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How to start a conversation with a perfect stranger

Conversing with a stranger

Wondering how to start a conversation with a perfect stranger standing just a few steps away from you? You might be attending a wedding reception or a business conception or sitting at the airport wondering how to spend the next two hours now that the flight is delayed. Or may be you have just joined a new school or college, or office and want to make some new friends. Whatever is the reason, your ability to start conversations with perfect strangers can win you many a friendship at oddest of places.

First of all, you should have a valid reason for initiating a conversation.

  • Do you really like that person and would like to make an acquaintance with her or him?
  • Are you looking for someone to kill your time with for a while?
  • Do you see a business opportunity?
  • Are you and that person here for a common objective?

Whatever is the reason, it should be a valid reason and you should be able to express it within the first few sentences. Once you know the reason, you can go ahead and

Start a conversation with that stranger

  • Don’t be scared or overly conscious. Now that you have decide to approach a stranger and start a conversation with him or her, get rid of your fears and apprehensions [read how to face rejection http://www.howtoplaza.com/how-to-face-rejection]. As long as you’re not an asshole (you’re not, right?) the earth is not going to shatter and the skies are not going to fall.
  • Empathize with the person you’re approaching. Put yourself in her or his place — how would you feel if you are standing or sitting there minding your own business and all of a sudden someone approaches you. The way the world is these days, the person who is approaching may be has some nasty plan, he or she may be a swindler, a psychopath, a sex maniac, a serial killer, or worse, an Amway or a Tupperware agent. You are invading some one’s space, breaking a chain of thoughts and making him or her uncomfortable. So before you approach somebody, be mindful of all these factors.
  • Observe the person carefully before approaching. Well, it doesn’t mean keep staring at him or her and make him or her nervous. Without making it too obvious observe the person’s body language, the way he or she is looking around, his or her age, the things he or she is carrying, the sort of people he or she has been talking to and his or her general comfort level at that place.
  • Be natural and sincere. It’s alright to start with, “Since we’re both standing alone, is it alright if I can stand here with you and chat for a while?” or “Wasn’t that funny?” or “I think it was very nasty of him.” Most people won’t have a problem with this. Then you can extend your hand and say, “Hello, my name is … and I’m here for…”. Knowing your name and knowing the reason for you being there will immediately relax that person.
  • Ask questions without getting personal. Don’t be me-centric when you are engaging in a meaningful conversation. Everybody is interested in telling instead of listening, so ask questions that stranger might like giving replies to. You can ask where he or she got that cool looking carry bag, or what features that awesome-looking smart phone carries, or what he or she thinks about the arrangements at the venue, or that interesting looking accessory. You can also talk about the weather or the climate. In fact you can ask whatever you feel like, just make sure the context is appropriate: during wedding celebrations, for instance, perhaps it’s not apt to ask “So what do you think about Mao Tse Tung?”
  • Have an exit policy. Not everybody is amiable. The stranger who looks like an angel might in fact be the Devil incarnate who blows fire the moment you approach him or her. No matter how civil and genuine you are, there is nothing you can do if the stranger you are trying a strike a conversation with shows a hostile reaction. Remember that it is not a direct attack on you as a person. If you are friendly, it doesn’t mean everybody around you is. Just retract with dignity and without feeling awkward. You were doing nothing wrong so why feel ashamed?

Got some more tips on how to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger? Please share them in the comments section.