Imagine: You’re at a party with a friend of yours. They excuse themselves to go to the washroom, and you’re left alone. It is a party, why not go speak to someone and make a new friend? Glancing around, you spot someone you would like to talk with, but have no reason to. They seem like they’d be interesting – they may even be cool enough to hang out with! But alas, you’re too at a loss for words to go up and say hello. Have you ever been in this situation? Many, if not all of us, have been in this exact situation. What is the answer to such a common problem?
It’s simple, actually! Learning how to start a conversation with a stranger can even be quite easy with practice, and a little preparation goes a long way. There are a few things you can do to prepare:
1) Go online and read some interesting news articles: Articles are great to bring out into conversation, especially if they’re related to a field that you know a fair bit about. I’d recommend psychology articles, as they’re easy to digest and can be related to everyday experiences. The same cannot be said for less relatable subjects, such as computer science or math.
2) Make a list of interesting stories that have happened in your life: once you have these listed, you can practice them with friends, or in front a mirror and get the delivery down. This will help to be more engaging and telling stories about your past will encourage others to talk about the things that have happened to them. It is important to let the other person have their turn to speak, as this allows for a connection to be made between you two. It works best to keep these stories upbeat and funny. Whenever something bad happens in my life, I tell myself it’ll make a good story later. Typically it does, and it comes off a lot better when you tell it laughing. Remember: No one likes a whiner or being brought down when they’re having a good time.
3) Look up some good jokes, or ask people what their favourite ones are: Just like with the stories, practicing jokes really helps make them better. The great thing about telling jokes and stories is that people will reciprocate with their own, which will allow you to repeat them. The only difference between them is that you’ll have to preface other people’s stories with “Someone told me that they…” – in other words, don’t steal stories and pass them off as your own.
4) Be Mysterious: Being mysterious really helps, as it can make people want to know a little bit more about you, and it’ll prevent you from coming on too strong.
5) Work on being an interesting person: This will take you your entire life, but every baby step you take will make you more interesting. What makes for an interesting person? Someone who is passionate, has interests, tries new things, cares about people, and expresses themselves. If someone asks you “What do you do for fun?” and all you’ve got is “drink, watch tv, study”, then I suggest you get out there and experience a little more of the world!
Now that you’ve prepared, the rest pretty much takes care of itself. The only real “barrier” left is the initial nervousness that you have to overcome when walking up to someone. I’ve got a secret for you: of every time you ever approached someone, man or woman, 99% of the time nothing bad happens. Even in that 1% of the time that something “bad” happens, they may just say they can’t talk or don’t want to talk 99% of that 1%. To put it more straight forward: 999/1000 times you talk to a stranger, you will probably end up having a decent conversation.
So what do you say? Oh man, the pressures on!
Wrong! Have you ever had someone come up and talk to you at a party? It’s really not a big deal at all. Just walk up and say “Hey, how’s it going? Pretty sweet party, right?” or “Hey, My name is Prometheus! How are you doing?” they’ll usually answer and reciprocate with their name. You can ask background information, and branch off from there. If you find yourself in a lull, feel free to pull out a story or a joke and say “That reminds me of a time when…” and go into your story. There’s a trick to this: no one really pays that much attention to how related your story is. If it’s a completely unrelated story, people may say “how does that relate?” simply reply that it just popped into your head and you thought it was a good story. Next step in Making a friend is Building Rapport.