“Right now, someone you haven’t met is out there wondering what it would be like to meet someone like you.”
I’m currently living in my fourth different country in the last seven years, having been given the opportunity to move with my job. It’s been a wonderful experience, teaching me a multitude of lessons. One of my biggest learnings has been how to set up a social network when I’ve not known anyone in the area.
Interacting with people you meet for the first time can be challenging. There has been many an occasion where I have found myself in a room full of people I don’t know, trying to work up the courage to start a conversation with a complete stranger.
Research shows that people really are happier when they talk to strangers, even when they predict they’ll hate it, but many people don’t find it easy. I know I found it a challenge when I first found myself in this situation. Sometimes I still find it difficult even now after all this practice.
When you find yourself having to speak to people you haven’t met before you can experience feeling shy and unsure how to break the ice or maybe you feel lost for words and wondering what to say.
These are the tips I discovered for how to interact with people easily and effectively:
This sounds very simplistic but if you get used to smiling at everyone you come into contact with, it makes you appear so much more welcoming and open to engage in conversation. If you smile at the people you meet, it is much more likely that they will start chatting to you.
2. Make eye contact
If you feel shy around new people, you may find yourself avoiding eye contact. It can feel too intense and a bit intimidating. Looking someone in the eyes makes you appear more friendly, and confident. It helps you understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. It also ensures you are putting your focus on the other person, which means you come across as more engaging.
3. Display positive body language
Notice your body language. Do you appear welcoming? Do you look like you are open to being approached and for people to start a conversation or are you closed off to interactions with others? The more positive and open body language you display the more you will attract others to initiate a conversation with you.
4. Make observations
In order to make the first move when interacting with new people, try making an observation about the situation you are currently in. You can comment on whether it is busy or quiet, the weather, the music, the beauty of the place you are located, literally anything you can think of that will break the ice. This can be a really good conversation starter.
5. Ask great questions
Most people love to talk about themselves. Have a list of great questions up your sleeve that you can ask, to find out more about them and to get a conversation started. Make it all about them. Ask open-ended questions to find out as much as you can about the other person, encouraging them to talk at length as opposed to being limited by a shorter answer.
6. Listen intently
We often listen with intention rather than actively listening. We might listen with the intention to ask the next question or to give our view on what is being said. Try listening with such deep interest that you have no other motive than to purely just hear what the other person is saying. Let them carry on speaking until they have completely finished what is on their mind. Great listening skills take some practice to master, but once you are a great listener it will make you much better equipped to interact with others, as people love feeling listened to.
7. Embrace rejection
The feeling of being rejected is one of the worst feelings we can experience. If we feel that our presence is not wanted or we are not welcome, it can cause us to feel hurt. When the rejection is from a stranger that we have only just met, there are a couple of ways to deal with it. The first is to conclude that it isn’t personal. Most people are happy meeting new people, but some aren’t, we can’t change that, we can just accept it. The second is to learn from it. Not every interaction we have with a new person will go well. Don’t sweat it if it doesn’t, just identify what went wrong and keep practicing.
What suggestions do you have for how to interact with people you are meeting for the first time?