your world requires interacting with the people who live around you. That means — terror of terrors — meeting your neighbors, which a third of Americans don’t ever do. (Sad!)

The desire for human contact does, however, push us to date, which is why your favorite advice columnist is going to show you how to apply dating tips to meeting your neighbors. Not in a sexy way — you’re having a community party! (Well, maybe in a slightly sexy way. Read on.)

First contact

Would you roll up to a prospective date’s front door unannounced and ask her to spend time in your living room? You would not, because that’s too eager — and ending up on a community watch list isn’t the best way to build community.

Send a charming first message, but do it by hand because that’s more attention-getting. We’ve got you covered in the charming department:

Hello, it’s your neighbor — [x]! Are you tired of living surrounded by strangers? Me too, which is why I’d really like to meet you. I’m hosting a get-together at my place [address y] on [date and time z]. Please come by!

Dinner date

It’s the 21st century, and we’re still impressing prospective mates by plying them with food and drinks — so that approach clearly has some staying power. But because it’s the 21st century, every person you’ve ever met has an obscure food allergy, and it’s important to be accommodating.

We turned to the queen of preparing elaborate treats for restrictive diets — Gwyneth “Goop” Paltrow — and discovered this baked creation by Coco Kislinger that’s gluten- and dairy-free and somehow includes sweet potatoes and persimmons, which are objectively impressive.

Counterpoint: I don’t actually know what persimmons are! If you don’t feel like going the Goop route, no one would blame you for serving up hummus, pitas, vegetables, and — non-negotiable — a champagne cocktail or four. (Bubbles make people more bubbly — fact.)

And, while I’m not in the business of coercing people into doing things, bubbled-up people are jollier and more inclined to agree to things you propose. Which is why you’re going to round up a crew for the next protest in your planner!

The big night

How do you ensure smooth sailing on the evening of the get-together itself? For something this high-stakes, we turned to the pros. Leah, an educator and event planner at the sex store Babeland, shared some excellent tips on how to make strangers feel at ease in potentially awkward gatherings:

  • “In the world of sex ed, one way of putting strangers at ease is to acknowledge that it can be hard to talk about sex or to enter a sex shop for the first time, and congratulate them on coming in. Even if they don’t feel anxious about, they’ll appreciate it and feel a bit lighter.”

Lesson: Acknowledge that in this day and age, it’s kind of weird just to talk to your neighbors!

  • “Letting people know what to expect as soon as they arrive is really important to helping folks relax, understand what is expected of them, and understand what the flow of the event will be.”

Lesson: You obviously have an agenda — to rebuild a flawed, fossil-fuel dependent political system from the ground up! But that’s not your immediate goal, which is to build better relationships in your community and see if your neighbors might want to join you in some upcoming events: Town halls! Protests! But basically, you’re setting the stage for future dates, which is exactly what you want out of a good first date anyway.

  • “It’s less important to be liked, and more important to establish a kind and direct form of communication or conversation. Approaching people with compassion but asking for what you need is a great way to go.”

Lesson: Right. What do you need? Basically, their contact information to follow up and see if they’d be interested in future community events. Leave out a guest book to write down phone numbers and email addresses, and make your guests aware that the option is there — but as always, you don’t want to be too eager.

Go make new friends! But remember — you’re not actually trying to date them. Don’t make things weird.