I’ve never been one to talk to strangers much. I’m an introvert. I like my quiet. I like being alone most of the time. I seem to get energy from recharging my batteries after doing things like reading a book or taking a walk and things like that.
But in recent years I’ve learned that sparking up conversations with strangers can be a good thing. Obviously you get to meet new people and learn about their lives a little bit. It kind of broadens your worldview and you can really learn a lot about the world outside of your own.
I find that it also helps with my business life. I’m comfortable talking on the phone with new people. I’m more likely to reach out to someone new that I haven’t met before.
I’ve thought a little about this change in my life and I think it comes from my daughter. She is still young, but she is very friendly and excited to meet new people. I drop her off at school in the morning and she’s saying hello to multiple people before we even walk in the door. Then we get inside and she’s saying hello to people and waving and they’re all smiling back.
She’s the same way wherever we go in the world. Stores, apple orchards, parks and more.
So I’m definitely learning from her that there are benefits to talking to strangers. Here are some of the things I’ve been working on a little.
Talk To Store Clerks
One of the easiest ways to talk to strangers is to talk to people at local businesses. Again, I’ve never been great about this. I go about my business and kind of keep to myself. But in recent years I’ve started smiling at folks in the stores. I’ve started to say hello to them. Maybe mention something from the day. Maybe ask them a quick question. You kind of learn the more you do it. The small talk gets better. The conversations are comfortable for each person involved.
I find that most people like to feel like others are interested in them. You don’t want to badger someone with questions, but asking a question or two is usually good and if the person seems interested then a followup can usually do the trick.
Just last week the FedEx delivery guy was dropping off a package. He noticed that it was from an outdoors brand and he asked a simple question. We found some common ground and pretty soon a few minutes had gone by and he let me know that he had to get back on the truck. But it was a nice conversation and a chance to learn a little about each other.
Leagues & Games
One of my favorite things is being part of a golf league each week during the summer here in Wisconsin. I enjoy golf, but it’s also a time for me to get out into the world a little. I’ve worked at home for a decade so I don’t have the office setting anymore as part of my social world. At golf I get to see a lot of the same people each week.
But there are also opportunities to meet new people. I might head to the bar before the round for a drink. That usually offers a chance to meet someone new and chat for a bit. Usually there is already a little common interest in golf. So conversations can build from the one piece of common interest.
Business Networking Events
These have never been my favorite. But I’m beginning to see the benefit more and more as I get older. These are opportunities to work on communication skills that are great for business. Again, I find that asking questions usually results in the best conversations. Just getting to know someone a little bit. Maybe finding common ground and expanding from there. When you find a topic of interest people are usually excited to dive into more details.
My daughter has brought many great things to my life. One of them is the understanding that it can be good to talk to strangers. It can be a learning opportunity. It can lead to great relationships. And it’s relationships that seem to be a key to a life well lived.