If a smile is returned, you know that they are, at the very least, open to a conversation. Simply say, “Hey, how are you today?”
Ask them their name and introduce yourself. Remember to practice either breaking or neutral vocal rapport, as we learned in the, “Be Your Ideal Self” video.
I find it best to firmly shake their hand and say, “It’s a pleasure.” This is something that not many people say; and if you become comfortable with it, it will make you stand out in their memory.
After you’ve introduced yourself and shaken their hand, you will ask, “Where are you from?” or “What’s your story?”
The key here is to open a wide range of potential topics. You never want to ask a “yes or no” question when having a conversation, as this provides nowhere for the conversation to go.
From here on out, ask open ended questions about their answers and let the conversation flow. Follow your curiosity.
One of the biggest keys to having a good, rapport building conversation, is to listen intently when the other person is speaking. People will think you a great conversationalist if you simply have the ability to listen. I’ve found that some of my greatest conversations are those in which I only speak ~10% of the time.
What I like to do is make a game with myself when I’m talking to new people. Focus on learning something new from that person, or exploring an idea together. In my experience, there is some unique idea or perspective to be found in everyone, even the most droll people.
Dealing with Social Anxiety
One of the hardest parts of talking to strangers, and even the thought of it, is overcoming anxiety. I remember back when I would viscerally shake when I walked up to talk to somebody. My legs were jelly and my stomach rapidly switched between being on fire and then becoming an Earthquake.
When I first began my job as a greeter at a local car dealership; I would recite my entire spiel in my head, and if the guest had any questions, it would throw me entirely off balance. I spent months researching methods to overcome my massive social anxiety and simply be present. Here are the methods that have worked best for me:
This TEDtalk, by Amy Cuddy, changed my life.
In it, she teaches us that you really can project it until you perfect it, on a biochemical level. We learn that holding a power posture for even thirty seconds induces a testosterone release into your blood stream, increasing your confidence, assertiveness, and reducing cortisol (the stress hormone). Watch the video to see the specific exercises you can do; they can be summed into the mantra of taking up space. If your balls are crushed, you’re doing it wrong.
I’ve found that the intention I have behind talking to someone massively affects the way that a conversation turns out.
If you talk to someone with the intent of getting something out of them, you begin to worry about messing it up and not achieving that outcome.
In order to combat this rapport-destroying mindset, simply be more interested in knowing them, than worrying about the way the conversation will turn out.
Attaining an abundance mindset is absolutely key, gentlemen. It’s funny that the world works this way; but the less you care about your life, the better it turns out. Be relaxed, and enjoy the process.
This exercise is a, “re-framing” of the situation. You take the way that you look at a situation, and twist it around into something that enhances your performance.
“Whether you think you can, or can’t; you’re right” – Henry Ford
This, “re-framing” exercise fits very well into enhancing your self-talk.
A great friend of mine shared an idea that has always stayed with me, “If you’re interestED; you’re interestING.” Conversely, “If you’re borED, you’re borING.”
Know that you are interested and interesting.
If you’re not, change it. Read articles and books about interesting things. Watch TEDtalks and documentaries. Develop a hobby you have a passion for.
People love passion. Whether your passion is being a super badass rock climber, or playing Magic the Gathering; if you have passion for something, and you can teach someone else about it, you’ll enthrall them with your positive energy.
Along with the power postures from earlier comes breathing exercises. Breathing deeply re-oxygenates your body, rejuvenating you and calming you down.
Timing is everything.
You will find an excuse in less than a second if you don’t move your body. If you see someone that interests you, whether it be a cute girl or a potential mentor, MOVE.
Once you’re walking towards them, you have created leverage against yourself. You’ve now made a decision that you would have to go back on; and you’re literally walking towards that person. At this point, it takes more energy to stop than to follow through.
Don’t worry about whether or not it’s weird. Be empathetic for a second, would you be weirded out if someone was walking up to you, or excited that you’re noticed?
This leverage forces you to act, rather than hesitate; and you can engineer this process into any social situation.
After you’ve prepared yourself using these exercises, the next step is to go out and DO IT. I’ve given you all the tools you need to become a master conversationalist, now you must take up the mantle and develop your own skills.
Go conquer, my friends.