Yes, talk to strangers!

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(That’s me in the front with some new friends I met around the Fourth of July)

Yesterday my husband and I went on a bus tour of a few of our local craft breweries. It was the brain child of the bartender at a restaurant where go for happy hour occasionally on Fridays. It is really interesting because you get a hodge podge of people together confined on a bus for a while, throw in some beer courage, and everyone starts to talk to each other. Not only have we met some great people, we have learned so much from our new “friends”.
I attend painting classes on my own and always strike up a conversation with those around me. I frequented one location so much that I got to know the owner of the studio as well. When a painting I really wanted to do was almost sold out, she made a point of saving me a spot so I could attend. While the main point for me of talking to others is to be social and meet new people, sometimes I am lucky enough to receive some perks as well!
I have said it before, but I think the ability to start a conversation with anyone is a valuable skill. And once you have this skill, I am convinced you send off a vibe that gets people talking to YOU. Not so good at striking up a conversation with a stranger? Maybe even the word “petrified” comes to mind? Here are eleven suggestions provided by Matt Ramos (“11 Ways to Turn Strangers into Friends”, http://www.tinybuddha.com):
1. Say the magic word: “Hi.”
It sounds so obvious, but it’s the first big barrier. You have to be willing to put yourself out there to start a conversation.
I noticed that people are welcoming after you break the ice. It’s not something that everyone wants to do because it takes some courage to go up to someone you’ve never met before and start a conversation. However, more people are welcoming than we generally expect. When you encounter someone who isn’t, remember that someone else will be.
2. Detach yourself from the outcome.
When you don’t expect any outcome, you won’t be disappointed or offended if someone doesn’t respond to you.
There’s a difference between perceived outcome and what actually happens. How many times have you worried about a worst- case situation only to find out that it turned out much better than you anticipated?
If I don’t expect any outcome from whatever I’m doing, then I can be in the present moment and adjust accordingly.
3. Tolerate rejection.
If they reject you, it isn’t about you. It’s about where they are at mentally, so don’t take it personally. If they passed up on the opportunity to connect with you, then they missed out on something great.
4. Don’t mind what strangers think.
This is your life, and you have the right to talk to whomever you want to talk to. Not everyone is that open. Allow them to be how they and think how they do, without letting it challenge your courage.
5. If you feel the fear, do it anyway.
One of the best ways to combat the fear is to do it repeatedly. Push through the fear and it will start to feel more natural.
The fear may never fully subside, but if you continue to battle through it, the momentum you create will be more powerful than the remaining fear. For example, when I feel terrified of approaching someone, I think back to a calming moment or a moment that made me laugh. Then, the fear didn’t feel so daunting anymore.
6. Practice.
Don’t worry if you seem a little awkward or aggressive at first. If your intentions are authentic, you will come across that way more and more each time you try.
It’s just like any other skill where it gets easier with practice. A few of my first conversations with strangers felt scary and awkward, but they didn’t do any harm. It made me learn what I needed to work on.
7. Make it about them.
Talk about their interests, opinions, and ideas. Then respond to what they share.
The best way to keep someone interested in a conversation is to show an interest in their life. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Even if you don’t know a lot about a particular subject, keep asking questions to understand them.
8. Make them laugh.
Laughter makes the conversation fun and joyful. People enjoy talking with others who make them laugh. So get out of your head and don’t take anything too seriously—just have fun with it!
9. Try to discover their core passion.
If you see their eyes light up when they talk about something, ask more questions about that.
If you find a keyword that helps you figure out their interest, try to talk about that. For example, if I asked “How’s the weather?” They say, “It’s nice that it’s foggy since. It’s better to run in it.” Then you can go ahead and talk about running.
10. Go out and smile!
Smiling gives a good first impression. Practice in the mirror. Then smile to the world.
I noticed that people relaxed themselves when I smiled first. When I continued smiling throughout the conversation, they smiled back and really opened themselves up to deeper conversation.

11. Imagine that the other person is already your friend.
This way you’ll treat them that way instead of seeming awkward—and being comfortable around someone is the best way to start a new friendship.
Take a chance today and talk to someone new. When you’re friendly to someone, they’ll most often be friendly back.”

So the next time you are invited to a party where you only know the host, or want to join a club, or do anything on your own, try these wonderful tips. Who knows, you may make a new friend, or meet a soul mate. But you won’t know until you try!

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