10 Reasons You Should Talk to Strangers
Don’t talk to strangers. This was one of the biggest rules during my childhood.
My mother never got tired of reminding me to be wary of people I did not know.
I am pretty sure I am not the only one who was repeatedly warned not to talk to strangers.
As kids, we were taught that strangers are bad people, and that we should not talk to them under any circumstance.
Our parents had a good reason for teaching us not to trust strangers.
There are some mean and dangerous people out there, and as children, we were not very good at discerning the intentions of people we interacted with.
By telling us not to talk to strangers, our parents were trying to protect us.
As we grow into adults, we learn to differentiate people with good intentions from those with bad intentions.
We learn that the majority of people in society are not sociopaths, that most people are actually quite friendly.
As an adult, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to avoid talking to strangers, because there is not much to fear.
You can easily tell whether a person has malicious intentions and avoid them.
If anything, talking to strangers is a good thing.
It helps us expand our network and build relationships with other people.
Unfortunately, despite having learnt how to tell good people from those who mean us harm, the fear of talking to strangers instilled during our childhood remains.
This is why many of us feel uneasy about talking to someone we do not know.
The thought of approaching a stranger and initiating conversation makes us nervous.
Because of this, we close off ourselves in our own little world, within our own small circle of friends, and in so doing, we miss out on opportunities to meet new, exciting people.
As an adult, reaching out to new people has the potential to do you more good than harm.
Below are ten reasons why you should start talking to strangers.
1. IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS
Friends are very important. Friends keep us from being lonely, they encourage us to go after our dreams, they teach us new things, they help us make better choices in life, they help us deal with stress, and provide us with support when we need it.
Various studies have even shown that having a lot of strong friendships is good for your physical and mental health.
But here is the thing – you are not born together with your friends. If you think about all your close friends today, they were all strangers at one point in life.
Therefore, if you want to make more friends, you have to be willing to talk to strangers, who will then hopefully turn into good friends.
All the strangers you see around you on a daily basis all present you with an opportunity to make a new friend.
That guy you bump into at the gym a couple of times every week could be a potential work out partner.
The lady from the office next to yours?
Perhaps she loves salsa as much as you do and would love someone to accompany her to dance classes.
Unfortunately, you will never know if you don’t talk to them.
By keeping your mouth shut, you are robbing yourself of the chance to meet an exciting person and make a new friend.
Therefore, next time you bump into that stranger you see almost every day, go to them and strike up a conversation.
2. STRANGERS COULD LEAD TO NEW FRIENDS
While strangers present opportunities for you to make new friends, you obviously won’t hit it off with every new person you talk to.
However, you don’t know where the conversation might lead.
Even if you don’t end up making a connection with the person, they might introduce you to someone else who ends up becoming a good friend.
For instance, let’s assume that, after striking up a conversation with the lady from the office next door, you find out that you don’t really have much in common.
However, as you talk about your likes and interests, she mentions that she has a friend who has a passion for the same things as you.
She can introduce you to her friend, who can then end up becoming a great friend.
Alternatively, the lady might invite you to a party where you end up meeting more new people and becoming friends with some of them.
3. MEET A POTENTIAL MATE
Talking to strangers also provides you with an opportunity to meet the love of your life.
Think about your current romantic partner or someone you ever dated before.
For most of you, this person was once a stranger who later turned into a lover. I am living proof of this.
There is this one time I went to a restaurant, and since it was quite full, I had to share a table with a pretty lady.
I said hi to her and we engaged in some small talk as we waited for our meals.
The conversation went on as we ate our food, and once we were done with our meals, we exchanged phone numbers.
This led to more conversations and more lunches together.
Eventually, the stranger I decided to talk to at the restaurant ended up becoming my wonderful wife.
Just like in my case, talking to strangers provides you with an opportunity to meet a potential mate.
That man or lady sitting next to you on the train or standing on the queue with you at the supermarket could be your soul mate.
However, you will never know if you don’t talk to them.
The best part is that you don’t need to use any cheesy pickup lines or any other such stuff.
Simply be friendly, strike up a casual conversation and see where it leads.
4. GAIN A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes, talking to strangers does not lead to friendships or new romantic relationships. There is a chance that you will actually never meet some of these people again.
However, having even that one conversation with them can be an eye opener.
The stranger might change your perspective and give you a new way of looking at things that you have never considered before.
5. EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS NETWORK
In your professional life, your network is very important.
Your network opens up opportunities for new business and new jobs, helps you climb up the corporate ladder, expands your support network, makes you more visible, helps you learn more about your field, and so on.
This is why virtually all career coaches extol the importance of networking.
Here is the kicker – networking requires you to actively go out and talk to strangers.
Networking events are essentially platforms for strangers with common interests to meet and talk to each other.
If the only people you ever talk to are your relatives and close friends, you can forget about building a business network.
Many successful people actually confess that the biggest breaks and opportunities in their professional lives came as a result of talking to strangers.
Therefore, in your professional life, you should make it a habit to talk to strangers on a daily basis.
As these people turn from strangers into acquaintances and probably friends, you never know which one of them will provide you with an opportunity that will help advance your career.
6. TALKING TO STRANGERS COULD LEAD TO GREAT FUN
Talking to strangers can also be great fun and make up for a spontaneous, exciting day.
Actually, for some people, the joy of traveling comes from meeting strangers and having experiences they had not planned for. I can recall several instances in my life where talking to a stranger ended up making for a spontaneous and fun filled experience.
There is this one time I was on vacation on Lamu Island.
While having lunch at my hotel, I got into a conversation with some guy, and he invited me to a party that was he was going to.
I decided to tag along for the party, which was being held on a floating bar smack in the middle of the ocean.
That party turned out to be one of the best moments I had during my vacation, and all this happened because I just happened to talk to a stranger at the hotel.
Just like my experience during my vacation, sparking up conversations with strangers can spice up your experience and lead to a lot of fun.
7. YOU NEVER KNOW YOU MIGHT MEET – IT’S YOUR CHANCE TO FIND OUT
The best part of talking to strangers is that you never know who you might meet.
The person running on the treadmill next to you might have a job opportunity for you, they might be in the market for the piece of real estate you are trying to sell, they might run for president one day (who wouldn’t love being a close friend to the president), or they might end becoming your husband or wife.
You have literally no idea what to expect from the interaction unless you actually step up and initiate a conversation with the stranger.
By talking to them, you open up a world of numerous possibilities. You don’t know what opportunities you miss by keeping to yourself.
8. IMPROVE YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS
If you want to achieve much, both in your professional and personal life, you need to know how to communicate and interact with other people.
Many successful people will tell you that much of their success can be attributed to their excellent people skills.
Your social skills are just like any other skill – they get better the more you practice, and you get rusty the longer you go without practicing them.
Talking to strangers on a daily basis provides you with the perfect opportunity to practice and improve this important skill.
As you talk to people you have never talked to before, the more you learn how to make small talk, how to start conversations, how to break away from conversations, and how to generally have engaging and meaningful interactions with other people.
9. LEARN NEW THINGS
As the common saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. Most of your close friends are just like you.
They probably like the same things as you, they have similar educational accomplishments, the make almost the same amount of money as you, you know almost similar things, you have similar world views, and so on.
Interacting with this close circle of friends and acquaintances all the time limits your ability to learn new things.
Strangers, on the other hand, are nothing like you.
They don’t have the same experiences as you, their educational achievements are different from yours, their world view is different, their interests are different, and so on.
Talking to strangers therefore provides you with an opportunity to learn new things that you wouldn’t learn from your social circle.
10. BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE
Most of us feel anxious whenever we think about approaching and talking to strangers.
We start doubting ourselves and think of all the things that could go wrong.
However, there is something I find surprising about anxiety.
The more you do things that make you nervous, the less nervous you feel, and the more confident you become.
By making it a habit to talk to two or three strangers every day, you gradually start becoming more comfortable with initiating conversations with strangers, and your self-confidence goes up.
Whenever you find yourself in social situations, you stop feeling awkward or shy because you are already used to interacting with strangers.
This also gives you the confidence to introduce yourself to people you want to meet for some reason (such as a potential employer or a potential date).
HOW TO TALK TO STRANGERS
So far, we have seen that talking to strangers has a lot of benefits.
Question is, how do you actually start talking to strangers in order to take advantage of these benefits?
Below are some few tips on how to talk to strangers.
Detach yourself from the outcome: Most of us feel nervous about talking to strangers because we are afraid of being rejected.
We start thinking of everything that could go wrong with the conversation and we eventually convince ourselves not to approach the stranger.
If you want to make a habit of talking to strangers, you should detach yourself from the outcome.
Don’t worry about whatever happens. If the conversation flows well, that’s great. If it doesn’t, or if the person rejects you, it doesn’t really matter.
Maybe the person is having a bad day and wants to be left alone.
Once you learn how to detach yourself from the outcome, you will stop pressuring yourself, you will feel more confident, and you will be more present in the conversation.
Smile and say “hi”: This is perhaps the easiest way to get into conversations with people you don’t know.
This is especially useful in situations where you see a person frequently but have never actually interacted with them.
The best part about this tactic is that you don’t even have to start a conversation.
Simply smiling and saying hi as you pass someone on the hallway or when you meet them at the gym water cooler is enough to break the ice and start building a connection between the two of you.
Even if you don’t say anything thereafter, doing it two or three times will naturally lead to a conversation.
However, this does not mean that you should not start a conversation the first time. If the person gives you an enthusiastic reply, go ahead and start a conversation.
The next tip shows you how to do this.
Find something you have in common: After greeting someone, the easiest way to kick off a conversation is to find something in common between the two of you.
For instance, if you are at a party, ask them how they know the host. If you are at a bookstore, ask them to suggest a nice read.
Alternatively, you can initiate the conversation by giving them a compliment.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to keep the conversation going on for minutes on end.
Just watch how it flows and then either thank them for their time or keep it going if they seem interested.
Keep the conversation light: When you start someone for the first time, you want to keep the conversation light as you build a rapport with each other.
The best way to do this is to start the conversation based on things you can observe in your surroundings, such as traffic, the weather, the party, and so on.
You can take the conversation deeper as both of you get more comfortable talking to each other.
Ask questions: Asking questions is the simplest way of keeping a conversation with a stranger going.
After giving them a compliment or making an observation about something in your immediate vicinity, ask the person something about them.
Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so this will most likely work to your advantage. Remember, keep your questions light.
Below are some examples of questions to get a person to talk about themselves:
- So, how long have you lived around this area?
- Tell me, what do you like about this restaurant?
- For how long have you been working out?
- I’ve seen you around. You work around here?
- Nice handbag. Where did you buy it?
When asking questions, avoid asking questions that are deeply personal, since you might end up freaking the person out.
Look friendly and approachable: When approaching someone for a conversation, try to look friendly and approachable. Make eye contact and smile as you approach them.
Once you start the conversation, maintain positive body language.
Even if you feel anxious or uneasy, don’t let it show. If you look uncomfortable when initiating a conversation with someone, it will also make them feel uncomfortable.
PLACES TO TALK TO STRANGERS
While you can strike up a conversation with a stranger almost anywhere, there are some places where approaching strangers is much easier.
Below are three places where you can easily get into conversations with strangers:
Businesses you frequent: If there is a business you patronize frequently, such as a bank, a restaurant, a bookstore, and so on, you can strike up conversations with its employees.
What makes it easy in this case is that you already have some kind of relationship with them – they cash your checks, bring your food, take your payments, etc.
Rather than keeping matters strictly professional, make some casual conversation with them.
Ask them how their day is going, how business is doing, etc. In most cases, these people will be delighted by your interest in them, and they will most likely respond positively.
People waiting in line: This is another great opportunity for you to strike up conversation with a stranger. Waiting in line is a boring activity, so most people will gladly welcome an interesting conversation.
The best part about this situation is that the fact that both of you are waiting for the same thing provides you with a commonality that can act as an icebreaker and provide fodder for the conversation.
When you get into a conversation when waiting in line, keep the conversation light, since you will probably only be waiting for a short time.
Social events: Social events like festivals, art shows, music concerts and museum exhibitions are perhaps the easiest place for you to get into conversations with people you have never met before.
Most of the people at social events expect to interact with other people, so they won’t be caught by surprise when you approach them.
The best way to take advantage of these situations is to attend them by yourself.
When you attend such events with friends, you will probably spend the entire time with your friends.
When you don’t know anyone else at the event, however, this will encourage you to put yourself out there and initiate conversations with strangers.
Even if your mother taught you to look at strangers with suspicion, most people out there are not looking to kidnap you or rob you. They are simply people, just like you.
Remember, all your friends started out as strangers, and there is no reason why you should not turn more strangers into friends and acquaintances.
Reaching out to strangers and creating connections with them provides you with opportunities to make new friends and possibly even meet your soul mate, gain new perspective, expand your network, learn new things, improve your social skills and hopeful have fun experiences.
Having learnt the benefits of talking to strangers and tips on how to actually talk to strangers, I urge you to make a habit of talking to at least two new people each day.
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