Approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation can easily be among the most difficult tasks to achieve. You don’t know the person. You don’t even know if he or she wants to talk to someone or not. And anyway, why would you approach any stranger and try to strike up a conversation with him or her, forget about good conversation?
It’s always great to know new people. As children we are constantly taught to stay away from strangers, but as adults accosting strangers and talking to them is not as much fraught with danger as it is when we are small. It can bring great opportunities to you. You can get a new business opportunity. You can get into a new relationship. You can get a new friend. If nothing else, it is always good to know more people rather than knowing few people.
This blog post on Happiness Project (it’s a bit old) lays down several things that you can do to have a good conversation with a total stranger. The summary, with my own additions, is presented below:
- Find some common topic: It can be anything. It can be about the place. It can be about the weather or the food. Make it natural. Since you are approaching that stranger, it’s a given that you are taking the initiative, so don’t feel awkward. Once you have approached that person, talk to him or her as if it was the most natural thing to do.
- Maintain a respectful distance: How would you feel if somebody suddenly comes up to you and barges into your personal space? I’m sure you will run from that place. So maintain a respectful distance. Don’t try to get too close and don’t try to touch the person. Keep your voice low, natural and polite.
- Ask questions that require a couple of lines: You can ask something like, “So what work do you do?”, or “How do you know the host?”
- Get the cue if the person is not interested: Remember that you’re not on a mission, and don’t take it personally if that person shows no interest in you. He or she might be waiting for someone else or preoccupied. So after a few attempts if you don’t elicit a positive response, retreat.