12 Mistakes You’re Making When Trying To Strike Up A Conversation With Someone New

When was the last time you spoke with a stranger? No, I'm not talking about on a dating app, or the last like you asked someone if they were in line at Starbucks. I'm talking conversations. With new humans. People love to wring their hands about how the rise of technology has limited our generation's ability to hold a conversation, or to even interact on a basic, human, face-to-face level — and many on some level they're right. Take a look down the street or in any restaurant, bar, waiting room of some kind, and the majority of folks will likely be on their phones. But just because many of us are not as practiced in the art of chatting as we used to be doesn't mean we're a lost cause. We've just got to practice conversating more often! A good place to start: Eliminating any possible mistakes you could be making when starting a conversation with someone new.

These things could be totally subtle, but they make all the difference when it comes to making a good impression on a new person. Considering several studies have shown that people who engage in conversations with strangers in normally unpleasant situations (like while waiting in line, for instance) significantly increase their happiness and patience for the task at hand. Of course, this doesn't mean you should approach randos and start talking whenever you leave the house — but when it comes to things like job interviews, first dates, or meeting friends of friends, having some quick tips on hand for striking up conversations with new people is a good idea. First things first, check out this list of common mistakes we tend to make when talking to new people.

Forgetting To Introduce Yourself

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Duh! Let them know who you are!

Limiting Your Eye Contact

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It seems so simple — why wouldn't you look at the person you're talking to, right? But eye contact is both tough to maintain when you're nervous, and noticeable when it's missing. It establishes a physical, present connection. Of course you you shouldn't intensely stare at people without blinking — just remember to look at them when you speak to them!

Not Smiling

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Charles Darwin was the first to establish the "science of smiling," which he posited as one of the few universal social behaviors. And sure, the frequency with which we smile may differ — but it's a gesture understood across oceans, borders, and generations.

Crossing Your Arms

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Crossed arms read as defensive right off the bat, according to PsychMechanics.com. When you're striking up a conversation with someone new, you want to appear open and ready to chat. You need to demonstrate that physically by appearing easy to approach.

Hunching Your Shoulders

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Now that your arms are at your sides, you gotta lower those shoulders, too. ChangingMinds.org notes that raised shoulders are a sign that you're prepped to fend off an attack, whether it be literal or figurative.

Lowering Your Chin

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Even if you're not the most confident in situations like talking with a stranger, you still want to signal confidence and put your convo partner at ease. Chin up, my dudes. Literally.

Not Asking Any Questions

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Ah, yes, questions. Ever go on a date and find yourself facing down a monologue about their Weekend Life As A Part-Time DJ and The Power of Music and How Rewarding It Is to Create Beats That People Can Really Move To and Wow, Look At The Time, It's Only Been An Hour? We all have. The easiest way to spark a conversation is to just ask a simple question.

Not Asking Open-Ended Questions

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When you ask questions that can, or even should, be answered with a simple "yes" or "no," it drives the conversation to a halt. Instead, aim for questions that ask for their interpretation or experience. "How did you feel about that? What was that like?"

Having Your Phone Out

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A good way to look like you're listening to the person you're speaking to for the first time ever? Put your phone away. People will be a lot less willing to open up if they feel they're being gifted a quarter of your attention span.

Not Appearing Attentive

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You need to offer some visual cues that you're listening to what the other person is saying — you're willing to continue the conversation because you're actually interested to hear what they have to say!

Not Leaning Forward

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According to The Global Listening Centre, leaning backward wordlessly signals that someone is uninterested and distancing themselves, literally, from the person they're speaking to.

Getting Overly Familiar Too Quickly

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You may be killing the body language game, but careful that you don't get carried away by your own success and start treating them like an old friend. Boundaries are still a thing.