All kinds of strangers.
I know. Most of us were taught not to talk to strangers. OK, I’m not talking about the really creepy strangers – the ones that make you fear for your life (you know who they are) – let’s go ahead and continue to steer clear of those.
I’m talking about the old guy who lives in the apartment across the way.
Or the very chatty cashier we usually steer clear of and choose the other line.
Or the person sitting next to us on the airplane that doesn’t seem like someone we’d be interested in talking to, so we quickly pick up a magazine to send the message that we don’t want to chat.
Any of these sound familiar?
People we’re really not interested in talking to and have no interest in expending any energy engaging with. But I’m here to tell you that you should talk to them.
Why? One word – practice.
OK, two words – practice and networking.
It takes lots and lots of practice.
Just like the star athlete who wouldn’t dream of heading into the big game without practicing like crazy beforehand, you need to practice your conversation skills before you find yourself face to face with the man of your dreams, stammering and looking down at the floor because of the awkward silence.
The more you talk to people – any people – the better you’ll be at making conversation and the more comfortable you’ll be at striking up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Don’t be afraid of small talk – in fact, you should embrace it.
So next time you’re out at the farmer’s market, or the dog park, or on a plane flying to your cousin’s wedding across the country, go ahead and strike up a conversation with someone that you wouldn’t normally think of taking to.
It's easier than you think.
Not a natural conversationalist?
There are a few simple rules of thumb that can go a long way: Start off with a comment about something in the surroundings (I just love this dog park – it’s so spacious), followed up by an open-ended question (your dog is beautiful – what made you decide on that breed?). This will usually break the ice.
The next rule of thumb is to ask the person about themselves (without being too invasive) – people love to talk about themselves – what they do, what their hobbies are, etc. Sooner or later you’re bound to find out that you have something in common. On the rare occasion that you don’t find out you have anything in common – well, you just politely excuse yourself (looks like I better get Bootsy some water), and you move on, with a little more practice under your belt and certainly no harm done.
If you feel you need to brush up on your conversational skills, there are many good books out there on the subject – it will be time well spent to read one or two.
You're not just talking - you're Networking.
Now let’s talk networking - don’t be too quick to judge what might lead to love.
What if that old guy across the hall has a grandson who just happens to visit his granddad sometime and turns out to be just the kind of guy you’ve been looking for?
And what if that cashier happens to know of a special event she’s heard about that suits your interests and you go there and find just the guy you’ve been hoping to run into?
And what if that person sitting next to you on the airplane just happens to be picked up by her brother at baggage claim who is exactly the type of guy you’re been hoping to meet?
Sound unlikely? It’s not; in fact it’s just plain old statistics – the more interactions with other people you have, and the more diverse those interactions are, the more people you will meet. And the more people you meet, the greater your chances are of meeting that special someone.
Whether or not people who come across your path hold the secret to finding the guy who’s right for you, what they can most definitely do is give you the chance to practice having conversations with all different types of people – not just the ones in your comfort zone.
Do you follow me here?
You never know where it might lead.
One of the things I learned along the way is that you never know who knows who.
And the other thing I learned is that all that talking I did helped me to expand my comfort level with talking to all different types of people so that I was in my comfort zone whenever I was in a social situation. Regardless of what was in it for me.
Like the time I volunteered for a fundraising telethon at my favorite non-profit radio station. There I was with a whole lot of older women. And a couple of really old men. I talked to them all, and got to know them pretty well in that short time, well enough to get an invitation to join one of them for dinner with her daughter and her single son – who just happened to be around my age.
He didn’t turn out to be the one for me, but I did meet him and you never know what the same scenario might have been for someone else in my shoes. I’ve heard many stories of introductions just like those that turned out to be the real thing.
So when you’re having these terrific conversations with your newly found friends and doors start opening, make sure to keep an open mind - we'll talk more about that next!
Want to read more? This post is an excerpt from my book Find Your True Love: 10 Simple Steps to Getting the LOVE You Want...and Deserve. Get your free copy here.