Why you should be talking to strangers (and how to do it better)
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Ask questions. Is the person wearing an article of clothing that’s noteworthy? Why did they decide to come to whatever event you’re both at?
Sandstrom says in her experience, she would describe the stages of having a conversation with a stranger as follows:
First, they look at you as if asking, “Do I know you?” Then there’s recognition they don’t know you.
Then it’s, “Wait, are you a weirdo?”
Then they get past all of that and realize you’re just being friendly.
“You have to be OK that it might be awkward for a bit,” Sandstrom says. “But if you keep going, hopefully you’ll get to that stage where you’re having a real conversation.”
“Both extroverts and introverts are social beings. ”
“We tend to overestimate how different people are from one another and how different they are from us, in reality, you probably have lots in common, but you just don’t know what that is yet.”
We fear social rejection — that the person won’t respond positively or will ignore us, Research shows the opposite, however, that people nearly always are willing to engage in a conversation when prompted by someone else. (Our fear assumptions fail to take into account the social norms of politeness, Schroeder says.)
At the very least, you’re in the same place and experiencing the same weather. But don’t be afraid to dig deeper and find more interesting commonalities:
It shifts the focus to the other person and should make them feel good, Sandstrom explains.
When it comes to our anxieties about having conversations with people we don’t know, we tend to be in our heads a lot, overthinking what we’re doing wrong or what we could do wrong, she explains.
Focusing the attention on the other person in those moments can help us get past those awkward spots, she says.
People want to get the real you so they can express the real them.
“We want to be liked, or at least accepted by other people, In order to not break these norms, we sometimes act like we’re treading on eggshells.”
Start with a statement: “This painting really confuses me” or “I can’t believe how crowded the train is today.” Statements are invitations to share curiosities, Nightingall says.
And whether you’re asking a question, replying, or making a statement, be authentic, she adds. “People want to get the real you so they can express the real them.”
Even if it’s uncomfortable, be brave and just do it, Sandstrom says. The person is probably going to like you more than you think and you’re both probably going to enjoy it more than you think.
“When you have to talk with someone different from you, that can be the most enlightening and interesting experience.”
The more you have, the more likely that you’re going to have good conversations, Sandstrom says. You get better at asking better questions, and answering with more interesting responses. “There’s some skill, but its as much confidence that come from just doing it more often,” she says.
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