Whether you're a hairdresser cutting a new clients hair for the first time, a salesman introducing yourself to a brand new customer, a real estate agent meeting a new referral, or simply striking up a conversation at the park with a passer-by, talking to strangers can be a struggle for some people. Searching for conversational topics can be a daunting task for those who wouldn't define themselves as outgoing or would further label themselves as an introvert.
Entrepreneurs and business people know that the art of conversation doesn't always come natural. Some of us had to take public speaking courses to learn how to open up dialogue with someone who we've never met before. Others have had businesses that threw us right in to the sea of humanity to either sink or swim. Just take a stroll through a shopping mall or walk down the hallways of your office building. I'd venture to guess you won't have too many people eager to engage in any more than your typical morning or afternoon how-do-you-do if they even make eye contact at all.
As a society being connected on-line has brought us closer together than we ever thought was possible but it has simultaneously driven us further apart. Face to face contact and conversations are starting to go the way of the dinosaur. The good news is it's not too late to do something about it. If you're not the best at striking up conversations with strangers then try these five tips to see if you can become a conversational juggernaut:
1. Put away your phones and mobile devices. It's impossible to strike up a conversation with someone if you have your face buried in your smart phone or tablet all the time. As a culture I know Americans are busier than ever and the thought of missing an email, phone call or text message can send panic through our minds. But trust me, the world isn't going to end if you don't respond to a text message within 17 seconds of receiving it. The sky also will not come crashing down if you miss out on that funny internet cat video your friend uploaded to Facebook. Give it a try. Put down your phones while you're out in public. Make eye contact with those around you and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of conversations that can happen.
2. Offer up compliments to people you come across. Doesn't it feel good when you've put on your best outfit and someone notices how good you look that day? Isn't it great when you get complimented on your smile or if someone you've never met goes out of their way to let you know they saw and appreciated how pleasant you were to that new cashier who was struggling to ring you up? So if it makes you feel good then you know it will make others feel good as well. Offering up compliments to people will not only brighten up their day but it's sure to get the ball rolling in the right direction if your goal was to strike up a conversation with that person.
3. Be interesting and stand out from the crowd. It's easy to start conversations with strangers if they are just as interested in talking to you. So be interesting. Wear a conversation starter. This could be an especially fancy outfit, a unique piece of jewelry, a funny tie, or an eye-catching watch. Anything that would allow a conversation to get started. If you have a hard time striking up conversations with strangers, draw them in to starting a conversation with you instead.
4. Use your four-legged friends. Animals and pets are almost universally loved. Sure there are a few people that aren't tolerant of pets but those are probably not the people you want to be starting a conversation with in the first place. When was the last time you walked by a stranger walking with their pet and didn't at least say hi to the owner or even stop and say hello to the animal itself? It's nearly impossible. So if you can't resist, that means others won't be able to fight the urge to say hi to you when you're out and about with your four-legged wing man. If you are someone who has trouble talking to strangers there's nothing wrong with using your pet as a means to meet new people.
5. Get out of the house/office and into the wild. You can't spend all day and night trapped in an office and expect to meet new people. So break out of that cubicle and get outside. Start taking your lunch breaks at a local park or make a specific effort at some point during your work day to visit a place where you know you will have ample opportunities to talk to strangers. Also, a lot of us love to be in our homes but we'll never expand our friendships and grow our sphere of influence by sitting around the house. So on the weekends or your days off make it a point to plan at least one outing a day that will put you directly in the path of strangers and give you an opportunity to meet new people.
Talking to strangers doesn't have to be the insurmountable task that some people feel it is. Remember to always be genuine and never fake. Take opportunities to talk to people when the right moments present themselves. Not every person and not every moment is the right time. If you are a small business owner of any kind, talking to new people is how you will grow and expand. However, just because you have a great mind for business doesn't mean you are naturally gifted with the ability to be a conversationalist. Some people can take years to develop the right mindset and attitude you need to be willing and open to meet and talk to new people. Try applying any or all of these five easy tips on how to start conversations with strangers then you'll be well on your way to breaking down the wall that's been holding you back.