The Complete Guide To Talking To Strangers
By: Mason Komay
Updated May 04, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
Whether you are looking for a new romantic partner, a friend, or a casual acquaintance, learning how to talk to strangers can make all the difference. Connecting with a new person brings you the opportunity for personal growth, new perspectives, and different experiences. And now you can talk to strangers from the comfort of your own home! There's no need to go to a bar or coffee shop to sneak sideways glances at your potential new mate or friend. But even though other people are more accessible than ever through social media and dating apps, talking to strangers can still be difficult and intimidating. This article will provide helpful tips and techniques to master fluent and engaging conversation with complete strangers.
Connect with Technology
Social media has revolutionized the way we keep in touch, not just with friends and family, but also with the rest of the world. Popular platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat have made it easier than ever to share stories or posts highlighting our interests and events in our personal lives.
Social media platforms provide ample opportunities to reach out to new people, especially since you can connect from the comfort of your own home. Commenting on a post or sending a direct private message can allow you to connect with anyone, whether they live nearby or across the globe, without further obligation. If a conversation becomes awkward or uncomfortable, you can simply end it; you can even block accounts that you no longer wish to communicate with.
If you are looking for a professional way to meet someone online, either for career development or for building a social network within your field, you can use a job-oriented networking site such as LinkedIn. Here, you can explore the profile pages of people with similar professional goals and interests and reach out to others through mutual contacts, all to build personal connections in your career. Even though LinkedIn is career-oriented, it's still a great place to meet hard-working, successful professionals who can help you expand your online presence.
Before the Internet, individuals could pay to post “personal ads” in their local newspapers, describing themselves as well as what they were looking for in a potential romantic partner. Fortunately, technology has made it much easier to browse through possible mates than the past practice of scanning a page of newsprint with a highlighter. Countless communication and dating apps are available for download to your phone, many of them free or low-cost. Here are some popular examples:
Tinder and OkCupid: If you're looking to chat, meet up, or simply form a casual relationship with someone that you find attractive, both of these apps offer a quick and simple user-friendly experience that easily allows you to view others within your preferred distance setting.
Meetup: This app can help you to discover and reach out to local people who share common interests with you. Many users form groups that gather virtually or in person for scheduled events like hiking, chess, crafting, sports, etc. Getting started is easy and free.
Friendsy: If you're a college student or graduate, Friendsy connects you specifically with other students at your campus. This app is a great way for young adults to form friendships and get more in touch with their college community.
Bonappetour: If you like to eat and travel, consider giving Bonappetour a try. It works by connecting you with local hosts for unique home-dining experiences. Through these connections, you gain an authentic sense of different cultures and possibly some new friendships.
Happn: Happn allows you to connect with people that you've already crossed paths with at one time or another by using GPS to track locations. Whenever you walk by another user with the app, their profile appears in your timeline.
PartyWith: If you're looking to connect with people who like to party, PartyWith may provide the right connections for you. You can discover local nightlife experiences, make new friends, and create amazing memories.
Bumble: Bumble is a dating app similar to OkCupid and Tinder, but it focuses female users to make the first move. In this role-reversing app, only women are allowed to initiate contact.
Chat Rooms allow you to talk with strangers online to discuss certain interests, perspectives, and anything else you can think of. Some chat rooms even provide a forum for debate on certain subjects of discussion, which might be a great way to discover people who share your viewpoints.
Video games have never been more popular than they are today. Constantly evolving, interactive or role-playing games offer an atmosphere consisting of hundreds to potentially millions of other users, depending on your console and your game of choice. If you play online, you're almost certain to come across new players each time. You can connect with new people, keep up established friendships, and also mute players whom you don’t want to interact with. For the most effective form of communication, consider investing in a headset so that you can chat with others in your lobby.
Meet Strangers In Person
Even with all the digital options available, many people still prefer to make friends face-to-face, whether at a coffee shop, bar, hostel, university, church group, or a volunteer adventure, etc. While you may feel hesitant about trying to connect face-to-face with someone that you hardly know, it can also have a greater result. After all, the people you naturally meet wherever you happen to be should have similar interests and tastes. And as an added bonus, they likely live near or within the area, making it naturally easier to maintain a close relationship.
Studies have found that residential proximity is a key factor in relationship building. In other words, you are more likely to marry your neighbor than someone from a different town or state. So, don't be afraid to reach out to those around you. The next time you find yourself standing in line at a coffee shop, grocery store, or wherever you happen to be, try initiating a casual conversation with the person next to you.
How Should I Approach People?
Knowing how to approach a stranger in a friendly and inviting manner can make all the difference. Here are some tips to striking up a conversation:
- It's All About The First Impression. The adage "don't judge a book by its cover" unfortunately doesn't carry over when it comes to first impressions of other people. If you want to make a good first impression, try to dress in a way that projects the image you desire. You will feel most comfortable if you like the way you look, and it will also help to convey an impression of self-confidence, which is generally a very attractive quality.
- Think Through Your Opening Line. Aside from your appearance (or profile picture online), your first message or greeting creates a stranger’s first impression of you. Try to avoid starting with "Hey" or "What's up?"; these simple, easily overlooked messages won't make you stand out from the crowd. Offer a concise and meaningful message that conveys to the listener (or reader) why they caught your eye. Also, keep in mind that almost everyone enjoys a genuine compliment.
- Learn The Lost Art Of Conversation. Instead of thinking about your response when someone is speaking, take a moment to truly listen. Then, pause to construct a thoughtful response. Don't be afraid of brief pauses in conversation; they are simply byproducts of good listening. Try to ask questions that contribute to the conversation, and maintain good eye contact to convey genuine interest. Above all, don't spend too much time talking about yourself. When you do say something about yourself, follow it up with a question about the other person so that they understand that you're 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. Try simply asking 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.
- Pay Attention To Body Language. Crossed arms, lack of eye contact, feet pointed away from you, and a lack of facial expression or 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. Along this line, if you are communicating via technology, be patient; do not double or triple text. Let the other person take their time to respond to you before you attempt to further the conversation.
Sometimes anxiety can prevent you from trying to meet new people and make friends. In this case, therapy is highly recommended. However, if you feel as though you're not quite ready for that, a number of alternative solutions can help you overcome your fear of talking to strangers.
Stick to Places You're Familiar With
If you're not a drinker, then odds are you'll probably have a hard time making friends at a bar. The same can be said for almost any public setting, which is why it helps to stick to places that you're familiar with when going out to meet new people. This way you know that you already have something in common with whomever you meet.
Bring A Friend
If you're by yourself, trying to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger may feel very intimidating. The next time you go out to meet new people, consider bringing a good friend with you. Places like the gym or an activity center are a great place to start.
Ask Your Friends To Bring Their Friends
If you're setting up a social gathering, tell your friends to invite over some of theirs. This way, you already know that those who show up have been vetted by people close to you, which makes it a lot easier to approach them and start up a conversation.
Support New Relationships with BetterHelp
Developing new relationships can be difficult and talking to strangers may seem very intimidating. If you feel anxious at the thought of reaching out to people you’ve never met—or people you don’t know well—you are not alone. In fact, approximately seven percent of people in the United States experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder in any given year; that means that literally millions of people have recently experienced feelings similar to yours! If you experience negative feelings about interacting with new people, either through physiological symptoms like sweating or blushing or emotional symptoms like anxiety or panic attacks, then you might benefit from working with an online therapist through a service like BetterHelp.
The thought of meeting someone new, even a licensed therapist might be daunting, but BetterHelp can match you with someone who will work with you in whatever format is most comfortable for you: emails, video chats, phone calls, or even text messages. You won’t need to sit in a waiting room to speak with a stranger face-to-face about your discomfort around talking to strangers! Online therapy through BetterHelp offers flexibility and privacy, so you can work on overcoming any anxiety or fear in the comfort of your own home. A therapist will help you develop the skills and self-esteem you need to enter new places and meet new people with confidence. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people who have faced similar challenges.
I have been working with Dr. Hardin for four months now, and I've had amazing breakthrough and progress in processing my emotions, habits, and social life. I look forward to our sessions, and I am interested in doing the work and advice she gives me to examine and evaluate and process my issues and conflicts. I would highly recommend her.
I honestly look forward to my sessions with Robin every week. If I am unable to see her one week, she is always sure to check in with me. Robin has already provided me with so many helpful & refreshing new perspectives and tools to help me better understand myself and the world around me, as well as how to function better under stress and be kinder/more understanding towards myself. I am TRULY grateful for all of Robin’s help and her commitment to helping me achieve my therapy goals and look forward to continually growing. This has been a wonderfully valuable experience for me!
Talking to 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. Keep this guide in mind, and you'll be well on your way to successfully making new friends. With the right tools, fulfilling new friendships are within reach. Take the first step today.
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