How To Talk To Strangers - An Easy Guide To Start A Conversation With Anyone
Follow this step by step guide and learn to approach strangers and start conversations.
Don't talk to strangers.
Who hasn't heard this sentence in their childhood? Probably most of us have. And now you're sitting here, reading this post about how you can learn, to talk to strangers. Kinda silly, right? I've personally suffered from social anxiety throughout most of my teenage years, and I feared talking to strangers as much as you probably do right now (or even more).
What you'll (hopefully) learn by reading this post:
You will learn how to approach complete strangers in any social situation. And I'm not necessarily talking about approaching people in the club or at a birthday party, where it would be "easy" to talk to anyone. You will learn, how you can approach people at the bus stop, at a library, in a supermarket or even just on the street. Of course, many of these social settings require a lot of courage and self-esteem, but you will see later how you can become more self-confident and boost your confidence.
Step 1 - A few words before we start
First of all, you'll need to understand that it's completely human to feel a little bit anxious when talking to strangers - especially if you're not used to it. What I can tell you right now is that worrying won't cause any circumstances to change. Yes, sometimes things are out of your control but that's alright. You have to take this step forward now and you'll most likely feel uncomfortable doing so. It will push you out of your comfort zone but that's exactly what we want.
So remember: If you ever feel worried and you're not sure if you should talk to someone - do it anyway. Even if it goes wrong, you'll have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and that's a success as well.
Step 2 - Use this body language when approaching new people
Our body language is crucial when it comes to introducing ourselves to new people. Whenever we meet someone, our brain decides within seconds whether we like the person approaching us or not. This is usually subconsciously determined by watching the other's body language.
For instance, if your body does one of these things, the other person most likely won't see you as a likable person:
- Having crossed arms
- Hiding your hands (either in your pocket or while crossing your arms)
- Facing slightly away from the person you're talking to
- Little or no eye-contact
Instead, try to communicate an open body language. Don't hide your hands, speak clearly, have direct eye-contact and most importantly: smile!
By the way: When having low self-esteem, you're most likely to encounter these bad body language traits. This is why you have to work on your self-esteem and boost your confidence!
Step 3a - Use this opener when talking to a stranger (in public)
There are a few openers you can use when talking to strangers. You most likely have already encountered numerous pick-up lines on YouTube by so-called pick-up artists. Although these pick-up lines might work at the club or if you're really self-confident, they most likely won't work for you. Especially not when trying to approach someone in a library or at a bus station.
So what am I supposed to say if I see a cute girl/boy sitting next to me on the bus?
I usually like to use one of the two options:
- Hey, how are you?
- Hey, you seem familiar! Have we met before?
I personally prefer the latter, but it might be easier for you to start with Number 1. Make sure to come over as described in Step 2.
If you don't think you're courageous enough to approach a stranger with a simple "hi", try one of the following ones instead. They might not always help you to start a great conversation, but it's better to practice with easy questions first so you'll feel comfortable than to be insecure when talking to a stranger.
- Hi, sorry - do you know what time it is? My phone just died off and I really need to be at ... at 5 o'clock.
- Gosh, it's so hot today. Do you think it might rain any time soon?
- Hi, could I borrow your pen for a second? (pro tip: ask for a sheet of paper as well and give him/her your number 😉)
- Hi, have you been here before?
- Wow, it's really crowded here. Is it always like that?
These are some common questions you might ask yourself now:
What if he/she wears headphones? - Try to have eye contact with her first. If she stares at her phone or reads a book don't interrupt her. Try it again later or accept that even the best strategy won't work 100% of the times
What if he/she is already talking to someone? - If you're really confident, and you think that you could talk about the topic they're currently talking about, try to join the conversation in a good moment by adding your own input to it. Do not disturb personal conversations and don't try too hard to fit in. This obviously doesn't work every single time but it's worth a try. Otherwise, you could also try to wait until the other person leaves the room/exits the bus and try to talk to him/her afterward when he/she is alone.
Step 3b - How to start a conversation on Social Media (Instagram, Facebook)
If you're trying to get to know someone over social media you have to follow a few guidelines first to not come over as creepy:
- Don't comment publicly on their pictures if you don't know them
- Don't write creepy DM's, stating how much you admire them or similar
- Behave, as if you'd meet them publicly for the first time (no dick picks wtf)
We use Instagram for our examples but they work for any other social media as well:
This is what I usually do when trying to contact someone new on Instagram:
- Follow them and wait for them to follow back
- If they don't follow back, consider accepting that they're probably not interested in you
- If they follow back, contact them and ask an open question that requires an answer. For example, ask "Hi, haven't we met before? You seem very familiar.".
- If they don't reply: wait a little more and then disregard your attempt. Do not double-text, do not insult them and do not make a big deal out of it.
- If they reply: hurray, continue with open questions. You should get a feeling pretty quickly whether he/she wants to actually chat with you or if he/she's just kindly responding to your questions.
Step 4 - How you start a conversation
Now it's time to actually start a conversation. After your simple "Hi, how are you" phrase, start best by introducing yourself and maybe adding how you arrived here. There is no definitive guide on what to say next, as literally everything depends on the reaction of your conversation partner but here are a few things that you might say next:
- I'm ... by the way. What's your name?
- This is actually my first time here at ..., have you been here before / how about you?
- I love your shirt/shoes/dress. They really suit you well. Are you working in fashion?
Make sure to ask a question back instead of just adding a statement. This will ensure your conversation won't turn into an awkward one. If you want you could also offer a firm handshake as you're introducing yourself.
What should I talk about if I have no idea what to say?
There are a few things you can always comment on if you have no clue what to say. For instance, ask questions about your surroundings. If your partner has any visible tattoos, ask them about their meaning. If your partner is reading a book you know, ask them a question about it, such as "Oh you're reading ... as well? I love this book! How do you like it?".
If you're a little bit more self-confident, you could also try to start with a sincere compliment. Maybe you like the other person's shoes or their jacket.
You could also ask a question about the current surroundings. If you're in a big city, ask for directions or even better: for any good recommendations. If you ask for directions, ask the person for their phone number, in case you get lost or have any more questions. Later, write them a simple message, thanking them for their help and maybe asking them out on a coffee😉.
Step 5 - How to make sure a conversation doesn't die off
This is very simple and short but also tremendously important. Use open-ended questions. What an open-ended question is, you ask? Simple: Open-ended questions are questions, that don't require a simple "yes" or "no" answer, but instead encourage the conversation to go on instead of closing down.
A few examples of open-ended questions would be:
- "What did you do today" instead of "How are you"
- "What do you like the most about ..." instead of "do you like ..."
- "How did you get involved in ..."
- "What are your thoughts about ..."
As you can see, these questions almost force a longer answer from your partner. This will lead to a longer conversation with more you can use to ask further questions. It might seem hard to remember to use open-ended questions but if you start using them regularly you'll start doing it automatically.
Step 6 - How to finish a conversation with style
Last but not least you'll most likely have to finish your conversation sooner or later. Depending on the social setting, you might have already been talking for hours if you get along well.
First of all, make sure to finish a conversation before it dies off. This will leave your partner with a great impression. Also: If you know you'll have to leave in let's say 5 minutes, make sure you plan ahead, so you don't have to interrupt your conversation partner. This is especially important if you're talking on a bus/train and you see your stop is coming closer.
Before you leave, say something along the lines of "Hey you know what? It was great talking to you! You seem really nice, would you like to exchange phone numbers?"
The last sentence is crucial. If you don't get their phone number, business card or any other contact option you'll most likely have wasted all your time (except you've already arranged a date, but even then it's best to have a phone number to call).
That's it for now. If you follow these 6 steps you'll have a great foundation to start talking to strangers anywhere. Make sure to remember that everybody feels a little bit frightened when talking to strangers, especially if they don't do it very often.
Also, remember that there will always be people that don't want to talk to you or don't find you interesting at all. Accept rejection and don't make a big deal out of it. It happens to everyone, including the best pick-up artists in the world.