Imagine yourself walking into a room full of people you don't know. Are you going to turn your back and leave or make an attempt to talk to a stranger on purpose? Perhaps, you'll hang around and wait for somebody to approach you to initiate a small talk. Whatever you intend to do in such a situation, it's important to maintain your composure and learn how to carry a good conversation with a stranger in a decent way.
If you're struggling to learn how to approach strangers and build up your confidence when talking to random people, you are not alone. A lot of people suffer from social phobia and social anxiety. A recent survey reveals that as much as 15 million or 7% of American adults deal with social anxiety disorder.
The symptoms vary from person to person; and can be as subtle as blushing and getting speechless in front of strangers or as severe as trembling, having a rapid heartbeat, and feeling nauseous.
Regardless of how severe your social anxiety is, you have to find an effective way to overcome it and become more confident when approaching strangers. Whether it's to inquire about something, asking for directions, or initiate small talk, it is important to learn how to carry out a sensible conversation without feeling anxious, shy, or uncomfortable.
Here are some tips on how you can be more natural and confident when approaching and talking to strangers;
1. Recognize That Practice Makes Perfect.
Just like any other skill, approaching strangers is something that you can master with constant practice. In this sense, if you want to overcome your fear or anxiety when dealing with strangers, try to learn the art by practicing and rehearsing.
You can do this by pretending to talk to a stranger in front of the mirror. In this way, you'll be able to observe your facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture while talking. Practicing in front of the mirror would make it easier for you to determine what you need to improve and work on in your body language.
2. Speech Rehearsal.
Rehearsing your lines would make it easier for you to deliver them, especially if you have a strong tendency to buckle when talking to strangers. For instance, if you are attending a social event wherein you are expected to go around and approach strangers, it is important to rehearse your lines before the occasion.
Even talk show hosts and world leaders do this because it is a foolproof way to sound more natural, confident, and convincing. Additionally, rehearsing what you're planning to say significantly lessens your risk of stuttering, and it contributes to flawless delivery.
3. Make Use of the Available Resources.
We live in a modern world where everything is accessible with just a few clicks on our computers and smartphones. Use these resources to work on your ability to approach and talk to strangers. For instance, you may read online articles and self-help e-books that focus on how to improve your confidence and communication skills.
You may also chat with strangers on social media platforms, call the chat lines to engage in private voice conversations with local singles, and get into online dating to work on your social skills.
Maximizing all available resources online can help you work on your ability to interact with different people and would make it easier for you to approach strangers in various situations.
4. Know the Importance of Proper Timing and Courtesy.
Approaching strangers is all about being aware of the right timing. Ideally, it is not a good idea to butt into other peoples' conversations or suddenly join a discussion without an invitation. Therefore, knowing when to approach a stranger is vital to a successful interaction, which makes timing a key element.
Here are some "do's and don'ts" that can help you observe proper timing when approaching a stranger;
- Approach strangers that are not currently engaged in a conversation.
- Approach strangers that are not preoccupied with something important.
- Use a friendly voice and be pleasant.
- Learn when to say "excuse me", "please", and "I'm sorry to interrupt".
- Address people appropriately by using titles like Miss, Mister, Ma'am, and Sir.
- Determine if the moment is a suitable time to approach a stranger.
- Be respectful, humble, and polite.
- Don't try to stop strangers that are obviously in a rush or trying to catch something important.
- Don't make a move on a stranger who's obviously on a date.
- Don't interrupt serious conversations between people.
- Don't try to act aggressive or intimidating.
- Don't try to catch people off-guard by startling them.
- Don't approach strangers in a sexually suggestive manner.
- Don't initiate an indecent or lewd conversation with a stranger.
5. Introduce Yourself in a Polite Way.
Some people get anxious whenever a stranger approaches them. Aside from the fact that it's risky to interact with a stranger, there is nothing much you can talk about. To avoid getting into the bad side of things and minimize the tension, introduce yourself politely.
This can somehow break the ice and give the other person a sense of assurance that your intentions are good. In its simplest sense, the whole point of approaching a stranger is to introduce yourself on purpose.
6. Make Sure That You Look Presentable.
If you are going to approach a stranger, make sure that you look presentable and decent. Evidently, the term "presentable" is very subjective because it depends entirely on the situation. For example, approaching a stranger in a club is different from approaching a stranger in a corporate setup. In this sense, you have to weigh the situation carefully to determine what approach is more appropriate to your situation.
Looking presentable and decent can transform you into someone worth knowing and worthy of people's time. You can exude this type of character by simply paying attention to your posture, personal hygiene, and on how you dress up and groom yourself.
Approaching strangers may sound easy and manageable, but how they respond to your presence is all that matters. This is what makes a physical appearance very important because a lot of things depend on first impressions.
7. Master the Art of Small Talk.
A pleasant conversation with a stranger usually starts with a short "hi" or "hello". It could also be a friendly "good morning" or a random comment such as "nice weather today". Such small talks are nice gestures that can contribute something meaningful to your day. It also helps you feel more at ease with other people. After all, saying "hi" to someone you don't know during your daily commute or while waiting in line is one way of acknowledging the people around you.
Moreover, approaching strangers to inquire about the time or to ask for directions shouldn't make you feel uncomfortable. A small talk is all it takes for you to test the waters and to find out if a person would entertain you or not. So the next time you feel uncertain about approaching a stranger about something, do the small talk and see how it goes from there.
8. Be Confident to Ask Questions.
What better way to initiate a conversation with a stranger than by asking sensible questions? Yes, you can ask questions to a complete stranger as long as you do it nicely. In social gatherings, it's perfectly normal for people to ask each other's names and other personal questions such as their industry and who they came with. It is one way of socializing and establishing rapport with the other guests.
Make sure to ask questions that are appropriate to the situation and avoid getting too personal. General questions such as, "are you with someone?", "have we met before?", and "are you enjoying the party?" are all acceptable when approaching a stranger. If you want a more lengthy conversation, feel free to ask open-ended questions like; "what do you think about this event?", "how come you came here alone" or, "what can I do to entertain you?"
If you're confident about taking things to the next level, you may drop some catchy pick-up lines such as; "besides being cute, what else do you do for a living?" or "you look like an angel, did it hurt when you fell down from heaven?"
9. Show Your Respect for Personal Space.
When approaching a stranger, it's important to maintain a certain level of distance. Don't get too close to the point of invading his/her personal space. Otherwise, you'll end up making the worst impression by sending the wrong message. Furthermore, avoid getting touchy-feely at any cost and maintain a casual distance so as not to trigger a sense of discomfort or alarm. It is also important to speak kindly and to act friendly at all times.
10. Make a Careful Assessment of the Situation.
Approaching a stranger can be very challenging because you'll never know how the person would react to your initiative. This person may find your gesture either amusing or annoying. To have a more positive experience, try to make a careful assessment of the situation first.
Weigh down the possibilities of being entertained versus being pushed away by studying how non-verbal communication works. The last thing that you'd want to happen is to deal with humiliation and rejection by attempting to approach a stranger.
Here are some tips on how you can assess whether to approach a stranger or not;
- Make eye contact to see how he/she would respond.
- Smile or give him/her a friendly nod.
- Make sure that he/she is not avoiding you.
- Be mindful of his/her facial expressions whenever your eyes meet.
- Check out if he/she is giving you a welcoming or an unwelcoming gesture.
- Recognize the perfect opportunity to approach him/her.
- Trust your gut feel.
11. Don't Entertain Your Anxious Feelings.
Approaching strangers, making new friends, or connecting with other people requires confidence and self-assurance. To carry out these tasks effectively and achieve positive outcomes, do not entertain your anxious feelings. Try to overcome your social anxiety by figuring out what strategies work best for you. For a lot of people, mind conditioning helps a lot. So give yourself that much-needed pep talk as a reminder that you can do it.
What are the things you must do to overcome your anxiousness when approaching strangers? Here are some life-changing tips that can help you out;
- Make three deep breaths before approaching a stranger.
- Clench your fists tightly and release them to relieve the tension.
- Stand up straight; maintaining proper posture can help boost your confidence.
- Check yourself out in the mirror to make sure that you look presentable
- A hint of a smile on your face contributes to a friendly aura.
- Challenge your anxious thoughts to remind yourself that you have an amazing personality.
- Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself (wear nice clothes, fix your hair, put on some make-up, wear high heels, or spray on a light perfume).
12. Keep the Interaction Short.
Approaching a stranger is different from approaching a friend or someone you know. You have to understand that no matter how curious you are about this person, you are not in the right position to act clingy or pushy. Therefore, keep the interaction short and avoid taking too much of his/her time. A friendly greeting, self-introduction, and casual conversation that don't take longer than 5 minutes are decent enough for a starter.
We all have to deal with strangers in one way or another – at work, on certain occasions, and in various circumstances that expose us to people. This is how we socialize, expand our network, and make new connections that could benefit us in the long run. Hence we have to learn how to interact with strangers and assess how we can make the right approach.
If you're suffering from social anxiety or extremely shy, it is important to find a workable solution that can help you overcome this. Start by learning the basics and then gradually work your way up towards building your self-confidence and communication skills. In time, you'll find it easier to approach strangers effectively and with a clear purpose in mind.