This scene might feel familiar: You tuck your hair behind your ears, look down, clear your throat, play with the straw in your drink, and look away. Praying that the ground can open up and swallow you. Becoming more comfortable meeting strangers can be a hard thing, even if your personality isn't naturally shy or quiet. Even those of us that are all about busting out the sparklers and meeting new friends can have a moment where we enter the room and think "Escape exit?" Putting yourself out there and hoping people will like you is some tough stuff, but there are certain tips to keep in mind that could make the whole process easier.
When you think of your favorite pals, you know that you can be charming and interesting and really enjoy your time spent mingling with people. So how do you take that version of yourself, and apply them to the you that's currently awkwardly hovering against the wall? It's all about having your strategies ready at hand, and I'm going to hand them over to you. Below are 11 ways to become more comfortable meeting strangers — get ready to wow people's socks off.
1. Approach The Person While Wishing Them Happiness
Does this sound a little cheesy? Well hang tight, because it works. To shake away your nervous energy, focus your thoughts away from your fears and shift them towards wishing the person you're about to chat with all the best. Leadership coach Chris Charyk from career-development site The Muse explained the process, "Step 1: Think of the individual(s) with whom you will be interacting. Step 2: Silently express a desire for that person/persons to be happy." By thinking about their well-being, not only will you automatically feel more connected but you'll also make the interaction about them rather than about you (and your nerves.)
2. Take Control Of The Conversation
This might seem like a tall order if you're shy to begin with, but think about it: If you drive the conversation, you get to make sure you chat about things you're passionate about. And passion always makes a person interesting and infectious. Lifestyle writer Alex Shalman from Lifehack explained, "A properly placed question can showcase your intelligence, interest in the person, as well as direct the conversation towards your intended outcome." And if the other person takes the reins? Just throw out some more well placed questions that lead you to a topic you're interested in.
3. Make Your Questions Engaging
People might remember those that were entertaining and funny, but they remember those that made them feel entertaining and funny even more. If you come into a situation with the intention of really enjoying someone's company and getting to know more about them, the pressure moves off of you and to them (but in a good way.) So how do you show them you're gripped with what they're saying? Ask questions! Career writer Travis Bradberry from entrepreneur site Inc. told Forbes, "You’ll be surprised by how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking good questions. In addition to verifying what you’ve heard, you should ask questions that seek more information. Examples of probing questions are 'What happened next?' and 'Why did he say that?'" It's simple, but goes a long way.
4. Ask To Hear More
You have no idea how flattering the phrase "tell me more about" is. Use it, and use it well. Confidence Coach Steve Errey from The Muse explained how to wield the magic, "Tell me more about how that works. Tell me more about your thinking there. You mentioned [insert project/challenge/idea]—tell me more about how you’re approaching that." The phrase shows you're not just into small talk and are actually curious about them as a person. How can your buddy not be charmed by you?
5. Don't Expect An Outcome
The person you're about to chat with might love you, they might smile awkwardly through the whole thing, or might be a nice source of company for 10 minutes. Who knows. The important thing is to not expect anything when you approach them. Why? Lifestyle writer Matt Ramos from self development site Tiny Buddha explained, "When you don’t expect any outcome, you won’t be disappointed or offended if someone doesn’t respond to you." It won't be a big deal — if they're not jiving, you smile and move on.
6. Remember: Nerves Disappear With Practice
Even with all of these tips you still might feel super weird going in and talking with strangers. That's fine, lean into that gross feeling. Ramos explained, "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." Think about it: After doing this 10 times it'll feel a lot easier. Let yourself get there.
7. Amp Up Your Reactions
You know when there's that easy-going, quick-to-laugh, enthralled-by-your-stories type of person at a party? And you know how you can't but help hover around them like they're a box of cupcakes, because they make you feel so good? Be that person. The way to achieve that is by simply amping up your reactions. Bradberry suggested, "Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning toward the speaker are all forms of positive body language employed by great listeners." Basically, act excited to be there, even if you fake it a little. People will flock.
8. Test Group Your Stories
If telling anecdotes or sharing stories about yourself seems nerve-racking, reassure yourself about your story-telling capabilities by taking some of the guess work out of it. Wolf explained, "Practice. Tell your stories in conversation with your friends or family — people you already feel comfortable talking to. See how they react." If you get laughs and enthusiastic questions, you'll know to keep that one in you back pocket for later.
9. Pretend They're Already Your Pal
You wouldn't think twice being your natural amazing self with your friends, so just pretend the person you're talking to is already your pal. Ramos clarified why this works, "This way you’ll treat them that way instead of seeming awkward." Already acting like you're friends takes away that stuffy get-to-know-you feeling and makes everyone more relaxed.
10. Ask What's The Best Part Of Something
While in a conversation, asking what's the best part of whatever topic is at hand makes you two move right into the good stuff. You're now rehashing highlights, fond memories, and passions, so your conversation will only be the stuff of confetti canons. It's sure-fire. Errey gave an example of how to phrase it, saying, "What’s the best part of your role? What’s your favorite part of what you do? What lights you up in your business?" No matter the topic, you can always ask what was their favorite bit.
11. Don't Be Scared To Be Random
I'm not saying to stand on your head or suggest a drive out to the ocean, but don't be scared to get random when you meet strangers. It can open up a lot of interesting topics. For example, Errey showed what would happen if you simply asked the question, "What's your favorite cheese?" He explained, "A question like this might result in a story about a beautiful meal in Europe, it might turn into a debate about what the king of cheese is, or it might get into a conversation about a local farmers market." And if the person gives you a one-word answer, you direct the convo into something more like the above.
In the end, it's okay to be nervous meeting strangers. But if you keep these tips at the tips of your fingers, the whole process will be easier and — more importantly — fun!
Images: @abeautifulmess/ Instagram