Making conversation with strangers

Making conversation with strangers is the social equivalent of bungee jumping - nerve-racking, risky, but totally fun. If you put the effort in, chances are you’ll enjoy yourself and possibly even make a new friend. Find out the benefits of talking to strangers, tips on how to do it, and what to do if you’re really struggling.

This can help with:

  • Meeting new people
  • Making new friends
  • Improving your social skills

girl and guy chatting at uni

Why make conversation with strangers?

We’re social creatures. Interacting with others is what we do. As natural as this sounds, it’s just as natural to feel nervous at the thought of talking to someone you don’t know. What if you blurt out something too personal? What if you swoop in for a high-five and they suddenly duck? More often than not though, people are friendly, and talking to strangers can have some really great benefits, which include:

  • Meeting awesome people you otherwise would never have met
  • Developing your social skills

Keep in mind though that you should always be sensible about talking to strangers. Make sure there are other people around and it’s a safe place.

How to do it?

There are some easy and practical ways to make great conversations with strangers. Here are some handy tips.

  • Preparation. Do your homework. Brush up on a few topics you think are interesting before heading into a conversation. Having something to say straight off the bat can avoid those awkward silences.
  • Ask questions. What are you passionate about? What’s your worst job? What was the last thing you ate? Marvel or DC? Questions are limitless and they’re a great way to kick off and maintain a conversation. Use you’re instincts and ask away. You’ll find common ground soon enough.
  • Compliment. Who doesn’t like a tasteful compliment about the way you’ve colour coded your entire outfit? Next time you see someone wearing a cool t-shirt let them know. Compliments naturally feel good. Chances are they’ll smile and hand you a compliment right back.
  • Body language. Having open, relaxed body language makes everyone feel more comfortable. It also shows that you’re listening. Don’t cross your arms and try to maintain eye contact or you might end up looking cold and distracted.
  • Set challenges. Make a habit of talking to one stranger every day. It’s good practice. This could simply be someone on a bus or train. Or even someone in a waiting room. Why not bust the myth of silent waiting rooms?
  • Branch out. Instead of staying with your friends at social events, try talking to new people. If it doesn’t work out, you can always sneak back to your friends and laugh about how awkward it was.
  • Crack a smile. It might sound corny, but it works. Not only does smiling improve your mood but it’s also contagious.  It’s a good way to make yourself and people around you feel happy and comfortable.
  • Just go for it. Ask yourself “what have I got to lose?”  If they aren’t interested, it means they weren’t the right person anyway.

Really struggling?

If you’re still having trouble making conversations, chances are you could be talking to someone who feels just as awkward as you. If you’re really worried, you can always talk to a trusted friend, family member, or expert on how to come up with the best ways to approach new people.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 26 August, 2015
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