This sounds easy to some and not so much to others. Have you ever noticed in some groups you have people who don’t shut up and others who barely talk? You would think the quiet ones are full of social anxiety, but in reality they both are anxious about the social setting.
The person who can’t shut up is in fear that if they were to stop talking they wouldn’t know what to do, they haven’t figured out their own listening skills to ensure others can contribute to the conversation equally. On the other hand the quiet person has the opposite problem; they aren’t very sure of how to add to the conversation so they sit back quietly and listen. We want to be somewhere in between. With this said, our first exercise is simply to talk to people. I don’t care who, just get out there and talk to them, introduce yourself, say “Hi” and let the world know who you are. It’s really simple once you get the hang of it, but you have to actually put yourself out there and get the conversation started so people can talk back with you.
Unsure where to start? Let me get you started. Let’s say you need to go to the bank today, no doubt you are going to have to see a bank teller who is going to ask you about your account and what your business is, that’s all fine and good, you’ve done that a thousand times, but how about an actual conversation with the bank teller, especially if she’s a woman.
One nice thing I have experience when visiting a bank is most of the times the tellers get to make their station a bit personal. They put up pictures of kids, spouses, pets, or other little things, they have their name placard out in front of the teller station which means you already know their name.
Because of all these personal items around the teller, it should be easy to strike up a conversation. If you see the teller has a picture of her dog at a dog park and you happen to own or like dogs yourself, ask about her dog. Most dog owner will gush over their pet as if it was a child who saved them from a burning building, so this should be a simple conversation to start up.
No matter what the topic of conversation becomes, keep good eye contact, ask open ended questions, that means questions that can’t be answered with yes or no, and smile. Listen carefully to what she says to you and respond appropriately. Because this is such a safe setting you are expected to be fairly successful right away talking to your bank teller.
The same approach can be taken with other clerks at many places you visit every single day. Grocery clerks, hair stylists, especially while getting that necessary new hair style, people who are in lines with you, and maybe even people riding in the elevator with you at work.
The idea itself is really very simple, start a conversation. It can start with the usual mundane work and business stuff, but try and find a way to make it somewhat personal. Introduce yourself, especially if it’s someone at work who you have never introduced yourself to, and make some type of conversation.
Ask questions, I know not everyone is going to have their pictures and name out for you to see as easy as our friendly bank teller, but you need to find a way to make it personal? If you like a person’s hair style say so and ask where they get it done. If you see a woman who appears to have just had her nails done ask about her nails, or if you see a man wearing a nice watch ask what style it is and where he bought it.
It doesn’t really matter too much what you are noticing and asking, just keep the questions open ended. However, don’t end the conversation with a question and them giving you one answer and that’s it. What comes next a long pause of awkward silence where the person you were talking to might think you are a bit strange for asking only one question. You can keep the conversation going by asking if they saw a particular show the night before or caught a sporting event.
The point is it’s up to you to get over the anxiety of talking to strangers in public about personal items or issues. Once you get past some of the trivial conversation, the small objects, shows on TV or sports, all of this is called small talk, it’s time to tackle something a bit larger.
Hopefully as you are going through the exercise of talking to strangers in public, even though you might have slipped along the way and asked a woman when she was due to have her baby even though she wasn’t pregnant, you are learning to get comfortable with people and maybe developed a friend or two along the way.
Now it’s time to try and dig into some deeper issues, next time you see some of your new acquaintances it’s time to ask them about their views on different topics. Start with something simple such as do they see themselves having children and when, do they feel there is someone out there for everyone, maybe a political or religious discussion, the point is very simple. Get used to talking to people.
You may be asking yourself, why did this guy have me talking to strangers? I only really want to talk to one stranger and that is the nice young woman from the party, so what is the point in all of this? Just like the character played by Ralph Macchio in the first Karate Kid, you must learn before you can act. Just as he had to learn and repeat each karate move many times, you need to practice talking to strangers in public, and not just about business.
By talking to people who you run into daily we are using a somewhat comfortable environment to have you perform a task that might be not as comfortable. You aren’t comfortable and confident enough to talk to a beautiful woman at a party, which is both an uncomfortable environment and action, so to help this we kept you in your comfort zone so far, now it’s time to break out a bit.
Are you ready to go to another party and talk to the lovely lady yet? Not hardly. You need to complete the next part of the confidence building first. Everything I am telling you is building on what came before. The next thing you need to do is approach a woman or group of women in public and start the conversation as soon as you get to the group.