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Face the Fear
No one likes being rejected by another person. To approach a stranger is to risk being rejected. It is natural to feel nervous or fearful. The important thing is to face the fear. Imagine the worse case scenario. If you approach this person, what is the worst they can do to you? Maybe this person will be curt and cold. Perhaps he or she will not respond positively toward your approach. This is no big deal. It is likely that you will never see this person again. In your mind, you should just think that it is his or her loss and not yours. The person you approached lost the opportunity to meet someone really interesting and exciting: you. Will you get rejected if you make a habit of approaching strangers? Absolutely. Is that a reason to stop approaching strangers? Absolutely not. If you keep trying, then you will eventually meet someone who is interested in getting to know and a mutually beneficial relationship might begin. Just keep approaching people and ignore the rejections. You want to focus on building positive relationships.
Look for the Action
You can maximize your chances of making a connection by looking around for the most friendly people in your environment. Do not approach people who are alone and whose body language seems closed. These people are probably not going to be open to your approach. Look for the people who are talking and having a good time. Try to approach their circle of activity. These people are likely to be open to having a conversation with a stranger.
More important than what you say when you make your approach is how you say it. You want to project that you are a confident, caring person who is authentically interested in other people. Smiling and making eye contact is important to send this message. Avoiding eye contact is the best way to say that you do not want to be approached. Position your body in an open stance. This projects your availability to speak with others. This might not be natural at first, but as you practice, it can become second nature.
What to Say
There is a simple acronym to guide initial conversations with strangers: FORM. It stands for family, occupation, recreation and motivation. These are the kind of questions that you should ask a person you are meeting for the first time in order to break the ice. Everyone loves to talk about their family so this is a great place to start asking questions. People also love to talk about their jobs. You can ask a new person if he has any hobbies or what she does with her spare time. Finally, you can ask about motivation. Here you asking about what makes the person tick. You want to find out what his or her deepest dreams and desires are in life. You can also ask about mission. This means asking about what this person feels is his or her purpose in life. If you are in sales and you are networking, you can ask about money. This means that you can broach the topic of what your products, services or opportunity can offer the person you are talking with. By using this simple strategy, you can make a conversation with almost any stranger who is willing to talk.
In order to be authentic, you should listen to what the other person is saying. You want to listen for some way that you can help or add something of value to the other person’s life. This communicates to the other person that you really care about their needs and are willing to go the extra mile for them.
When you make a connection with a stranger that seems like it might lead to a deeper relationship, it is important to follow up. You want to make contact with this person soon after you have met him or her. Meeting with a person over coffee is a great way to continue the conversation. Continue listening for ways in which you can help this person. Eventually, this person will reciprocate and offer something of value to you as well. This is the way great relationships begin.
Obviously, all this takes practice. You will be nervous at first, but with time it will become second nature. One thing is certain, expanding your circle of relationships will only help in your professional and your personal life.
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