How to Talk to Strangers

Have you ever wanted to approach a stranger and kick up a conversation? Whether you're at a networking event, lost and need directions, or have your eye on a special someone - there will be a time when you'll want to talk to a stranger. How to pull it off without looking like a weirdo? Try Modern Manners Guy's tips.

Richie Frieman
Episode #255

Tip #3: Have a Great Opener

In business, we use the term “elevator pitch” to describe a quick 15-second sound bite that explains your idea, business, or product. It's also a way to quickly showcase who you are and what you’re about. A great pitch is key to any successful conversation and for most people, the length of the elevator pitch is how long it takes to make up their mind about whatever you're saying.

When talking to a stranger, this has to be something you've mastered. The opener is what you decide on using after you choose A) who you should talk to and B) when (or if) you should talk to them. The opener is a quick, rehearsed pitch and intended to attract. And I don't mean in a romantic way either. Talking to a stranger is not always about hooking up. You may need directions someplace or just want to converse with a like-minded person to kill time.

The key to a great opener is picking out something you feel this person is looking for or can relate to. For example, the guy at the train station was clearly just looking to get lucky. Had he stepped back and read the woman a bit better, he could have seen that she was frustrated and maybe wanted some commiseration. Something like, Ugh, nothing is more annoying than when the station doesn’t let us know what gate we’re at until 30 seconds before! Right?”  This is much more innocent and relatable than, “Sure is hot in here. Want to get a drink?”

Another situation when you may need to talk to strangers is if you need some assistance. In this case, go with flattery, “Excuse me, you look like you know your way around this place. Can you help me find XYZ?” If you just want to shoot the breeze and get through the time, try to find something neutral to start the conversation with, such as “I have to admit, I love summer but the heat this past week has been brutal. Am I right? I can’t wait for Fall to come.”Talking to strangers is something you're going to come across in life and you shouldn’t fear it. I don’t recommend chasing it, but you never know when thinking on your feet and meeting someone new may come in handy.Do you have a great story about how you kicked up a conversation with a stranger?  Post all the details in the comment section below.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

And if you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's available for pre-order now!


About the Author

Richie Frieman
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