Meeting strangers is probably one of most people’s biggest fears, next to speaking in front of a crowd. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be as scary an experience as you might think. These ten easy tips will help you talk with a stranger comfortably.
1. Go out alone.
Don’t always go to events with a friend, significant other, or family member. Go alone, so you’re forced to meet other people. If you go with someone you’re familiar with, you’re more likely to stay and talk to the person you already know you can have conversations with. Also, you never know who your companion will know. What if some of their coworkers show up, and they leave you to go say hello? You’ll be left on your own anyway, so you need to get ready to be left on your own.
2. Be prepared to initialize contact.
Once you’re at an event all by yourself, don’t wait for someone to come up and talk to you. People are called social butterflies because they flit around and meet others. Standing in the corner hoping someone will approach you won’t get you anywhere. Don’t psych yourself out and think this is a big deal‒introducing yourself is the only way you can meet someone new. Get out in the crowd and mingle!
3. Don’t talk about the weather.
No one wants to get stuck in a boring conversation. If you start with a corny pick-up line or a bland comment about the weather, don’t be surprised when the other person rolls their eyes or walks away. Lines like those don’t leave much room to encourage socialization‒they’re more stand-alone statements than they are conversation starters. Likewise, it’s best to stay away from political or religious openers. Even if these topics are in the news, you never know what might rub someone the wrong way. Wait until you know the person to discuss hard-hitting topics. If you can’t think of something interesting on your own, just start with a “Hello, how are you?” and see where it goes from there.
4. Encourage people to talk about themselves.
Most people’s favorite topics are‒themselves! Even if you don’t have an interesting opener, you can always ask people to talk about themselves, and they’ll be more than happy to oblige you. Ask what they do for a living, where they’re from, or what they studied in school. If you get someone talking about their interests, you’ll see their true personalities come through. They’ll be excited to share their hobbies, and you might find that you have something in common!
5. But still share information about yourself.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves, but they also like to learn about others. If you ask too many questions of a new acquaintance, they might feel like you’re prying or giving them the third degree. Plus, if you share some of your interests, that might trigger something they never thought to share. Who knew you both enjoyed collecting stamps from South Africa?
6. Find and discuss common interests.
Learning about your new friend and sharing information about yourself should naturally lead to finding some common interests. Focus on these and discuss them; you never know when you’ll learn something new! At the very least, you could find a new friend to share this hobby with. If you don’t have any common interests, don’t worry! Not every stranger you meet is meant to become your new best friend. You still got this far in the conversation, so pat yourself on the back!
7. Be friendly, not pushy or aggressive.
Regardless of why you’re trying to meet new people, don’t feel pressure to acquire a pocketful of new friends. If you’re scared of failure or feel like you must meet someone new, you’ll come across as aggressive. If someone doesn’t want to have a conversation with you, let them walk off without being pushy and trying to keep them to yourself. Be laid back and go with the flow‒it will make you seem friendly, which means you’ll have better conversations, and be more likely to have other people approach you.
8. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re visibly nervous.
If your voice cracks or your handshake is sweaty, laugh it off. If you’re an amateur comedian and can make it into a joke, point it out and get people laughing with you. If it’s something that makes you feel less confident, just ignore it. Everyone gets nervous sometimes, so push past and continue on with the conversation. Don’t let it trip you up or embarrass you enough that you have to walk away.
9. Let your personality shine through.
Above all, be yourself. If you’re trying too hard to appeal to everyone, you’ll come across as flakey and no one will want to talk to you. It’s too much work to be everything to everyone, so be yourself and, above all, enjoy yourself. People will take notice and be drawn to you.
10. Know when to end the conversation.
Whether the conversation is a flop or a success, know when to wrap it up. If you know early on that you don’t want to keep talking to someone, find a smooth, painless way to move on and meet someone else. If you have a good conversation and hit it off, tell your new friend that you have to leave, but you’d love to meet up again sometime. Get a phone number or email address and leave the event high on your own success!