There are 3 things to master when you socialize with strangers, making a good first impression, dealing with nervosity or anxiety and coming up with something to say.
1. Making a good first impression
First impressions are all about snap judgments people will make of you, so it mostly comes down to these two points:
- Social skills
Being confident, relaxed and making others feel good around you is the basic skills needed for a good first impression. I’ve written more about how to make conversation here.
- Your looks
This is not about looking like a model because most of us can’t reach that level. But there are some easy ways to AT LEAST look better than average. That is to 1) Be well groomed and 2) Have nice well-fitting clothes.
You don’t need a whole wardrobe of amazing clothes, you just need 1 or 2 great outfits and you don’t need to think about your clothes anymore. Think about someone who dresses great, but always using the same outfit compared to someone who mostly dresses OK, but with different outfits. Who would you rather be?
Then, you must show your personality. If you act like you don’t want to be there or if you speak in a monotone voice, it’s a clear indicator to the other person that you are not interested in them. This will make it much harder for you to establish any sort of meaningful conversation with that person. To express your personality to others, here are a few successful social tips to help you.
- You should become more approachable. This means you are aware of your surroundings by keeping your head up and acknowledging people with a greeting or a smile. When someone you don’t know approaches you at a social gathering, smile, say hi and ask them more about themselves. By being more friendly, you make that other person feel at ease and they are more likely to open up to you. By that same token, when you project a positive attitude it will make others more receptive when you approach them.
- It’s important you practice good listening skills when speaking with strangers. By doing so, it can help you learn more about the person, discover relevant questions to ask them and help you spot common interests, which you can use to bond with them.
- If you feel it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to crack jokes or have playful banter when meeting new people. Now, this can be a balancing act, as you don’t know this person well. Therefore, it’s important that if you do crack jokes they are tasteful in nature and are relevant to the conversation taking place. With that said, a well-timed joke or funny observation can make everyone feel at ease and can help you establish a comfort level with your new companion.
2. How to know what to say when making small talk or meeting someone for the first time
Along with expressing your personality, here are a few conversation tips that can help you connect with strangers.
You can find a unique icebreaker that is relevant to the situation. If you both are attending a social function, it’s likely you have some of the same friends. As a starting point, you can ask them who they know.
You can also read the stranger’s body behavior to gauge where to direct the talk. Many people are in similar positions such as us in that they want to connect with others, but they may feel shy or anxious when meeting new people. When this happens they may respond in one-word answers, look down at their shoes or hunch their shoulders together. When this happens, you can ask them what they do for a living, tell a funny observation that may loosen them up or just admit that you are also shy when meeting strangers, as this revelation can help them feel more comfortable. Meanwhile, if you notice someone staring at their watch, playing with their phone, or looking around the room, it’s an indicator they are bored with the subject matter. If you notice this when talking to strangers this is your cue to change the topic of conversation. Further, if you try this and the person still doesn’t seem interested, respectfully disengage the conversation.
3. Dealing with nervosity or anxiety
I’ve written more about how to deal with nervosity over here.
Ultimately, for you to develop good communication skills to connect with strangers, you need experience. You should start in a setting that is comfortable to you, as this will make it easier for you to approach others. You will notice that the more you do this the easier it will become. Now it’s important to note that this won’t be an overnight change, and for some, this can be a long process. However, by using these tips and gaining experience, you are taking small steps that will make it much easier to talk to strangers. In turn, these talks could lead to new meaningful friendships for you.