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.

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.

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.

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.

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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