We spend our childhoods being told to never speak to strangers but then discover as we grow up, we need to do just that, repeatedly. Some strangers are more comfortable to talk to, such as shop clerks or servers in restaurants.
Others though, are often more complicated, such as the strangers you meet in social situations.
These are the people who have the potential of being your future friends and coworkers.
These are the strangers who matter. To some, meeting this type of stranger can be quite intimidating.
How do you get past the initial trepidation and talk to even strangers comfortably?
Throw Yourself into the Deep End
If you always have someone to fall back on, you’re never going to truly take the plunge.
Go to new places alone, so you’re not tempted to stick with who you already know.
Make the First Move
If you’re going to wait around hoping to be noticed, you might have a very long wait.
Be bold! Start a conversation! Get up and join the fun rather than waiting to be invited.
Learn the Give and Take of Conversation
Ask questions. Get the ball rolling by discovering new facts about the people you meet.
But also, be prepared to talk about yourself (but not excessively).
Good conversation should have an ebb and flow. Don’t let it get too heavy in any one direction.
Learn How to Be Friendly
While initiating conversation, know when to back off before you become too aggressive.
Not everyone is going to want to talk. If this is the case, let them go.
There’s plenty of other people to talk to. Move on to someone else.
There is nothing more compelling than someone who comes across as genuine.
Being authentic is a hundred times better than any role you could ever play.
This means being you without pretence. If you’re nervous, it’s ok. You can even say something about it or make it into a joke.
You’d be amazed at how many people can identify with these feelings.
Know When – and How – to Quit
If the conversation has died out or the interaction isn’t going well, know how to escape. An “I need” comment is a big help (as in “Excuse me, I need to use the restroom” or “I need to talk to that man over there about something, please excuse me.” Or just simply thank them for the interaction and move on. “It was a pleasure talking to you about Hawaii.
Thank you for the conversation.” If you really like the person you’re talking to, get their card, or make plans to get together again before you go.
William Butler Yeats perhaps said it best. “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”
With that thought in mind, wouldn’t you say it’s time to set forth and make some new friends?