Monthly Archives: March 2010

How to Talk to Strangers

No wonder we have trouble knowing how to talk to strangers. As we grew up mom always told us not to talk to strangers.

There was a reason for this. It wasn’t to be mean to us or to others, but for our safety. Our society teaches us that strangers can hurt young people. As we grow up this belief stays with us, and unfortunately prevents us from meeting a lot of very good and caring people. However, there are things you can do to help when you are talking to strangers.

Let Go

First, let go of those things that mom and society has taught you about strangers. Most people are good and don’t hurt other people, so let go of the idea that strangers are bad people.

Be Prepared

Next, be prepared to be ignored by someone you don’t know if you try to talk to them. This will be easier to accept when you understand that other people have been taught the same thing you have about talking to strangers. Don’t take brush offs personally because it not about you as a person, but what they have been taught, just like you.

Keep Things Basic

When first beginning to talk to strangers keep the conversation very basic and impersonal. Talk about the weather, or about something you notice regarding your surroundings or something else that is superficial and non-threatening to talk about. It’s important to keep in mind that how you say something is much more important than what you say.

Speaking of which, if you are talking with a stranger it’s not a very good idea to use big words to try to impress them with. In fact, this is risky because you don’t even know if the person will understand what you are talking about and misjudge you as that kind of person mom taught them about. So, keep your conversation simple and very non-personal.

Trust People

That’s right! Trust people. Our society has seriously damaged our trust for our fellow man by instilling in us that everyone is out to hurt us. But the reality is that there are few people, if any at all, that are out to hurt us. The best way to overcome this is take a chance and talk to strangers (in safe environments).

Build Your Trust

One way to build your trust in other people that you don’t know is to go out to a place you have never been to before and by yourself.

Now this might seem a bit of a frightening proposition, but it is the very remedy to disprove what mom taught you about strangers and build your trust in your own judgment and in people you don’t know. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t want to talk to strangers in places where there are few people around. For example, trying to talk to a stranger in a park where very few people are walking around is probably not a very good idea.

Another way to help yourself talk to strangers is to practice saying hello to every person you see while you are walking down the street or while shopping at the supermarket. And be sure to smile, at least a bit, whenever you greet someone you don’t know. Most people when they see a smile accompany a greeting will respond in kind.

The biggest thing to remember as you begin to learn how to talk to strangers is that most people are not idiots or bad. Rather, most people are pretty nice and can be trusted and would like for you to talk with them. Being able to trust others is the first step to being able to talk to strangers.

How to Talk to Strangers at a Party

A party is a great occasion to meet a stranger and make a friend or even meet a romantic partner. Many of us will have met our partners at parties or are about to do so in the future. That’s just one reason why it’s good to know how to talk to strangers at parties.

There are certain tips you can use to feel at ease when talking to strangers at a party, to get the most out of this potential friend making opportunity.

1. Relax

It’s a party. You are meant to be having fun. If you are tense and uncomfortable you will show this in your body language and in what you say. Other people you talk to will pick up on this and you will make them tense and uncomfortable too.

If you feel yourself tensing up, stop and take a few deep breaths. This will have a physiological and well as psychological impact upon you and will help you to feel relaxed.

2. Don’t try to be too smart

You can make yourself worry too much about talking to strangers at a party by imagining that everything that you say has to be witty or amusing. That’s not the case and can actually be counterproductive to good party conversation as people worry about being able to match your standards.

3. Use simple opening questions

One of the keys to good conversation, which works in any situation, not just parties, is to use simple questions to open a conversation. The idea is to get a response from the other person, not to showcase your comic talents or high intellect.

You need to put people at their ease in talking with you so that they want to carry on talking. In order for this to happen, you need to ask open ended questions where they need to give you some information, rather than just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

The topic should be non-controversial and something that is easy to have an opinion on, such as TV shows, the weather, the party itself etc.

4. Use what is common to both of you

You might ask how they know the host or hostess of the party, or with whom they came. You will often find by virtue of the fact that you are both guests at a party that you have some friends in common. Use that to your advantage in finding something to chat about.

5. Prepare some conversation topics

If you know you’re going to be attending a party (as these are not usually last minute invitations) prepare yourself by looking at a daily newspaper and find some news topics that you can talk about.

However…

6. Avoid being controversial

If you are meeting someone for the first time at a party, you probably will not know their political or religious beliefs. You should avoid offending them, so steer clear of these topics.

Human interest stories, celebrity gossip and local issues are safer topics.

7. Listen well

People like to be listened to and they think favourably upon people who listen actively and give them time to speak.

Active listening not only helps the other person feel valued, it gives you cues to pick up on to continue the conversation.

8. Avoid too much alcohol

Alcohol is a strange thing. If you know what effect it has on you and feel confident that you don’t lose control after one drink, a single glass of wine or a beer may relax you enough to let go of your inhibitions.

That can make it easier to talk with strangers. However, beware taking more alcohol than that or you may become unaware of what you are saying and doing and might embarrass yourself. Doing that will just make it harder for you to face your next party and you will have undone all your hard work in preparing yourself to talk with strangers.

Yes, you need to prepare…

9. Practice

Once you get used to talking to strangers, it’s not so difficult, so start by talking with people on your commute to work or in the local grocery store. Just say ‘hello’ and make some positive comment or ask a question about the produce. It should help that you are all there for a common purpose, just like it will at a party.

So, you can learn how to talk to strangers at a party and feel comfortable about it. You just need to do a little preparation, and then relax and have fun. Let the conversation flow!

How to Talk to Quiet People

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out how to talk to quiet people. That makes us feel awkward when we don’t know what to say to break the ice and start the conversation, but often you will find that once you have made that first move and opened up the conversation, even with a quiet person, that gets them warmed up and the conversation will flow from that point.

Here’s how to get started on talking with quiet people:

1. Get your approach right

Often, people are shy because they feel intimidated or feel what they say will not be well received and may even be scorned or laughed at. That’s why it is really important to approach shy people in a friendly manner, without confrontation, so that they feel comfortable talking to you.

2. Ask questions

It is unlikely that a quiet person will get the conversation started, so you’re probably going to have to do that. Don’t worry about that, though. You can easily get the conversation going with a question.

You should ask an open question which cannot easily be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that will kill the conversation before it has even started. But don’t feel that the question has to be a smart or intelligent one either. That can actually be a bad thing.

Good questions to open conversations are very simple ones that ask for the other person’s opinion, and it is a question that cannot be answered wrongly. So, ask what they did for Christmas, or where they are thinking of going on vacation this year, or something like that. They won’t feel judged and will be more likely to speak to you and give you avenues down which to develop the conversation.

3. Show patience

Quiet people may take a little while to formulate their responses or may answer in short sentences to begin with. Don’t get impatient with that and give them up as a boring person that is not worth talking to.

4. Listen actively

Listen actively and you will find little snippets of the answer which you can pick up on and use to develop the conversation on terms that the quiet person will probably find easier to respond to, as they provided the information.

5. Find good topics

If you show patience and actively listen to the quiet person, you should soon find topics which they find more engaging and easier to talk about. Those are ones on which they are comfortable and obviously have an opinion.

Try to steer the conversation more towards these topics and they should provide possibilities for lots of supplementary questions with which you can keep the conversation flowing

6. Build their trust in you

Often, quiet people are that way because they feel they cannot trust others if they open up to them. Perhaps they feel you will laugh at their opinion or confront them on it.

It’s your responsibility in the conversation to prove that you are trustworthy and they can talk to you without being judged or without some other negative reaction from you. That will make them more willing to talk to you.

7. Suggest an activity

If you find that you and the quiet person have a mutual interest, suggest that you do that activity together. It can be anything, e.g. ice skating, walking, cinema etc.

This will have several advantages:

  • You will have more things to talk about, related to the activity
  • You will probably find it easier to chat during the activity, as part of their mind will be on the activity itself and not on how tense they feel about conversing, so the talk should flow more naturally.

8. Give some positive reinforcement

We all need some positive reinforcement from time to time. That can be especially so for quiet people who might lack the confidence to talk much.

Let them know that you enjoyed talking with them and perhaps make a time to chat again. That will give a quiet person a real boost.

So, these few tips for how to talk to quiet people will help you talk to anyone, but they will particularly help you coax a quiet person out of his or her shell and converse with you more comfortably.