Friend Forward Staff
How to Talk to Strangers: 4 Tips with Ashley Kirsner of "Skip the Small Talk"
Updated: May 3
Making new connections can be tough. And quick moments of interaction with strangers aren’t the greatest opportunities to make friends.
But let's be real; friendships are the essence of a rich and fulfilling life. So how do we get more intentional and step out of our own way?
How To Talk To Strangers
We chatted with Ashley Kirsner, Founder of Skip the Small Talk, about constructing intentional spaces for people to come together, explore their comfort zones, and potentially develop relationships.
We all start as outsiders seeking community, but with an encouraging pep talk, some self-compassion, and a flexible mindset, strangers can become acquainted. Ashley believes in the efficacy of high-quality person-to-person interaction for improving psychological health.
So, you go out, do activities you enjoy, and are still having a hard time finding your tribe.
You may start to wonder, "Where are all the cool girls at? Is it me? Am I trying too hard? Maybe not hard enough?"
Bridging the gap between friendly "Hellos" to "Hey, I think you’re really cool and that we could be great friends" is tough, especially with the ability to revert into the pocket-sized, digital abyss just a finger-tap away.
Here are some pointers on how to talk to strangers and overcome conversations that may feel anxiety-inducing. Let's get you one step closer to enjoying the long-lasting friendships that are waiting on the other side!
Tip #1: Focus on learning when talking to strangers.
You know what they say: practice makes perfect. And in this case, the practice extends to the work that you do before you enter the room. Set the tone from the beginning – look in the mirror (or not) and give yourself a real pep talk. Lean into the mental prep work before going out so that the experience doesn't feel like a daunting task to check off of your to-do list.
Start by telling yourself: "I am excited to see what I learn about myself and others."
This helps you to stop seeing conversation as a performance. Talking to strangers is about the possibility of not "getting it right." Once you embrace that, reframe, it may decrease your anxiety.
Initiate conversations to learn more about yourself and others.
Tip #2: Remind yourself that others are just like you.
Give yourself some grace and shower in self-compassion. You know from experience that no interaction will go perfectly smoothly, and that's okay. You may be a little awkward, but 9 times out of 10, so will the person you're talking to.
We can all be a little uneasy when it comes to learning how to talk to strangers. So you're in good company! Try not to believe the lie that the art of conversation is something that everyone but you has seemed to master. (If you want tangible scripts for how to open and close conversations with charisma and confidence, CLICK HERE. We got you!)
Stop running from feelings that are actually normal. During a conversation with a stranger, you're allowed to feel bored, excited, annoyed, or nervous, and you don't need to attack or resolve those feelings right away.
Tip #3: Prioritize connection over friendship.
Sometimes we can get in our own way, confining ourselves into a mindset of what friendship should look like or how it should develop.
When meeting new people, allow the conversation to unfold naturally, revealing itself to you. Focus on the process and your actions of engagement more than others. Focusing on yourself gives you, in social-psychological terms, an internal locus of control that can act as a safety blanket in moments of awkward silence or discomfort.
Success doesn't have to mean leaving with your soul mate or next BFF. It can be the small wins of continuing to share connections, experiences, and quirky facts with people who are there to listen.
Want to learn how to make a good first impression with a potential new friend? Watch the video below!