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Learn These Tricks to Strike up a Conversation with Any Strangers

Learn These Tricks to Strike up a Conversation with Any Strangers

A lot of us have been in this situation:

You plan to go to a party with a friend, but at the last moment they drop out. You decide to go anyway, figuring that, chances are, you’ll know someone there.

But upon going to the party you find a place full of total strangers. If you’re anything like I was, you’d spend in the corner, quietly by yourself until someone spoke to you. That, or go home.

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The above has happened to me quite frequently. Whatever fear, or psychological barrier that stopped me from simply speaking to someone seemed an insurmountable obstacle. Yet I wanted nothing more than to speak. Though with me it was good old fashioned social anxiety, but there can be many reasons for having trouble speaking to strangers.

You may even find that some strangers you can speak to with ease, but others, things are much more difficult. But why?

Why can speaking to strangers be so hard?

If you find it harder to speak to some more than others, it’s possible that you consciously or subconsciously consider there to be a greater risk.[1] Perhaps this is a person you find attractive, is someone you want to become good friends, or someone who may be able to introduce you to new and interesting people.

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While talking to them you might find yourself in a state of analysis, and fear that you may be saying something that will make them go away, or even dislike you. Doing this, and holding a conversation at the same time is near enough impossible. It can be extremely disheartening too, especially if you feel they have social skills on a level above you (to them, its possible you seem fine).

The sense of risk may also be the same cause for not talking if you face a room full of strangers, you want to go up to someone and speak. But in your mind the want to make a great first impression seems incredibly difficult. So you say nothing or nothing comes up.

This is hugely exacerbated if you have social anxiety disorder. Which at times feels like a prison exclusive to you, however, social anxiety is the third most common mental health issue, behind alcoholism and depression.[2] So, in a room full of people, its perfectly possible that many people are having, the same difficulties talking to strangers, but may have coping mechanisms, or social skills built out of tremendous strain.

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You know, and I know that overcoming this is very important for personal development. Talking to strangers is ultimately something you will have to do daily. Finding it difficult, or even impossible has, I think held me back immeasurably, perhaps you know this too?

How can I overcome the social anxiety?

Despite the way it feels, these problems and difficulties are extremely common. Many people privately go through these hardships. Some have overcome them completely, or have just developed more social and communication skills than they used to have. But its important to know that any difficulties you have can be overcome.

Personally, I found that silly small talk was a fine way to break down the barriers, I felt no need to worry about impressing them. You are for them to know as much as they are for you to know… if that make sense.

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There are hundreds of other ways.

  • Some even suggest initiating a casual game of tic-tac-toe.[3] If they decide to play, you can be mentally focused on the game, and not the conversation. Perhaps you might even find that words come more freely as you are no longer thinking about what to say, but playing the game.
  • Smile, people find happy people more approachable. If you seem quiet in the corner, people may misinterpret that as being standoffish. If you smile, they may initiate the conversation with you, without you needing to initiate things with them.
  • Before you start talking, don’t worry about the outcome of the conversation of have any aims or desires about getting anything from it.[4] This should help alleviate any pressure you may feel.
  • Remind yourself that they are strangers, you’ve gone through your life without them having an opinion of you, if the extremely unlikely event of them thinking negatively of you, or are unaffected by the conversation. Then literally nothing has changed.
  • If you are talking, but don’t know how to keep the conversation going, avoid the desire to keep asking questions. Though this encourages them to talk instead of you, it puts them at a bit of pressure to answer. They may find them feeling as if they are being interviewed.
    Instead maybe talking about where you are, observations, or if you want to know more about them, make a statement that encourages a reply.[5] Like “This is a pretty nice X, I’m glad I came”
    This may also make you seem relaxed and outgoing.
  • Be aware that nobody likes awkward silences and conversations, so if you find yourself in one, its as much up to them to resolve it as it is up to you.
  • Be interested in people. Pretty much all social interaction is wrapped in protocol and asinine small talk. It can be rare to talk to someone who seems genuinely interested in you or what you have to say. If you are the one with that interest in people. Then they will flock to you.

There are of course hundreds of books and articles about this subject (you are reading one!). I recommend Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is a classic for a reason.

Reference

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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