Monday, January 12, 2009

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How to Talk to Strangers

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Walking up to people you don't know and striking up conversation is the social equivalent of skydiving. It's fun, interesting, and risky. And it will change your life. You’ll meet new people every day, you’ll give yourself control over your social and love life, and you’ll experience firsthand the joy of living dangerously. But how do you go from sitting in front of a computer to habitually starting conversations with strangers on a daily basis? Read on, aspiring social skydiver, read on...


  1. Let go of your ego. Prepare to be told to "$#&! off!" Prepare to be ignored. Prepare to be brushed off in dramatic fashion. But also prepare to meet (and possibly date) people of unique vintage and beauty. When you take the risk of talking to someone you don’t know, rejection is the only certainty. But failure is exciting–-it’s a chance to learn and improve. So when you're out and about, leave the ego behind and keep the following in mind:
    • People don’t bite. A lot of people are really open to conversation. In fact, you’d be amazed at how many people will be practically overjoyed that you came and talked to them, as if they’ve been waiting for you to approach them.
    • Rejection is no big deal. This can't be emphasized enough. Still, fear of rejection will be the main reason why people don’t go out and try this. If you are willing to get rejected, brush it off and keep going, you will have an awesome life. Period.
    • The people around you aren’t watching you approach strangers. And, even when they are, it’s usually in shock and awe, rather than because they’re laughing at you.

  2. Keep your conversations fairly organic. Don't come in with “canned material”, “nuclear attraction” routines, or other social robotics. The best way to make a connection with someone is to come from the heart and live fully in the moment. What you say isn’t nearly as important as how you say it. Socializing is about exchanging energy, not being a wordsmith. When in doubt, just say “Hi”. If you’ve never done this before, you may get brushed off several, even dozens of times until you get really comfortable being yourself in front of other people.
  3. If you’re still terrified by the idea of talking to strangers, challenge yourself to talk to one stranger a day, every day, for 30 days. If you’re walking past someone on the sidewalk, say “Hi”, and the person looks at you and keeps walking (done that many times), your job is done for the day. If you walk up to a girl in a club and say “Hey!”, and she responds, with a slightly grossed out look “I have a boyfriend.”, congratulations, you’re one step closer to improving your love life. The point of this exercise is to get you used to talking to people you don’t know and form the habit of being more social.
  4. Go out to social events by yourself. That’s right. Don’t invite anyone along. No one needs to know where you’re going. You don’t need permission from your girlfriend or boyfriend. You just need to choose to make right now a lot more exciting than yesterday. Your goal for this outing should be just one simple thing: Amuse yourself. You don’t need to get any phone numbers. In fact, you need even make no guarantee that you’ll actually talk to anyone. Don’t scare yourself into submission before you’ve even left the house. This event be something that interests you. If you claim you “can’t find anything good” you aren’t looking hard enough. Here are some ideas:
    • Art Shows
    • Book Readings
    • Rock Concerts
    • Museum Exhibitions
    • “Beginners Night” Dance Classes
    • Speed Dating
    • Outdoor Festivals
    • Geek Gatherings
    • Parades/Rallies/Protests


  • If you do this enough, you’ll eventually get comfortable being yourself around people. While you should expect your first time to be really scary, even lame perhaps, see the bigger picture. Do you really think you’ll still be just as horrified once you’ve done this 10 times? 100 times? 1000 times? Planting yourself in social situations actually makes talking to strangers become the path of least resistance. In fact, you’ll look a lot more strange if you aren’t talking to people.
  • Being willing to go out by yourself gives you more control over your social life. It means you can make a decision about what you want to do on a given night, even if nobody else wants to or is available to join you. Suddenly, those awkward moments of waiting around like a loser for your friend to show up at some social gathering become opportunities to meet new people.


  • You will encounter all of the following problems, but the sooner you push through them, the sooner you'll realize how harmless they really are:
    • You won’t know what to say when you approach people.
    • You might end up standing around like a loser.
    • You’ll be almost visibly shaking for the first few people you approach.
    • Some people will think you’re creepy.
    • Some people will think you’re weird because you’re not out with your friends.
    • You’ll tell yourself, “Oh my God! This is too hard! I think I’ll just rent a movie instead.”

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Gnightgirl said...

Talking to strangers is sometimes easy to me, and yet at other times, completely paralyzing, and I won't do it. Taking photos around them, I think, takes even more courage. I really have to be in the right mood.

ambz said...

The easiest and first step to talking to strangers is to SMILE and smile like you mean it.

I can pretty much talk to anyone for a few minutes and usually all it takes is to smile at them like you are truly happy to see them. Once they see a friendly face, they often say hello and off the conversation goes.

Trueself said...

GNG - At first I was going to agree that it is sometimes easy for me too, but that isn't really true. Sometimes I talk to strangers, but it tends to be nervous rambling that goes on and on to fill dead space. However, mostly I just fall back and stay quiet.

Ambz - You're right. I should smile more. Interesting to me though that it isn't my natural response to smile at people. Part of me feels that extending a smile opens me up too much, makes me too approachable. Then I complain that nobody approaches me. Hmm. . . food for thought (or therapy).