When’s the last time you struck up a conversation with a complete stranger? Yesterday? Last week? Never? If it’s been a while since you’ve connected with a new person, you could be missing out. Humans are social beings by nature, which means we crave connections with others. What’s more, making new connections and meeting new people can be vital to professional success.
Why We Stopped Talking to Strangers
Let’s face it, one of the main reasons we’ve stopped talking to each other is we live in a world that’s sometimes unsafe. Stranger danger and the fear of being targeted for a crime can cause us to shut others out. And those fears aren’t completely unfounded; over the past few years, violent crime has been on the rise.
Another reason why we’re not talking to each other is that it can be uncomfortable and scary to strike up conversations with people we don’t know. Not knowing what to say and fear of rejection keeps most of us quiet around strangers. Most of the time, we’re just letting our fears get the best of us. Studies have shown we regularly underestimate a stranger’s interest in connecting with us.
Why You Should Connect with Strangers
Your momma might have taught you not to talk to strangers as a child, but she also should have taught you that connecting with them could be the key to your success as an adult. Not only is connecting a positive experience but there are many benefits, such as:
- Allowing you to learn new things.
- Connecting you with potential clients and leads.
- Giving you insight into how others work.
- Opening your mind to different cultures and ways of doing things.
- Introducing you to mentors or others who can further your career or other interests.
- Relieving stress and giving you someone with whom you can bounce ideas around.
All in all, connecting with strangers is a positive thing that can make you feel more connected to people, your community and the world in general. It can also mean the difference between struggling and finding success in your professional life.
How to Get Comfortable and Be Safe Talking to Strangers
Every chance you have to speak with a stranger presents you with an opportunity. However, it’s difficult to seize that opportunity if you’re frozen with fear. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ease into a conversation, and they’re not terrifying.
- Smile! If you’re lucky, the other person will start speaking to you first. If not, smiles can help us feel more confident.
- Introduce yourself. It’s sometimes as simple as that.
- Ask them a question about themselves, such as what do they do for a living or where are they from.
- Offer a humorous or entertaining observation about your shared experience, such as waiting for the bus, getting caught in the rain or having too much to carry.
As always, keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Don’t give away personal details that might allow someone to track you down. For example, instead of giving the name of the company where you work, tell them what type of work you do. Always converse with people in public spaces, where help is readily available should trouble arise.
Connecting with others is an opportunity to learn, and to better yourself or even to promote your products or services. Don’t let opportunities pass you by because you’re afraid to strike up conversations with strangers. The key to your professional success may very well be sitting next to you on a plane, but you won’t know it unless you learn the lost art of talking to strangers.