Take The Fear Out Of Talking To Strangers

Take The Fear Out Of Talking To Strangers
Being randomly friendly and striking up a talk with someone you don’t know is, as wikiHow puts it, the “social equivalent of skydiving.” And probably not as hard as you might think.

The group-editing advice site offers mostly motivational, thought-provoking ideas on how to train at getting comfortable starting a conversation with no pretext or third-party introduction. Some might make you roll your eyes with thoughts of past incidents, but others are worth considering, especially if your career could benefit from a bit of networking savvy:

Keep your conversations fairly organic. Don’t come in with “canned material”, “nuclear attraction” routines, or other social robotics … What you say isn’t nearly as important as how you say it. Socialising is about exchanging energy, not being a wordsmith. When in doubt, just say “Hi”. If you’ve never done this before, you may get brushed off several, even dozens of times until you get really comfortable being yourself in front of other people.

As someone who used to try and get different strangers to start talking for my every-day job, I found that experience, practice, and, yeah, a bit of a cynical shell against the typical brush-off were the best predictors of how things would go. But pre-supposing that someone was going to clam up or walk off never helped at all—and it’s worth remembering that, even in hard times or tough situations, some people are secretly eager to tell a story or just share a moment.

What’s your best advice for someone who wants to talk with more, and different, people every day? Photo by dreamsjung.


  • I’m terrible when it comes to talking to other people. At the college I go to we have a morning tea every weekday and 100+ people gather and talk. I tend to stand on the fringe, often not talking to anyone, because I don’t know how to start or what to say after the opening 3 or 4 stock-standards. Over time I’ve come to think people don’t want to talk to me any more because it’s always me initiating conversation. I’d love to hear how others do it, and also what would cause you to not want to initiate conversation with someone who, for the most part, seems normal (whatever that is … LOL).

  • As someone who talks to a strangers just about every time I leave the house I’m a little taken aback by the fear. Usually there is some commonality in the situation – weather, length of queue, greatness/badness of band/DJ/speaker. Sometimes people take up the conversational ball, sometimes not.
    For Mr CantTalk I find asking people about what they do in the organisation and really trying to understand their role – asking questions like what does that mean?, how does that fit in? etc or if a social thing asking people what they do with their time. This gets around homeduties/unemployed/boring job awkwardness and if they ask what do you mean I say ‘just finding a starting point for the conversation that you will find interesting, you into golf or cross stitching?’ which usually gets a laugh and then we move on. I will also happily talk about politics, and dont think religion and sex are off the agenda either. And just to put this into perspective – I’d rather talk to 10 strangers than drive 10 kilometers! Cars kill people, conversations don’t!

  • I’m in exactly the same situation as Mr Can’t talk. I also goto college and it is now the third year. All my mates from the previous years have moved out and even then I found myself willowing in my room as opposed to going out and being social. Presently I am sitting in my room while freshers are mingling in the corridor. I want to join in conversation so bad. I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to join in. And furthermore they’re hotties.

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