How to start a conversation with a stranger

Though there are billions of people living on this planet at the moment, it doesn’t automatically mean that all of us have good social skills and are extroverted enough to meet new people all the time. We’re all pretty different: some people can easily meet new friends and they feel comfortable when speaking to people they don’t know when the others are terrified to order a pizza because they should make a call. Though we meet lots of people during our lives, we usually meet them when the situation helps us to do so: we’re introduced to groups of people in school, in college, at work or in our group of friends but we rarely take the initiative and make the first move by ourselves. By doing that(or better to say - avoiding doing that) we miss lots of opportunities and chances to find really amazing people who can brighten up our lives and become our great friends or even partners. No one knows when the best possible partner randomly passes them on a street - but the chances to miss them are much higher when you choose not to do anything.

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People often consider the ability to make new acquaintances and friends easily to be one of the most important social skills a person can have. This skill helps people a lot in various fields of our lives: we improve our communication skills at school and in college, we create better relationships with our colleagues and bosses at work, we are seen as more likeable by people around and so on. Some people think that this skill forms naturally and it’s much easier to enjoy dating over 30 because you’re not as shy as you used to be, it’s more about experience than age. Of course, not all of us need hundreds of friends (and of course, not every person should become an extrovert) but sometimes an ability to approach a stranger and to start a casual conversation is an exceptional advantage which opens lots of new opportunities in a person’s life.

Nowadays there are lots of people who are afraid of contacting new people and starting a conversation with them not only because of their negative experience but because they imagine that they would fail if they tried. Our cultures differ and there are lots of places where it’s pretty easy to approach a stranger but in some countries, people are used to avoiding random contacts with others as much as they can. It doesn’t mean that they’re not lonely sometimes - it’s just not customary to behave too openly or talkative with someone you don’t know because you can be seen as “weird". There are so many people who suffer from their loneliness and inability to meet someone special that it’s very important for everyone to know how to fight their anxiety and increase their chances to improve their lives.

Why it can be hard to talk to a stranger

a young lady with curly hair looks away while being deep in her thoughts

Though there are so many people surrounding us every day, it’s still quite hard for most of us to start talking to a stranger without any visible reasons. Lots of people assume that if there’s no valid reason to address a person they don’t know, then it’s better not to do so at all: people who have problems with approaching strangers often try to find reasonable reasons not to talk to someone new even when they really want to. Also, lots of people are unconsciously afraid of strangers approaching them even in situations when there are no visible reasons to panic - they just panic and feel completely confused because of it. There is a thought in many people’s minds that people around are extremely judgemental and that’s why many introverts are extremely unconfident: they forget that most people are usually concentrated on what people think of them but not on judging the others.

There is a thought in many people’s minds that people around are extremely judgemental and that’s why many introverts are extremely unconfident.

There are not only young people who struggle to talk to a stranger - lots of adults have the same issue throughout their life. It might be connected with the fact that modern people tend to feel and behave like young people much longer than previous generations used to feel: though modern people’s life is much more stressful and the pace is pretty fast sometimes, people from the past used to have more responsibilities in their younger age and they had to become mature and confident as early as possible. There were introverts at all times, but now we can spend days messaging to our colleagues and friends without speaking to them and the necessity to talk to a stranger is sometimes seen as an extremely new and uncomfortable experience for us. Also, it’s often connected with culture: dating American women or men can be easier for many people because it’s natural to be more friendly and open there.

It’s quite easy to understand that the main problem for people to talk to strangers lies in their own minds: most people are desperately afraid of being rejected and pushed away, so they prefer not to act at all. Lots of people assume that a stranger who doesn’t feel like talking to you will not only reject you by saying “no, sorry" but will also insult you or make fun of your attempt to start a conversation. People with unhealthy self-esteem tend to see themselves as less valuable and interesting so they see their own attempt to start a dialogue with a stranger as they ask this person for a favour: they are not sure if they are good enough for a person just to say them “hello" in response. This mentality is extremely dangerous and people should work on their bugs to fight some of the issues which can interfere with their success:

  • Lack of confidence. Lots of people have problems with their self-esteem nowadays: while some are obsessed with themselves and clearly demonstrate narcissistic sides of their personalities, the others don’t feel valuable enough to say “hi" to a stranger. Confidence is attractive in everyone: a person who is visibly comfortable in their own skin and who is not afraid of what others think of them is not a person who is laughed at: confident people are respected and praised because of their energy and charisma they radiate. You shouldn’t be too arrogant and cold as well: just remember that you’re also a person who deserves a respectful attitude from the others and shouldn’t be treated better or worse than the others;
  • Lack of experience in talking to new people. Courage comes with practice: the more you talk to new people, the easier it becomes for you. If during your working hours you have to make a few phone calls every day, then making phone calls and talking to strangers becomes easy for you, and the same goes with approaching strangers anywhere. Try creating your video blog or distributing flyers for a while and talking to people you don’t know won’t bother you anymore;
  • Fear of being rejected or laughed at. That’s easy: the imagination of some people often makes horrible pictures of a crowd laughing at them and pointing fingers at them but most of these people won’t face this response even once in their life. There are many situations when our expectations turn out to be much worse than reality, and approaching strangers is no exception: there are much more nice and pleasant people around you than you imagine, so stop being afraid of something terrible that can happen to you and start dreaming of something cool which can happen to you as well;
  • Fear of being seen as silly. Lots of unconfident people feel extremely silly and awkward when talking to strangers because they are extremely reserved and shy to do that. In fact, lots of people see shy strangers approaching them as cute and adorable, and even if they don’t - it says about them, not you. Stop being afraid of what people may say about you and think of what you can actually start your dialogue from without looking dumb - that can be much more helpful.

How to talk to strangers easily

a young african american couple is flirting in a library

Most people were told by their parents not to talk to strangers: that’s a basic rule of safety and it’s especially important when you’re a little child. At the same time, when you grow up, there are lots of situations when you should (and probably want to) talk to strangers: whether you see an attractive person sitting alone with a cup of coffee and just want to say “hi" to them or you want to tell someone that you really like their T-shirt you should overcome your anxiety and make the first move. Remember that you do nothing wrong when you talk to a stranger: you don’t offend them, you don’t waste their priceless time (unless you clearly see that you do), you don’t ask them for a favour - you just want to start a conversation which can be seen at least as polite and absolutely normal.

We just need to learn to avoid unpleasant characters and keep looking for amazing and nice people who can make our lives better - and there are plenty of them around us.

Usually, people’s fear of speaking to someone they don’t know is not completely unreasonable: no one wants to get into an awkward or unpleasant situation which can potentially damage their self-esteem and spoil their mood. You should remember that there are lots of silly and rude people around us who can harm you regardless of you actually having a reason to talk to them or not: we can’t live in isolation and avoid everything bad or unpleasant in our lives. We just need to learn to avoid unpleasant characters and keep looking for amazing and nice people who can make our lives better - and there are plenty of them around us. Sometimes the attractive stranger in a local cafe is actually our soulmate - but you’ll never know it unless you try approaching them.

Talking to new people is not that hard: the only barrier which actually can intervene is your insecurity. Stop thinking of approaching a stranger as it is an extremely difficult thing to do - and your mental setting will actually make it much easier for you to do. There are also some things you need to know about in advance - they can help you to be more successful in talking to new people around:

  • Say “hello" to them before thinking ten times about it. Lots of people who are very insecure and can’t dare to approach tend to think too much about its possible results. There’s nothing bad in being thoughtful and careful in advance: people who use logic often can achieve lots of amazing results in many fields. At the same time, sometimes people miss lots of great moments and opportunities just because they think too much before actually doing it: when you can’t decide whether you should start talking to a cute girl in a cafe, she might have her order and leave before you have a chance to do anything. Also, lots of people tend to lose their confidence part by part when they think too much about whether they should try doing something - and that’s when your thoughtfulness might work against you;
  • Don’t expect anything. Whether you succeed or fail, you shouldn’t have any expectations in advance: there are lots of situations when a conversation goes well and people chat for a while but they don’t magically become friends or partners afterwards. Remember that approaching strangers is aimed to make your life more exciting and to invite some new people in it, but no one guarantees you a decent partner or a best friend after your very first try. Also, stop thinking of a person’s negative reaction in advance as well: some people look much more strict and unfriendly than they actually are, so you never know when you meet a real soft-hearted teddy bear;
  • Stop caring what other people might think of you. Lots of people avoid thinking too much about the others and judging them, and those who don’t are usually just very shallow or traumatized people who can improve their self-esteem only by belittling others and you don’t need them around. It’s not only you: just like every person instantly tries to find themselves in a group photo, all people around are much more concerned about what others think of them. Another reason to stop caring about their opinion is to ask yourself why their attitude is so important for you. There are lots of people around us who will never become our friends or colleagues, so their opinions are absolutely irrelevant and mean nothing in perspective. You are who you’ve decided to be, so stop thinking of other people judging you and just act;
  • Don’t be afraid of rejection. People are so frightened by the idea of being rejected by someone as if their life depends on their acceptance. There are lots of reasons why an attractive stranger may decline your approach: they might be in a hurry, they might be waiting for their friends at a moment, they might have a really bad day and their mood doesn’t allow them to talk to anyone, or they just don’t find you attractive or interesting enough for them - and that’s absolutely fine too. It’s obvious that we can’t be liked by anyone: there are lots of celebrities who are praised by their fans and detested by their haters, so it doesn’t always depend on your appearance or level of your success. Also, people who don’t like you don’t influence the reality: they just have an opinion which can’t make you any worse or less valuable anyways;
  • Pretend to be someone who isn’t afraid. It’s an old mental trick: when you’re afraid of doing something you should imagine as if you’re someone who would definitely have the courage to do that thing. Remember your super-confident friend or your role model: you don't have to pretend to be someone you are not, but the confidence of people and characters we find cool and humble is pretty infectious and can sometimes help a lot. Take a deep breath and relax: you’re not going to die because you say “hello", so just go for it. You can also imagine that you’re talking to someone you already know - this method also helps people to act more humble and casually;
  • Don’t use too creative and artificial ways to approach when you’re not extremely confident. Your lack of experience and confidence can be easily seen when you try to make something too creative or complicated to approach and you also should avoid using cliches because they can create a bad first impression about you. You don’t have to apologize or explain your “hello" as if you’re guilty of something: use simple and decent ways to start a conversation and remember that the most complicated your explanation sounds - the more likely the stranger won’t buy it. Remember that confident people don’t need excuses to do what they want to do - especially when it doesn’t hurt anyone. Stories like “I was just walking around the street when I saw you, so I confused you with my other friend and wanted to say hi to you but now I see that you’re not my friend, but I wanted to say hi anyway because it would be silly" work only in rom coms, so avoid using them;
  • Use jokes and make them laugh. People love good jokes and a person with a great sense of humour is often seen as extremely attractive and charismatic by others. If you have an idea of a good witty joke or you’re really good at improvising funny stuff then you can use it as your main trump card. You don’t have to make a whole stand-up performance in front of a person, but a few nice jokes or puns can be pretty appropriate to make a person relaxed and interested in you. It will also help the person to remember you better, so it’s a good opportunity to create a nice first impression of you. People love laughing and having fun - so don’t take anything too seriously and enjoy the process;
  • Compliment a person only if you are extremely sincere while doing that. It goes without saying that people love hearing good and pleasant words about themselves: everyone wants to be appreciated and liked by others, so a good compliment can be a very heartwarming moment of their day. You can use a compliment to approach a stranger to start a dialogue with them, but avoid using too pompous words because of how artificial and unnatural they usually sound. A person who thinks that your compliment can become really offended and your compliment would have a negative effect: a stranger might assume that you laugh at them or want to have some kind of profit from them, so it’s better to use simple and honest compliments to succeed. A guy complimenting a girl should never use cheesy or inappropriate compliments about her body or any other parts of her which can be too sexualized: women don’t usually perceive these words as compliments but see them as offensive and inappropriate comments from perverts rating their bodies;
  • Look into their eyes but avoid staring at them. People tend to believe you more when you look into their eyes while smiling and behaving openly and friendly. Eye contact is extremely important for installing trust and casual atmosphere, so use it to achieve better results. At the same time, remember that some people’s look doesn’t seem very friendly and casual: there are lots of situations when a person staring into other people’s eyes is considered strange or even scary. The only right decision lies in between: you should look into people’s eyes in moderation and behave casually to be perceived in a positive way;
  • Ask them about something connected with the place or a situation where you met them like they know more than you do. If you can’t imagine any creative lines to approach a stranger, then you should use what you already have around you because time, place and situation matter a lot. You can ask a stranger about the best coffee in the cafe you meet them, the best cocktail in a bar or ask them about the song that is playing at the moment: improvise and use the situation to find a valid or at least visible reason to approach and start the conversation. Even if a person answers shortly, you can develop your thought a bit or ask them another question, but it’s better not to be intrusive when a person is clearly not interested in communication. Once again. you don’t know whether they had a bad day or not, so leave them alone and look for another person to talk to;
  • Be a listener and speak about them, not you. If you succeed in starting a conversation and a person seems to feel fine answering to you, then put an effort into keeping a conversation alive and making your companion interested in the dialogue. Remember that most people love talking about themselves, so allow them to express their opinions and to talk about themselves: you can also ask them more questions to learn more detail and fuel your dialogue with them. If a person seems to end their monologue, then you can tell them about yourself or ask another question: don’t interrupt them or neglect their opinions or experience about anything. Practise talking to strangers like that again and again and one day you’ll notice that it’s as easy for you as talking to someone you already know - but much more exciting!
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