The Complete Guide To Talking To Strangers
Updated December 19, 2018
Reviewer Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
Whether you want a new romantic relationship, friendship, or casual acquaintance, learning how to talk to strangers is a game-changer. Connecting with a new person brings the opportunity for personal growth, new perspectives, and different experiences. And now you can talk to strangers from the comfort of your own home! No need to go to the bar or coffee shop to sneak sideways glances at your potential mate. But even though strangers are more accessible than ever-just a click of a button!-, talking to strangers can still be extremely difficult.
Where should you start? Where do you even find these elusive strangers on the Internet? And once you find them, how do you establish a common ground? This complete guide to talking to strangers has all the answers. Who knows-it might even help you meet your life partner or best friend! Once you master the skill set of talking to strangers, the possibilities are endless.
Connect with Strangers via Technology
Let's start with the easiest, least intimidating way to talk to strangers-through a screen! Social media takes the pressure off when it comes to forging new connections. If there is awkwardness or disagreement, you can simply end the conversation.
Be careful, though. Prior to social media, many now-married couples were shy or intimidated by one another, but they didn't let that stop them from pursuing a relationship. Don't let the fact that there are so many strangers from all over the world at your fingertips prevent you from forming deep, meaningful relationships with people who are different from you.
Perhaps the most legitimate way to meet a stranger online is through job-oriented networking websites, such as LinkedIn. Here you can peruse the pages of people in your network and reach out to people in their network-all in the name of furthering your career. Even though LinkedIn is career-oriented, you can meet hard working, successful professionals, and maybe just maybe, go out for a drink or two someday.
When it comes to meeting strangers, apps have replaced the newspaper ads of the good old days. Back then, people publicly proclaimed their singleness by paying for an ad in the newspaper in hopes that they would spark the interest of a potential romantic partner.
Through talk to stranger apps, meeting new people has become so much easier. There are so many apps that it can be difficult to identify which is right for you. Here are some examples:
Tinder and OKCupid: If your goal is to find a quick hookup or casual relationship, both of these apps have the reputation of doing just that. Unlike other dating apps, they don't have a very sophisticated algorithm to ensure that you will find the partner or friend of your dreams. But they will suffice to set up a quality night of drinks and casual conversation with a complete stranger. And who knows what will arise from that?
Meetup: This app connects you to groups that meet for a specific purpose (i.e., hiking, cooking, drinking, etc.).
Friendsy: If you are a college student or graduate student, this app connects people at the same university in hopes of sparking new friendships.
Bonappetour: If you like to travel and eat, this app is right for you. It connects you with locals who want to cook you a locally-inspired meal. Through these connections, you get an authentic sense of the culture while maybe even picking up a friend or two.
Happn: Want to meet people you pass on the street, but afraid of rejection? Happn connects you with people you regularly meet in passing, in hopes of igniting new friendships or relationships.
Party with a Local: This app does just what its name implies: connect you with locals who want to take you out to a party while you are on vacation.
Bumble: Bumble is a dating app like OKCupid and Tinder, but this time, the women are in charge! In this role-reversing app, only women can initiate contact.
Hinge: This app finds third-degree connections (i.e., friends of friends of friends) to match you with people who share at least some of the same interests and perspectives.
GetReal: If you are baffled by the maze of texting, GetReal is for you. It removes the superficial texting game from the equation by proposing meet ups with people who share your career or interests.
Tastebuds: If you have eclectic or eccentric music tastes and will only date people with similar "tastebuds," check out this app.
There are a plethora of chat rooms on every topic imaginable. Chatrooms help you talk to strangers online to discuss interests, perspectives, and passions. Some chat rooms even provide a forum for debate or disagreement.
Choose chat rooms wisely, though, because some people hide behind a screen to say things that they would never say openly in the light of day. That's right-the rise of social media parallels the rise of online bullying, which can be extremely hurtful and detrimental, especially in the lives of children and adolescents. If you or a loved one has been a victim of online bullying, be sure to seek online or face-to-face counseling to overcome this traumatic experience.
Many video games allow you to play alongside and talk to strangers for free, as you communicate through headsets. United in the same goal, you may just make a few friends as you shoot down the enemy!
Meet Strangers Organically
But even with all of the technological options, many people still make friends naturally-by meeting them at a coffee shop, bar, hostel, university, church group, or a volunteer adventure. While this may entail a greater risk, it can also have a greater reward. After all, the people you naturally meet frequent the same places as you do, and potentially have similar tastes. As an added bonus, they likely live near you.
Studies have found that residential proximity is a key factor in relationship building. That is, you are more likely to marry your neighbor than the person in the next town. So don't be afraid to reach out to those around you. After all, what else are you going to do as you stand in line at the coffee shop? The next time you are in line, choose to talk to the guy in front of you.
What do you do once you identify a stranger you want to meet?
Okay, so you are ready to talk to a stranger-now what? Knowing how to approach a stranger in a non-creepy, inviting manner is of the utmost importance if you want to start something special. Here are some tricks of the trade when it comes to stranger talk:
- It's all about the first impression. The adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" flies out the window when it comes to first impressions. The fact is that you will be judged by your appearance. If you want to make a good first impression, dress smartly to project the image you desire. In addition, have an end goal in mind, such as getting the stranger's phone number. You will seem more confident if you come to the conversation knowing what you desire.
- Craft a Pithy Message. If you are talking to a stranger online, the first message you send is the person's first impression of you. Do not start with "Hey" or "What's up?" because these simple, easily-overlooked messages don't make you stand out from the crowd. Craft a concise but meaningful personal message that conveys to the reader (or listener) why they caught your eye. Remember, everyone likes a genuine compliment.
For in-person and online conversations with strangers, bring something unique to the table. You might want to think of some conversation topics that highlight your personality, passions, and desires. Once you are on the same page with someone, the conversation will flow naturally.
- Learn the lost art of conversation. When talking to a stranger, you will stand out from the crowd if you learn the lost art of conversation. Instead of thinking about your response when someone is speaking, take a moment to truly listen and then pause to construct a thoughtful response. Don't be afraid of brief pauses in the conversation. This is actually a byproduct of good listening.
Be sure to ask the speaker questions so that he or she knows you truly care. Maintain good eye contact throughout the conversation so that you appear genuine and interested. Above all, don't let yourself be caught in the "me" trap; that is, don't spend too much time talking about yourself. When you do say something about yourself, be sure to follow it up with a question about the other person so that he or she knows you are not overly self-focused.
- Find common ground. When talking to a stranger, your most important goal is to find common ground. Everyone can learn to do this-even if it doesn't at first come naturally. Simply ask targeted questions to identify the person's interests, ideas, perspectives, and experiences. With enough questions, you're bound to find some overlap.
Common ground is your point of entry into a more meaningful relationship. At first, you will unite through your similarities, and eventually, you can deepen your relationship through your differences.
- Pay attention to body language. Crossed arms, lack of eye contact, feet pointed away from you, and lack of facial expression/vocal intonation can all signal that the other person has lost interest in the conversation. Also, note your own body language and the messages you may be sending out.
Along this line, if you are communicating via technology, be patient; do not double or triple text. Let the other person take his or her time to respond, and then you can respond accordingly. Double or triple texting can make you appear to be desperate or needy even if you are not!
- Seek online counseling for relationship advice. Developing healthy relationships is difficult, but with the help of a professional counselor, it is doable. Before you go online to meet strangers, consider looking into online counseling to help you work through past traumas and develop the skills and attitudes you need for a healthy relationship.
The bottom line? Talking with strangers can be a very rewarding experience. It may lead you out of your comfort zone, provide you with a different perspective, and push you to try new things. But be mindful of a few key rules for success with strangers!