Talking to strangers might be something you need to do because of the type of job you do. Or, you might just want to meet new people, start new friendships, or simply enjoy a chat whilst out and about.
But do you know how to become a master at talking to strangers?
Having the ability to talk to strangers can open up a whole new way of life for you. It can create a climate for new friends to enter your life. It can also be a very important networking system, not only for business but also for your personal life and your own friendship needs.
There are numerous situations where you wish to know a little more about the person you have just met and to bond with them. Or, simply to have a friendly chat.
You can appear more efficient in everyday situations
No matter what you do in life, you have moments and times when speaking to strangers is required. You might be on a course, a conference, or a study lecture where being part of that group is important, for example.
Everyone can and should be comfortable speaking to people they do not know.
Some find speaking to people in general very easy, and others find it more challenging. The good news is that it is not often a skill you are born with. It is instead something we learn as we go along in life as part of life experience.
If you spend a lot of time with people, you may find it easier over time. Others who spend a lot of time alone might feel a little intimidated at first. Just remember that it is normal to feel a certain level of anxiety when chatting to new people.
This is why practicing is the key that can drastically improve your life!
Perhaps you were fortunate enough to have been born into a family that socialized a lot and found it easy. Or perhaps you were not. People often unconsciously model themselves on their parents, picking up their styles of relating to other people and learning the family dynamics, which may have been conducive to being a little more social.
No matter who you are, this guide will help you master your ability to look and feel relaxed around strangers, as well as put the stranger you are talking to at ease!
When talking to people you do not know, context is of course important, so these tips will be flexible and allow you to slot them into any situation.
Here are some great pointers to start learning how to become a master at talking to strangers:
Context, Context and More Context
Becoming a true master of talking to strangers means always being aware of the context you are in. This can help make the conversation flow more easily. By drawing from the environment, whether work or play, you will find numerous things to talk about.
Asking someone in the mall which restaurant is the best for a quick lunch is an easy conversation opener. Even if they do not frequent that mall and don’t know. If they tell you they have no idea, you can mention it’s your first time there too.
Asking someone where the nearest taxi rank is located makes sense, and is an easy enough question. If the person doesn’t know, you can bond with them by agreeing that finding a taxi is not easy in such a huge city or quiet town.
Once again, these are examples contained within a certain context to serve as conversation openers.
Remember, People Love to Talk about Themselves
This is pretty much a given. People love talking about themselves. It could be because it is a topic they are well versed in and does not require much thought, or they feel a little happier that someone finds them interesting.
People become happier when they speak about themselves, and this is proven by scientific studies.
Knowing this is a fact about other people can place you on a platform where you feel more relaxed about chatting with strangers. You are not alone in how you feel.
The information shared should be light and not too personal or too fast. Sticking to general topics that are non-threatening, and easy to talk about, is the best route.
People That Feel Bonded Will Open Up More Easily
When beginning a conversation with a person you don’t know, mentioning something familiar will enable you to bond faster with that person. This puts them at ease.
If you are at work, talking about work and the job is familiar territory. As long as the talk is not threatening or putting the person on the spot.
Most people have an experience or object that they can relate to, so use it. This could be hair color, children, partners, what they like to eat for lunch, the nearest restaurant’s food, clothing styles, favorite shoes, the weather, as long as it is in the context of the situation. The general style should be easygoing and relatable.
Many salespeople use a good sales tactic to notice something familiar in the office or room and relay that to the other person. Perhaps they have a golf trophy on proud display or a photograph.“I see you love golf? There is a great golf club in our area, have you heard of it?”.
Immediately, the other person shares some common ground. Common ground builds trust. Trust is a great conversational platform, and familiarity builds trust quickly.
Making Someone Else’s Opinion Matter
People love to have others ask for their opinion. If you are in Walmart and are up for a new challenge, then whilst standing at the shelf packed with rice, ask whoever is near you which rice they find best out of the selection offered.
You’ll find many people will happily share their favorite rice in this situation.
To allow the conversation to flow, you can share the type of dish you plan to make with the rice. This is an invitation for the other person to talk about how they use rice, or ask you for more information, if interested.
There are times when people are in a hurry, or just not in the mood for a chat. Perhaps they have other things on their mind, so don’t personalize it if they only give you a short answer and scoot off. Having empathy and understanding of a situation can help you become better at chatting.
Don’t Personalize Things
If you are trying to strike up conversations with strangers, the most important thing to remember is to never personalize any perceived negative reactions from them. Some people are shy, some are busy, and some might not even speak your language, literally!
To avoid feeling rejected, understand this is part of the journey of learning how to chat successfully with strangers. This way, you are prepared for it and can try again with someone else.
Understanding this can set you up for better practice, and practice is everything. Actually, if you want to know the key on how to become a master at talking to strangers, then practice is at the root of everything. Practice will help you overcome challenges.
Use Tag References When Striking Up a Conversation
A tag reference is a sneaky way to add something extra that could guarantee more chat.
For example, if you decide to help someone pick up their groceries off the pavement due to a mishap, you can offer to help. You can then add in your tag reference by asking if they shop at this store a lot or something else context-related.
Try to keep the conversation light, and avoid asking too many personal questions. If you want to chat more, then find out about open-ended statements.
If you meet someone at a bar or club, you can simply ask if they come there a lot and if there are similar clubs or bars in the area. This way, you have left your question open.
But more about this concept of an open-ended statement.
Know the Difference Between Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Statements
People find it easier to engage in a conversation when there are plenty of open-ended statements. An open-ended statement is where you leave the sentence open for the other person to respond. People find it easier to expand on an answer, rather than supply a simple yes or no.
If, for example, you complimented someone’s boots, you could just comment that the boots are beautiful. This would be a closed-ended statement, and the person receiving the compliment could reply with a simple thank you.
This leaves no area for additional chatter. You can practice turning the closed-ended questions into open-ended questions over a while. It’s a fun exercise.
- Did you find this meeting helpful?
- What did you learn during this meeting?
- I love your boots!
- Where did you buy your boots, did they have other types?
- Do you catch the bus daily from this bus stop?
- Are there other bus routes that leave from here?
- Do you like working here?
- What is your favorite part of working here?
Throw in a Sincere Compliment
Another great conversation starter with a stranger would be to compliment them. Keep your compliments sincere.
Humans have basic instincts and can smell insincerity a mile away. Keep your compliments sincere, and don’t offer too many at once. It has been proven that a compliment has a feel-good factor for the recipient. Knowing that compliments make people happy should boost your confidence when speaking with new people.
Sincere compliments could be about something they wear, their hairstyle, or even a trait about them personally. These are just some examples.
Your coat is so stylish
You wear yellow with such style
Your smile is contagious
You have a great laugh
People warm to you quickly
You are hilarious! I bet people love having you around
You have fantastic ideas
Your hairstyle compliments your face
Imagine how much happier the world would be if people would take the time to compliment other people sincerely.
Brush Up on Body Language
Humans are instinctual, as we have discussed earlier, and meta-communication also involves reading a person’s body language. Most of the time, people are not even aware they are reading another person’s body language.
If you speak to a person with your arms folded, this is a sign you are closed off, but pretending to be open at that point. This is also true for those you approach.
If their arms are folded during the conversation, this shows they are not comfortable in the situation. They might want to communicate but are finding it difficult for some reason. Or they might not want to communicate at all.
There must be a certain congruency in regards to your words and body language. So practice speaking with your arms unfolded in an open body stance. Such a simple change makes a huge difference. Also, smile a little now and then, and place your feet towards the person you are engaging with.
There are tons of body language classes and schools you could study if you are interested in this topic. Maintain eye contact, but not overly so. Relaxed people will engage with someone’s eyes, then look away briefly to engage again. People who look down or away appear shady.
However, for the most part, simply appearing relaxed and open is the way to go and will get you further. It also pays dividends in learning a little about body language to understand the person you are talking to feelings at that moment.
Avoiding the ‘Creep’ Factor
When you start speaking to strangers, the best way to avoid the creep factor is to understand the things that could cause prospective conversationalists to back off. These couple of areas may be something you should think about.
It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but great hygiene makes you more personable. That means clean hair, clean breath, and clean clothes.
Don’t suddenly flirt in an enclosed space or just all of a sudden. If you have an interest in that person and they are a stranger, then rather avoid that.
Rather take the upfront approach. If you decide to do this, brush up on your pickup lines, some are better than others! Sincerity always wins. You could simply say “I am a shy person, but I wanted to chat with you.”
Plus, if you are upfront, the person has a chance to back off if they are not interested. There is nothing worse than pretending to befriend a female, and then jumping in on sexual innuendo and catching them off guard. This can make them feel uncomfortable, and also make them feel like a fool for being gullible.
Avoid Forcing Conversations
A person who is not responsive is simply not interested, and you should back off and move on.
Some other great tips when chatting to strangers and avoiding the creep factor.
- Be mindful of personal space, don’t come on too strong
- Don’t wave your hands around too much
- Don’t stare at people whilst you are talking, relax and look away occasionally
- Don’t touch their body in any shape or form.
- Remember to keep compliments sincere and minimal.
Empathy and a great smile will give you the ability to be a great conversationalist even with strangers. The ability to understand the context you are in and not to come on too strong. Keep it light, throw in a joke now and then, even corny jokes can break the ice!
The biggest factor in successful chatting is practice. Start small, and also start on people you find less threatening, and grow upon that experience. These days, with so much going on with Social Media, it is obvious that people are trying to chat and reach out. So having a chat with a stranger or new person is often welcome, even if everyone is a bit out of practice.
Knowing how to become a master at talking to strangers does not have to be stressful. Take the tips and advice listed above and think about your own personal situation. Put things into action, and see the difference it makes when you find yourself trying to talk to strangers.
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