You board the subway, look across the aisle, and your eyes meet. She gives a small smile. Quickly, you look away. The stranger’s wardrobe is heavily layered, she has a nose piercing, her dragon tattoo speaks to you, and she’s holding the book you read last week. And yet, though she intrigues you, for some reason, she seems unapproachable. But you should approach.
In the end, we’re all human, and there’s nothing strange about strangers.
So what’s stopping you from starting a conversation?
Likely, the fear of the unknown, the fear of being ignored, the fear of being shut down fast. Quite simply, fear is what stops us; so fear is what you’ll have to conquer. And how do you conquer fear? By pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and doing.
Open Your Mouth
First things first: get over that initial fear by opening your mouth. And your open mouth should start with a smile. By making yourself approachable, you eliminate that fear from others and thereby create a space for conversation. After sharing a smile with your potential conversation partner, you’ll feel relaxed enough to open your mouth and initiate conversation. The best way to do this is to avoid focusing the attention on yourself and, instead, show interest in the other person.
No matter how shy and reserved the individual, almost everyone appreciates someone expressing interest in them. But remember: there’s a fine line between conversation and interrogation. Avoid stabbing someone with intimate and detailed questions about their personal life; instead, gently open with a topical question as related to the situation, and let the conversation progress naturally from there.
We’ve all met those magnetic individuals who are so open and charismatic that you feel you’ve known them forever. These charmers have mastered the art of assuming a certain level of familiarity with strangers. Whether it’s through their natural intuition to quickly pick up on a commonality between themselves and strangers, or simply their warm and genuine smile, you too can find a thread of familiarity to start off on the right foot with every single person you meet.
Be an Engaging Speaker and an Active Listener
Again, charisma lies in finding the proper balance and, in most cases, this means listening more than you speak. By actively listening to your conversation partner, they’ll feel – gasp – heard! And that’s all anyone wants, really. People connect emotionally when they feel heard, and so the more you make your conversation partner feel heard, the more attached they’ll feel to you, an absolute stranger. How do you actively listen? It’s pretty simple:
- you maintain eye contact with the speaker
- you ask relevant and informed questions, questions that demonstrate you’ve been listening.
When it comes your turn to speak, deliver your question/anecdote/idea in a dynamic and engaging way. Be an effective and efficient speaker and story-teller. Do not let the conversation be one-sided, but do not prattle on. Instead, deliver your most pertinent information in a compelling and humorous way. To put it simply, engage your audience.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Lastly, practice, practice, practice. You won’t make it two steps outside your comfort zone if you don’t practice. And the more you engage strangers in conversation, the easier approaching people will become. Who knows what sort of friends or soulmates you may be missing out on by avoiding that girl on the subway.
Use These Conversation Starters