Are you someone who knows how to start a conversation with a stranger while waiting for the bus or standing in the supermarket queue? Be honest. Most people shy away from talking to people they don’t know. They’re terrified they’ll turn out to be a clinger or a serial killer, or simply because of their own anxiety.
I’ll admit, I used to avoid talking to anyone unless they decided to speak to me first. I was terrified that if I made that first move, they’d think I was strange and simply smile politely, while waiting for the first opportunity to move away.
Then I decided to start traveling on my own a little. Then, I didn’t have a choice. It was either go overseas alone or don’t go at all. You’d be surprised how many people start to talk to you when you’re alone, and from there the chances of making new friends, and possibly more, is huge!
[Read: How to open up to people and welcome new life]
I’ve made many new friends simply by sitting in a cafe alone. Someone makes one very random comment about the weather or the coffee they’re drinking. A chat starts and before you know it, you’re friends on Facebook. It really can happen that easily. Finding the confidence to be the one doing the talking first can be difficult.
What to consider when deciding how to start a conversation with a stranger
My advice? Just go for it! There are a few things which can it make easier. Let’s examine eight things you need to bear in mind when working out how to start a conversation with a stranger.
#1 Be mindful of who you choose. Of course, be open to talking to anyone, but there are some people who aren’t the best candidates. You’ll recognize the ones you can talk to versus the ones it’s best not to as you get more experienced to talking to strangers.
For instance, it’s not a good idea to try and speak to someone who looks angry, someone who’s just come off the phone from having an argument, someone who looks generally very aggressive, or someone who reading a book. Remember, some people want to be alone and unbothered! [Read: Understanding what it means to be vulnerable in life]
#2 Make eye contact first of all. Once you’ve identified a person you’d like to start a conversation with, ascertain eye contact. This will allow you to figure out whether this is a good choice or not. A quick fleeting glance and a smile should do it. If they hold your eye contact or smile back then you might have found your next conversation friend.
This is one of the biggest things to bear in mind when deciding how to start a conversation with a stranger. If they refuse to hold your eye contact and turn away abruptly, move your attention elsewhere.
#3 Read their body language. We all give off signals without realizing it. Sometimes our body language can be deafening. I mentioned earlier about being mindful of who you choose. A person closed up and with defensive body language is not someone who wants to chat.
Alternatively, if they aren’t crossing their arms over their body, frowning, *hopefully not* crying, or scowling in your direction, their body language is open enough for you to drum up a conversation. Eye contact also flows into body language. [Read: Exciting ways to learn to meet new people]
#4 Small talk works. The number one best way to start a conversation is to talk about the weather or comment upon a situation that you’re both in. Small talk is a fantastic ice breaker. If you’re both in a queue in a coffee shop and it’s taking forever, use a little humor and say ‘I think they’ve gone to pick the coffee beans’ and smile.
If you’re both outside waiting for the bus, ‘this rain never seems to stop’. It doesn’t have to be a hilarious one-liner, it simply needs to be disarming, and something you can both connect with. [Read: Drawing a blank? Try these 25 easy conversation starters]
#5 Compliments always work too. Everyone loves to be complimented. Humans love to have their egos stroked after all! I find a great way to start a conversation is to say something like ‘I love your dress’, or ‘that shirt is a lovely color’.
It doesn’t have to anything major. Be careful to walk the line between compliment and full on flirting, but a compliment is often one of the best answers to how to start a conversation with a stranger.
#6 Make sure you smile a lot. Okay, I’m not suggesting you paste a smile on your face and look deranged. However, regular smiling and eye contact as a combination will help to disarm the other person and let them know that you’re friendly and not about to grab their bag and run away.
Smiles help us feel comfortable. Think about people you’ve spoken to in the past, did it make you want to continue talking to them if they were frowning all the time? No! Smile and you will make the other person feel comfortable, encouraging the conversation to continue.
#7 Avoid ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions. Asking questions which require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer isn’t the best way to encourage a conversation. Instead, opt for open ended questions, e.g. ‘what do you think about the weather today?’ You basically ask questions which require a sentence to answer. From there you reply, they reply back etc. Before you know it, you’ve got a conversation flowing away!
#8 Get over your own anxiety! Honestly, what is the worst that could happen? The worst thing is that they smile and move away. So, what? No harm done! It might be slightly embarrassing for roughly five seconds, but at least you tried. The more you do this, the more your confidence will grow. The easier you will find it next time you’re wondering how to start a conversation with a stranger. [Read: How to be more comfortable meeting new people]
Start taking the plunge
Most people worry about talking in large groups, but plucking up the courage to actually come out and say something to someone you have never met before gets easier the more you do it. My journey into drumming up random conversations started in the airport when I began traveling alone.
You’d be surprised how many other people are doing the same thing. Half the time, they want to start a conversation, but they’re too scared to make the first move. I figured one of us had to go for it, so it might as well be me!
I have met many people by smiling, making small comments, and complimenting them whenever I wanted to. Some have remained friends, some were fleeting people I met, but all of them left me with an interesting story.
The guy I met on the plane who did not stop talking once I started *that’s an occupational hazard*, the lady who was jetting off around the world after finally getting her novel published, and the girl who had just split up with her boyfriend and told me all about how she threw his beloved PlayStation off the balcony as payback. If the conversation leads to nothing more, at least you connected with another person for a short period of time. That’s what life is all about!
[Read: 13 steps to come out of your shell and stop feeling shy around people]
Learning how to start a conversation with a stranger isn’t an art form. It’s simply about confidence, picking your person carefully, and just being a human being. We all love a compliment, we all love to talk. Go for it!
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