Start Talking To Strangers (Today)
By Sarah Freeman Junior Marketing Associate, Hospitality and Tourism Specialist
Remember when you were young and your parents used to stress the importance of not talking to strangers?
Well now that you are older you can recycle the old “stranger danger,” phrase. Talking to the random guy at the bar might just land you a job, at least for me it did. Opportunities don’t just present themselves without effort, and you never know where you will be when one arises. I encourage you to venture outside of your house… alone. Yes, that means without your friends, colleagues, family, etc. And this doesn’t mean go out by yourself and bury your head in your phone the whole time. Go to a public place, such as a bar or a coffee shop and engage with strangers. Start a conversation or join in on one that you find interesting. Don’t be afraid - this is where connections can be made and opportunities can present themselves.
BE THAT WEIRD PERSON (Yeah that one)
At almost 26 years old my friends think it’s weird that I go out to lunch or dinner by myself. They, “don’t understand how you can sit at the bar alone.” and that’s okay! I get that this is a foreign concept to many people I know, but to me it’s entertaining. Although, it is somewhat of a gamble - not all the conversations I’ve had with strangers are enjoyable or stimulating. For example, not too long ago I found myself having a discussion with an older gentleman about his recent break. I thought this was quite an unusual conversation to strike up with a stranger, am I wrong? Part of me felt bad for him. I thought to myself, he must not have anyone to talk to about this, maybe she was all he had. As the minutes (what felt like hours) passed with me trying to console this stranger, he decided to wrap up the conversation by asking me if I was single and would like to go on a date with him. *insert eye roll here* These are the times when you contemplate punching yourself in the face to end the misery and awkwardness. (Tip: RESIST…It’s not worth it). On a more positive note, I can’t even begin to tell you how many business cards I have in my wallet from RANDOM people who I’ve started conversations with. Maybe being a bartender has helped my confidence when it comes to this topic, but listen to me when I tell you this is a great way to network yourself. You can spend hours on LinkedIn looking for jobs, searching people’s profiles, but this is much more organic. You honestly never know who you are going to meet or what you will end up talking about. (Hate face to face communication? Read my last article here).
Kio Stark, author of, "When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You," believes that talking to strangers reaps more benefits than risks. She said one of the biggest benefits is that engaging with strangers makes us feel human, “When you have even these very brief connections with strangers it is an affirmation of your existence. That is the social function of the meaningless things that we say to each other: ‘Hello,’ and ‘How are you doing?’ You’ve made it clear that you see and acknowledge each other as humans in this place.” Stark writes, lectures, and teaches about the encounters we have with strangers. Check out her website to learn more about her and her “strange” work.
So if you are one of those people who waits in the car because you are the first of your friends to arrive at the restaurant, stop, immediately. Step outside your comfort zone and try it. You can even start small, strike up a short conversation with the cashier at the coffee shop, or the employee bagging your groceries at the store. See what kinds of people you meet and what conversations you participate in. At the end of the day if all that came of it was a stimulating discussion do you consider that a waste of time?
Sarah Freeman is a Junior Marketing Associate and world traveler specializing in hospitality and tourism. Connect with her on Linkedin here.