By Jaret Horbatiuk

Are you the type of person who loves to meet new people at networking events, or do you blend into the background? Do you chat up the barista at Starbucks, or do you get lost in your phone instead?

I recently listened to “Why You Should Talk to Strangers” on the Art of Manliness Podcast. They interviewed Gillian Sandstrom, a professor of social psychology at the University of Essex, and it really got my attention.

If you’re the type of person who freely strikes up conversations on the fly, you’re the exception. Most people have a fear of talking to strangers. And it’s not shocking! We’re warned from a young age: “Don’t talk to strangers! Don’t talk to strangers!”

Danger aside, many people avoid talking to strangers because it feels uncomfortable. Humans have a strong need to belong, so we fear rejection – that the other person might be bored or uninterested by what we have to say.

The truth is this: most people are just as self-conscious about themselves, and will actually think more of you then themselves after the conversation is over. It’s important to remember that even a conversation that goes poorly isn’t the end of the world – and it’s better than no conversation at all.

On the flipside, a great conversation can be life-changing. All friends start off as strangers at some point, so you never know where a chat will lead. From a business standpoint, many great partnerships stem from a simple conversation. A quick chat with the person next to you might be the difference between success and failure.

Even if no further relationship grows from the interaction, odds are you’ll learn something interesting about the world, people in general or maybe even yourself.

So how can you get more comfortable talking to strangers? First off, be brave! Assume that people like you more than you think. Ask questions, compliment often and find common ground to help you bond.

Look at moments of shared silence as opportunities to converse. Opportunities to brighten someone’s day with a friendly conversation. Put down the phone, make eye contact and start talking to strangers. You won’t regret it!

Not sure where to start? Talk to me! Give me a call at (204) 942-6035 and we’ll be strangers no longer!

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