Do you remember when as a child we used to ask other children whether we could be friends? Imagine doing so as a grown up. You approach a total stranger and ask them to be their friend. How does that sound? It may be considered as quite an odd gesture. At some point or another, we find ourselves in contexts where we need to socialise with people whom we do not know at all. Such events may include: attending a conference, going on a work trip, taking the kids to a party where you do not know anyone, starting a new job and the list goes on. In these situations, we may feel anxious as we do not know how to approach someone new. The alternative, staying alone, may equally make us feel anxious. Whilst it needs to be acknowledged that relationships take time to build, there are a few things that you could do when approaching someone new to start building a relationship with them. The following are some suggestions.
- Create a balance between statements and questions – Try to have a flowing conversation. If you ask too many questions it may seem like the person is under interrogation. Also, you cannot expect someone to tell you all about themselves if you do not share anything about you. Start by sharing something about yourself and then ask the other person about themselves. Once you start to understand what the person is interested in you can shift the conversation to discuss a particular topic rather than personal information.
- Be genuine – Starting off a conversation with a complete stranger can be quite difficult. Find a genuine reason to talk to people for example, giving them a compliment or asking a question related to the context you are in. If you are travelling, ask the person where they are from and talk about your respective countries. Asking open ended questions rather than questions which lead to a yes and no answer encourages more conversation to occur.
- Be open to experience rejection – Remember that not everyone likes to be social and therefore some people may prefer to stay on their own rather than talking to people. Thus, when approaching someone new you have to be open to all possibilities including rejection. It’s important to understand that if this happens it does not mean that there is something wrong with you. People function in different ways. Do not let your fears stop you, unless you try you can never know how things will turn out.
- Be positive – People enjoy talking about positive topics which are usually exciting such as travel, football and children. When your approach is warm and friendly people may find it easier to connect with you and therefore approaching someone new becomes less awkward. Making eye contact and smiling helps.
- The power of connection – Socialising with others can help you develop a sense of belonging and feelings of happiness. Spending time with others makes you feel connected to people and society. Thus, getting out of your comfort zone to meet new people will eventually prove to be a fruitful experience.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.