Talking to strangers can be a daunting prospect. What do you talk about? Are they even looking for a conversation? How can you tell? Here’s what you can do.
What’s the setting?
The setting of where you’re trying to approach a stranger is key.
Approaching somebody on the street is going to be much harder than trying to talk to somebody at a networking event or a wedding.
That makes the setting critical. Are people in the mood to talk to people they don’t know? Are they expecting it?
Make it easy for yourself and only try fighting your social anxiety or shyness at events where conversations are expected.
Spot the loners
Let’s say you’re at a social event where conversations are expected. The easiest thing to do is to try and find a loner. Who is standing by themselves looking awkward? Who is checking their phone? Who is looking around the room to see who to talk to?
Those are the people you can approach and strike up a conversation with. It’s far easier to try and talk to those people than to join a group.
They might be nervous too!
For all you know the other person is as awkward as you are about talking to strangers. They too might not want to be at the event where you are. They could be dying for a conversation to make the time pass a little faster.
If you are the first one to approach and to strike a up a conversation then you’re already a star in the eyes of the other person. You’re taking the pressure of taking initiative away from them, making their life a lot easier.
Every situation is different, but there are some conversation starters that work pretty much regardless of where you are.
Just start with: “Hey, mind if I join you?”.
The other person is very unlikely to say no. And even if they do then you know enough and you can move on to somebody else.
After the introduction you can ask:
- What brought you here?
- How do you know the organizer?
- What is good here? (If you’re at a restaurant/bar)
- What did you do today? (Gives you a ton of info for further conversation)
- What are you looking forward to?
All of these questions can help build up more stuff to talk about. That’s how you can keep the conversation going.
Practice and learn
Sometimes conversations with strangers will get awkward. Guaranteed. That’s fine. Those weird moments are part of improving your social skills. Don’t think “see! I can’t talk to anybody – I’m a total failure”. Instead see what lines worked and what lines made it awkward and go from there.