You’ve probably already talked to quite a few people today. But how many of them were people you had never spoken to before? Not so many. Because we’re generally far more comfortable chatting with people we already know. But the chances are you also know someone who can walk up to a total stranger and just start a great conversation.
Such people make us all green with envy, because it’s a wonderful skill. And it’s not something you have to be born with. Anyone can acquire the ability, and it can completely change your life. Because almost every good thing that will ever happen to you in your entire life starts with meeting a stranger. A new client? A new friend? Even your spouse! Chances are that they’re all complete strangers the first time you meet.
Making connections with new people is becoming more difficult though as our crowded urban life make us more cautious. But the risks can be managed. For example by concentrating on people you meet as part of your working life. Or friends of friends.
We also tell ourselves we don’t have the time. But most new connections start with just a few moments conversation and swapping phone numbers.
So how do you become skilled at talking to strangers? Well, the main thing is practice and thinking of every conversation as an opportunity. So make eye contact with everyone, including waiters and receptionists. If someone smiles at you, smile back. Practise on people who’re paid to talk to you, like the staff in shops and restaurants. If you notice you’re passing the same person as you enter your office every day, smile and say hello. If need be, fake a confident stance whenever you meet someone new, then they won’t know if you’re feeling nervous. Work on the classic ‘intro:’ an offhand remark about your surroundings with a question mark at the end. Everyone knows that’s an invitation to chat: ‘Gosh it’s hot, isn’t it?’ ‘Busy in here today, isn’t it?’
Don’t worry about what other people make of you and instead concentrate on helping them feel at ease. Be genuinely interested in everyone you meet and encourage them to talk about themselves. They’ll enjoy every minute! Don’t have any specific objective in mind, and accept that anything might happen. But use every conversation with someone new to figure out whether this person might be a fit with you. Maybe they work somewhere you’d also like to work? Maybe you share interests?
So encourage them to tell you about their job, leisure activities and social circumstances: ‘And where does your wife / husband work?’ will tell you whether they’re married, for instance!
Fix a daytime coffee date with anyone promising and always have a ‘gosh, I must go!’ excuse ready for the ones who don’t click!
It’s actually fun, so get out there and have a go! You might meet someone who changes your whole life. This very day.