Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life :: How to Talk to People You Don't Know

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Believe it or not, I was super shy when I was younger. I was teased a lot in middle school, so for the most part I kept to myself and didn't have too many friends. But through theatre in high school and retail jobs in college, I learned to open up to strangers and connect with people I didn't know. Now, I can talk to anyone -- a customer at work, a friend's friend at a party, the people in line behind me at the grocery store -- without batting an eyelash. Well, unless I'm single and flirting, in which case I would go back and also read this post on how to meet the man of your dreams! But back to the issue at hand... here are 5 tips for talking to people you don't know, whether it be at work or play.

ONE. Start with a compliment. Everyone likes hearing good things about themselves. This especially helps when talking to other women! Girls tend to think other girls are snobby, catty or clique-ish. If you approach someone and immediately tell her how cute she looks, it instantly puts out a good vibe and starts the conversation positively. Of course, you want to be genuine -- if you don't like her shoes, don't tell her that you do! But, maybe there's something else you like about her outfit, or maybe it's not her looks at all -- perhaps you heard about a recent accomplishment or achievement she's completed, and you can congratulate her on that. Maybe she was the one who brought cupcakes to the party, and you thought they were really good! Think outside the box, and just be nice. It's that simple. And it goes far!

TWO. Pay attention to your body language. Things like rolling your eyes and crossing your arms can make you look disinterested or even mean. Stand up straight, smile, and make eye contact! Actions speak louder than words, and most of the time communication is all about your demeanor. If you're having a business conversation, shake hands when you're first introduced, and then again at the end. If you're in a more casual setting like a family party or a kick-back with friends, it's totally acceptable to also shake hands, high-five or even hug (I'm a hugger!) depending on what the situation is. Humans are physical beings and touching is a huge way to connect.

THREE. Find something in common. Maybe you work at the same job or you both know the party hostess. No matter the setting, talking about why you're there and the current situation around you is an easy conversation piece. If that gets boring, bring up your favorite things -- the TV show you're currently addicted to, a movie you can't wait to see -- and ask questions. Treat each person you meet as someone who is already your friend. I truly believe we can all find something in common with everybody, even if it's something as small as enjoying the same pizza toppings. Once you've established a common interest, you now have something to follow up on the next time you see him or her, and it will making future conversations with that person much easier and more natural.

FOUR. Be yourself. We've all heard this before, and we all know that it's easier said than done. A lot of times, we feel pressured to be something we're not and to act a certain way. This is normal! You wouldn't say the same things at a job interview that you would say to your mom or your boyfriend, right? Each situation is different and may call for a different persona. I work 55 hours at a corporate job every week, but I also have this blog, my relationship with Brandon, my friendships and many other facets of life that involve a variety of people. I'm sure you have a similarly busy life where you have to be a bunch of different characters. Instead of being fake though, simply concentrate on the parts of you that are most important for that conversation. You're still being yourself, but perhaps you need to censor your language or leave out certain topics. That's totally okay and it doesn't change who you are. People can tell when you're not genuine, and that will keep you from making good connections.

FIVE. Keep in touch. In this day and age, it's easy to add someone on Facebook with a click of a mouse. However, if you want to make a lasting connection and to show how committed you are, get a phone number. This is especially helpful in a work setting. I no longer have a personal Facebook but when I did, I made the decision to not add co-workers or other business associates, no matter how close we became as friends. I learned this the hard way after updating my status with a not-so-nice comment about my boss a few years ago. Oops! For me, it was a lot simpler to keep work and play completely separate, rather than censoring my statuses. I eventually rid my life of it completely because I wanted to make 'real life' connections and I felt that Facebook was keeping me from that. Asking for a phone number shows that you're not totally reliant on the internet for communication and that you want a good foundation for your future relationship. It's professional, a lot more personal, and with today's technology-dependent society, you will stick out from the rest.

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