(LifeWire) -- Many men are not natural-born charmers when it comes to talking to women they find attractive. It's hard work sounding witty and engaging when you're fighting back nerves.
Some men need a bit of help in finding dates.
One thing that can assist a socially shaky bachelor is a wingman -- another man who provides support and cover the way Navy fighter pilots protected each other in the 1986 film "Top Gun," which is credited with popularizing the term.
As Mystery, the self-styled Casanova and host of the VH1 show "The Pickup Artist" explains, a wingman can help attract a woman at a bar or a club -- he's someone who will talk you up, make the introduction and even help you get her phone number.
But not every guy is well-suited for being a wingman, says Ron Geraci, 37, a New York City-based relationships expert and author of "The Bachelor Chronicles." Here is a checklist of qualities to look for in an effective wingman -- and a few tips on which buddies to avoid.
1. You're the man, and don't you forget it. The wingman's primary job is to assist you, not be the center of attention.
"You want your wingman to be somebody who makes you feel like you're a really successful, fun person," says Geraci. Your wingman should make you feel like chatting up the woman of your dreams is not out of reach.
But beware the pal with an overt salesman pitch -- women can smell a guy on the prowl.
2. You are your wingman. Pick your company wisely -- if you're hanging out with an unsavory crowd, most women will assume you're just like them. Going out with a group of wingmen, for example, is a tricky bet.
"The problem with groups is that there is a much greater potential for someone to make an ass of themselves, and that sullies you," says Geraci.
Boozy buddies from your fraternity days, womanizing misogynists and lewd joke-tellers are red-flag candidates -- you don't want to spend the majority of your conversation apologizing for your drunken friend's behavior. Moreover, having a group of single guys as your wingmen increases the chances of competition instead of support.
Your best bet for wingman is anyone who will not be directly vying for the pilot's seat, such as men already in a relationship, or women. In fact, a woman can be one of the most effective wingmen for a bachelor, Geraci says.
"If you are there with a stunning woman, other women will gauge your mate value from that." Web sites like Wingwomen.com, which pairs struggling bachelors with female wingmen, attest to the power of female help.
3. Be on the same page. If you're seeking a woman with long-term potential, avoid employing a wingman whose dating philosophy is significantly less mature than yours. While it's imperative that your wingman be your biggest fan, he shouldn't have an "us versus them" mentality or encourage one-night stands.
4. Channel Oprah. All conversations inevitably hit dry spots, especially when both parties have only been introduced moments beforehand. When you're at a loss for words, that's when a smooth-talking wingman needs to pick up the slack. The most effective wingmen are personable and able to converse on a variety of topics with ease.
5. No backseat bachelors. A wingman's purpose is to help you approach women, not to serve his needs.
"You don't want a wingman who's an opportunist," Geraci says. "They have to have your best interest in mind and know how to get scarce when they need to be." That means when the bachelor is ready to fly solo, the wingman should be prepared to bail out. E-mail to a friend
LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Jocelyn Voo is a freelance journalist and relationships editor at the New York Post.