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How To Talk To People
Part 1 – How To Talk To Strangers
So, you’ve been on this planet for how long? And you still feel disabled when it comes to talking to people you don’t know? You don’t know where to begin or where it’s going. You are not sure if you should. Or what to say. Worse, you don’t know how to respond. You don’t understand or feel misunderstood. Yes, it’s a real problem. People are funny. You are funny, because you are people too, to other people…
Interested in wilding a silver tongue? Or at least making it without the awkwardness and anxiety you usually feel. There’s very little in life you can get done if you can’t figure out how to talk to strangers. Let’s face it, everyone you know was once a stranger to you. Except for your mom, of course, but even this could be argued.
Let me start by saying, you are not alone. If I have a dime for every time someone tells me they don’t know what to say, I’d have a lot of dimes. Probably, more than I need. Some people, including myself, often say that they are better at writing than speaking. That’s understandable. You can be polite in an email while red in the face while writing it. You can text “OK” to someone, while thinking “Are you for real?”
Here are eight things you can do to become a great talker to strangers (and people you think you know, but then someday you realize you really don’t….)
How To Talk To Strangers
1) Talk to them nicely. Remember, they are human too. Just like you, they probably fear strangers, don’t know what to say, and prefer to stare at their phones. In stressful situations, we may be looking for a way to blow off some steam, but how’s that going to help? Think of what you would like to hear and how. Talk to a stranger the way you wish that strangers talk to you.
2) If they require your assistance, meet their needs politely. If you require their assistance, ask politely. Too much information is just as bad as not enough information. Ask or give the right amount if you want a smooth interaction. Remain focused on the task at hand. Calm and comfort those who need it by staying calm yourself and only responding within the limitations of your boundaries.
3) Disagree respectfully. Saying “with all due respect” is the same as flipping them the bird. Calling someone names, accusing them, or making ad hominem attacks only serves to aggravate a situation. Instead, try saying “I don’t see things this way,” “from my perspective,” and “in my experience.” Be honest. Avoid sarcasm and condescending remarks. Remember, only arrogant and insecure people put others down. Everyone else knows how to discuss productively. Keep the conversation in exploration or problem-solving mode.
4) Think of how much fun you can have with strangers. At a concert, at a festival, or at a sporting event, strangers bond over their affinity for the same music, the team, or the experience. You likely have more things in common than differences. To find out, volunteer something about yourself, ask questions, and listen well.
5) Remember, people tell stories to entertain, explain, and connect. Engage with the stories they tell. Don’t rush them. Don’t judge them. Don’t shush them. You may learn something helpful or have a good laugh. At the same time, don’t try to “one up” them either, even if you think you are really that much brighter, accomplished, or better. On the other hand, if you are trying to get accepted, one-upping someone could be the wrong strategy. Instead, you will come across as most annoying.
6) Avoid talking about your problems, especially if you have a lot of them. Instead, try to parse your problem allotment among your friends, therapist, co-workers, and significant others. No one wants all of it, all at once. Definitely not someone you just met. Having a bad day is no reason to ruin someone else’s.
7) Don’t interrupt. You know what “they” say. If you talk, you can’t listen. So if you can’t hear, how do you know what to say?
8) Put your phone away. Pay attention to the person in front of you. Unless, of course, you want to show them pictures of your dog. Contrary to your opinion, you absolutely cannot have two conversations at the same time. You will likely screw up both.
Strangers are less scary once you interact with them. They are just people going about their business, talking to themselves in their heads, and trying to keep it together. And yet, an interaction with a stranger can make your day or ruin it. You may have more control over the outcome than you suspect. The above list of things should help you in the future.
Next, I will tell you How To Talk To Difficult People. It’s coming up in a few days. Meanwhile, subscribe to this blog if you have not yet. Share because sharing is carrying. Comment below with your bright ideas!