Growing up I was always a confident and independent little girl. However, I would get intimidated by some kids in the school yard, or shy away when older acquaintances would try to start a conversation with me. It was not until I went to boarding school – living with 180 other girls, that I really learnt how to talk, interact and get along with anyone.
When I set off to university, I did not know many people in my degree or class, but was actually excited about it! My main goal was not to get the highest marks possible, or to finish with the best job, it was actually to meet as many new people as I could and to make lots of new friends. Entering a new environment where I did not know anyone, I created sneaky tactics and strategies to easily talk to new people.
I gained more practice through travelling on my own. This puts you completely out of your comfort zone whilst being immersed in a new culture. My main reason for travelling on my own was to of course have the freedom of being able to do whatever I wanted when I wanted, but also, it it gave me a better opportunity to go out of my way and meet strangers. This is when I put some more sneaky strategies to work. I would strike a conversation with someone in the morning at a cafe, chat for hours and end up hanging out with them all day, or just feel amazing after getting to know someone new. In some circumstances I never saw or heard from them again, and others I am still in contact with today.
Now being an adult, I have really noticed these certain strategies or “hacks” that I use to talk to strangers and actively go out of my way to meet someone. These come in handy when you are placed in a circumstance that you do not know anyone, easy ways to “break-the-ice”, when you are travelling and want to meet people to hang out with, when you see someone down the street that catches your eye, or if you are just wanting to include more friends into your life. Basically, I love to meet new people and I actually go out of my way to do so. So here are my top tips to get you talking to ANYONE!
1. Create an Opportunity
This would have to be one of the most effortless tricks. I say this because YOU do not have to do the work. Creating an opportunity means giving another person the chance to approach you, giving them the ability to strike a conversation, or placing yourself in an environment best suited for networking and interacting. Basically, you are making it easier for yourself, and for others. There are a few ways you can do this.
My favourite strategy is to simply sit on the largest table, or bench. This is the perfect situation for when you are grabbing a coffee at a cafe, or when you are travelling alone. A lot of cafes have multiple seating arrangements, long benches, tables for one, group tables, bar stools or couches. If you sit at a table for one, how do you expect to talk to anyone? Sit at the long table, the bench, or the bar. At a busy cafe this will mean that other people will have to sit next to you – giving them an opportunity. This makes it easier for you because you do not have to be the one approaching someone else. In the same way you can do this at university. Be a little early to class and sit at the empty table to allow others to approach you first. In a lecture theatre do not hide away in the back corner, sit smack bang in the middle of the hall with empty seats either side of you.
Another way to create an opportunity is by seeking out events, festivals or classes that interest you. At these events everyone is in the same boat! People go to events firstly because they are interested in it, but also because they want to be around, and meet like minded people. I have been to many events, picnics, dinners and workshops, for the main reason of just being immersed and surrounded by my passion, and others who are passionate about the same thing. The conversations you have with people at these events are endless because you basically just chat about your common interest, and when it comes to something you are passionate about, the conversation never dies!
Now that you have created the opportunity, you need to exude friendliness. The easiest and best way to do this is to smile! If you both make eye contact, do not look away and hide, smile! I am not saying you have to show all your teeth and grin so much it hurts, but a small smile goes such a long way. Smiling makes people feel good. It makes them feel warm, comfortable and welcomed. Think of how you feel when a stranger smiles at you walking down the street, or sitting at a library. Not in a creepy way, but just in the way that they have noticed you. This exudes confidence, openness and friendliness, making someone feel comfortable enough to start a conversation.
3. Take Notice and Compliment
Notice something about what they are doing, what they are wearing, or where you are. Is there something you can make a comment on? Maybe you want to know if the coffee is good at the cafe, maybe they have really nice shoes or a hand bag, perhaps you would like to know where it is from. Start with a question, then they have to reply (sneaky 😉 ). But after their reply, do not go cold turkey, continue the conversation – “Wow, really! I have never been there, where is it?” or, “Oh that is so cool! I use to have one just like it but….”. Anything is something. Compliments go a long way, you can flip someones day around just by complimenting them on the smallest thing, anything. This makes them feel good, and you will be remembered. Not only do compliments make others feel good, but actively pointing out positives in people actually tricks your mind over time and you will naturally become a more optimistic and positive person.
4. Be Confident
You do not have to be that overly chatty, annoying, loud, eccentric person, actually, you should not be that person. However, you should be yourself. You should be sure of yourself. Confidence is attractive. Do not be afraid to just blurt out anything, even if you sound ridiculous, laughter is a perfect ice breaker. Laugh at yourself, it makes others feel comfortable, and takes away any potential awkwardness. Walk tall and proud. Let your personality shine through and you will be sure not to be forgotten. It is easy to forget those usual daily interactions of people saying “excuse me”, or “thank you”, getting on or off public transport and ordering coffee. The memorable people are the ones who are a little quirky, a little different, a little fun, the ones who show a little of who they actually are, making others interested to know more.
5. Ask Questions
It is a common characteristic that people like to talk about themselves. This is not a bad thing! I say make the most of it! Ask more about them, be really interested in who they are, what they do, their goals and aspirations. But do not just pretend. Being interested in other peoples lives, family and passions is an amazing quality to have. You will not only find out more about them, but the topic of a person is endless. Some people can talk about themselves for hours, when you get them off to a start. It makes them feel good that you are interested in knowing more. But of course, do not be overly “stalker-ish”. Be genuine and make comments about your own life in the conversation and think of your own personal stories when the topic relates.
6. Get a Dog!
Click on the link above to read my post “Life With Dogs”.
When you do find yourself networking, meeting and and greeting new faces, ask for their name and grab their Facebook to keep in touch. When an event pops up, let them know, even suggest going together, meet them again at that same cafe for a coffee, even lunch, or go for a walk and get to know each other on a deeper level.
I hope these tips give you all a little more confidence and guidance when it comes to approaching strangers. I would love to hear if you have your own personal tactics when it comes to “breaking-the-ice”, let me know!