When I was little, I was the shyest person on the planet. No joke. As in, "If you're not in my immediately family, I will not talk to you and will use my very best avoidance tactics to not interact with you." My kindergarten teacher had to social engineer a friendship for me (Her solution, by the way, was to pair me - the quietest kid in class - with a girl who was the most talkative kid in class. It totally worked. We were bffs throughout all of elementary school, complete with duo-nicknames that others gave us).
While I no longer dodge and weave every social scene, it still seemed that moving here (to a city where I knew about 3 people) would potentially be disastrous. Worst Case: I don't know how to talk to anybody! I become a hermit and embrace my solitude!
Well, as it turns out, I'm kinda chatty. Maybe that's what happens when you don't know anyone -- you'll talk to EVERYONE.
So here are four things I've learned about talking to random people when you're out by yourself:
- Talk to strangers like you already know them: Skip over the whole uncertainty of being unfamiliar! Just start up conversations as if you already know each other. Introductions will work their way in somehow, anyways.
- Assume people are going to be really rad: Sure, not every stranger you talk to is gonna be awesome and someone you'd talk to again. But it doesn't hurt to enter interactions with the assumption that the person is gonna be pretty cool. A lot of times, you end up having had an interesting conversation. And the times you don't? Read on...
- You don't have to keep talking to that stranger: Did you end up in a conversation with someone you really don't want to talk to? No biggie, just stop talking to them! Don't worry about appearing rude. Besides, all conversations end eventually. Phase yourself out of the convo and if they don't get the hint, just start doing something else (i.e., ignore them completely). Have I done this? The answer is yes. YOLO.
- Ask questions: I think I'm terrible at small talk, but I'm pretty good at asking questions (maybe it's because I'm used to asking my students lots of questions to explain their thinking, hahahah) & I definitely appreciate others' gifts of storytelling. And I've found that if you ask questions, people are pretty open to answering them. Everyone has a story, if you'll listen.
(That all being said, I still have a fear that the new people I talk to will potentially murder me. No one seems like the crazy murderous type, but this fear remains. Probably for the best. hahaha.)