There was a time in my life when I didn’t have many friends, and I felt very isolated. I had to learn how to build confidence, talk to strangers, make friends, and form new connections. I was especially motivated to build confidence to talk to strangers, because I needed to make money to support my family after my father went bankrupt. Being good at talking to strangers would have an impact on how much money I could make, how many client referrals I could get, and how many opportunities I would have access to. I always knew that growing a network would help me grow my business, and growing a network requires meeting new people. Having the confidence to talk to strangers would lead to new friendships and a better quality of life.

I believed that getting better at talking to strangers would change my life for the better – and I was right. It’s not just introverts and those with social anxiety who are anxious to talk to strangers. It’s a very common fear for lots of people. Overcoming that fear, however, will greatly benefit you on your journey to success. Talking to strangers doesn’t have to be a difficult, stressful or uncomfortable process.

The rule, “don’t talk to strangers” applies to children, not adults. Adults can and should talk to strangers, especially in business or networking settings. You should talk to strangers because meeting new people and forming new relationships could lead to amazing opportunities both in life and in business. This is especially true if you talk to strangers in a professional setting, such as at a networking event or a business-related seminar.

Talking to strangers in less formal settings, however, can also lead to great opportunities. I want you to imagine that you are at an airport, waiting to board your flight. You notice that directly behind you is a confident-looking businessman in his 30s, wearing a nice suit and holding an expensive-looking briefcase. If you strike up a conversation with this businessman, he could end up being your next client. But you’ll never know if you don’t talk to him. 

What I’m about to tell you is a true story: One of the top content writers on my team randomly met my Executive Director at the airport. By talking to him (a complete stranger) she found out that we needed a great writer, and she just so happened to be one. This random encounter took place over a year ago, and to this day, she still does great work for us. She had the confidence to talk to a stranger at the airport, she proved herself with trial writing work, and she now works for team Dan Lok.

Perhaps you’re aware of how many great opportunities could arise from talking to strangers more often, but you’re worried that striking up a conversation will be too awkward. Let me ask you something: Why do you think talking to strangers is so awkward? Perhaps it’s because you don’t yet know what you have in common with that person, or you aren’t sure if they’ll happily engage with you, or if they’ll recoil. You’re suddenly vulnerable, exposing yourself to potential rejection. Perhaps it makes you feel uneasy thinking about the fact that they may not want to talk to you. What you should know, however, is that strangers enjoy talking to you more than you think.

According To Research, Strangers Enjoy Talking To Us More Than We Think

Growing research is proving that the fears and insecurities associated with talking to strangers – the fears we build up in our heads – is not based on reality. Your perception might be that a stranger will not enjoy engaging with you, and that you should leave them be, but that don’t let that false perception fool you.

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In reality, you typically have nothing to be insecure, anxious or fearful about when it comes to talking to strangers. A 2018 study from researchers at Cornell, Harvard and the University of Essex found that its participants consistently underestimated how well their interactions with strangers went. Their insightful study is entitled The Liking Gap in Conversations: Do People Like Us More Than We Think? 

The study found that after an initial interaction with a stranger, the majority of people were extremely self-critical and negative about how that interaction went. In other words, the majority of participants completely underestimated how well they were liked by the stranger they interacted with. Participants also underestimated how much the strangers they interacted with would like to talk to them again, and get to know them better. The researchers call this mistaken belief – this illusion of not being liked – the liking gap. The findings were that people who talked to strangers for the first time were liked by that stranger much more than they knew.

When you talk to strangers for the first time, do you often leave the conversation wondering what that person truly thought of you? Do you find yourself constantly assuming the worst? Perhaps you often worry that you may not have portrayed yourself in the best way. Perhaps you tend to be your own worst critic.

I want you to think back to a recent occasion where you spoke to a stranger for the first time. What exactly did you worry about? Did you worry afterwards that you might have come across as too shy? Too forward? Too full of yourself? Did you wonder if you were talking too fast, asking too many questions, or listening attentively enough? Research on the liking gap proves that many of the fears associated with talking to strangers are in your head, and that you’re continually underestimating how well you are liked by others. The liking gap research proves that strangers enjoy talking to you much more than you think. Now that you know this, it might be easier to start confidently talking to strangers. But how do you start a conversation?

The liking gap research proves that strangers enjoy talking to you much more than you think. Click To Tweet

How to Start a Conversation

Knowing how to start a conversation will definitely improve your confidence when it comes to talking to strangers. The first thing you’ll want to do is introduce yourself, so you should read my tips on how to introduce yourself. After you introduce yourself, it’s up to you to start a conversation. When in doubt, start off by giving them a compliment. Who doesn’t love compliments? You can compliment them on their briefcase, their shoes – anything.

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This automatically increases your likeability. There are ways to make sure your compliments sound sincere, and thoughtful. For example, instead of saying That’s a great blazer! You could say That’s a great blazer! You look very dapper in it. Or, comment on something specific about the blazer that you like, rather than just saying you like it.

When it doubt, start off by giving them a compliment. Who doesn’t love compliments? You can compliment them on their briefcase, their shoes - anything. Click To Tweet

Another great way to start a conversation is to ask an open-ended question. So if you do start off with a compliment, make sure to quickly follow up with a question. Don’t ask the type of question that only requires a short “Yes” or “No” answer. Ask a question that will get the person talking. Something like I love that this city has such great cafes to work from. What do you look for in a cafe to do your work at, aside from WiFi? The person you’re talking to might chuckle at the fact that you already pointed out the obvious: WiFi. And then they might start talking about the type of music they like to work to, and which cafes play that type of music. Or, they might start talking about cafes that have a nice view.

Either way, you’ve got them talking, because the question you asked was open-ended.

Don’t ask the type of question that only requires a short “Yes” or “No” answer. Ask a question that will get the person talking. Click To Tweet

When your questions clearly show an interest in the other person, and your questions aren’t too personal, then you’re making good conversation. The best questions, however, are questions that get people talking about themselves.

Science Proves That People Love Talking About Themselves

If you’re nervous about talking to a stranger, don’t forget that people love to talk about themselves. That’s why you don’t have to be nervous about asking a stranger some questions about themselves. You can confidently do this, because people enjoy talking about themselves, and people similarly enjoy sharing their own thoughts and feelings on a given topic. The simple open-ended question, So what do you do? Will really get them talking. Especially if they’re proud of what they do, proud of something they’ve recently accomplished, or proud of something they started on their own.

Scientific studies on the human brain have proven that people love to talk about themselves. According to a well-known study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people really, really like conversations where the topic involves themselves. In this study, researchers at Harvard University performed brain scans on the participants to see how talking about themselves compared to other topics of conversation.

Scientific studies on the human brain have proven that people love to talk about themselves. Click To Tweet

In one particular exercise initiated by the researchers, participants were urged to discuss their own personality traits, and then urged to discuss the personality traits of others. Brain scans indicated that significantly more activity occurred in certain areas of the brain when people talked about themselves. Which regions of the brain do you think were stimulated when people talked about themselves? The study found that the same regions of the brain that are activated by food and sex, are activated when people talk about themselves. In other words, just like most people love food and sex, people also love to talk about themselves.

“Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Tamir conducted the research on this topic with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell for the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Tamir explained.

The researchers of the study found that people particularly enjoyed self-disclosure if they knew other people were listening. Harvard researchers found that people in their study found it especially rewarding when they had the opportunity to disclose their thoughts and feelings to someone who was listening. If they got a chance to talk about their thoughts and feelings to other people, they felt more pleasure than they did if they disclosed their thoughts and feelings in private.

Harvard researchers found that people in their study found it especially rewarding when they had the opportunity to disclose their thoughts and feelings to someone who was listening. Click To Tweet

So, if you ask a stranger questions about themselves, chances are they’ll like it – and they’ll like you more for asking. Now that you know that talking about themselves triggers the same sensation of pleasure in their brain as food does, it seems less nerve-wracking to talk to strangers, right?

Starting With Small Talk is Okay, as Long as You Avoid Boring Small Talk

I think we can all agree that talking about the weather is boring. This is just one example of extremely cliche, boring small talk. Not only is it boring, it also feels fake. This isn’t the right way to talk to strangers. This isn’t the way to build a connection.

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What exactly is small talk? Small talk is polite, informal, light conversation. The goal is to avoid serious topics and to avoid anything too controversial or sales-like. It’s good to start talking to strangers with small talk, because it’s always good to keep things light at first. The problem with small talk is that it can sometimes feel boring, disingenuous or fake.

I think we can all agree that talking about the weather is boring. This is just one example of extremely cliche, boring small talk. Click To Tweet

Remember how earlier I said it’s a good idea to start with a sincere compliment? That’s an example of the good kind of small talk. By complimenting the person on something specific and adding some meaning to your compliment, it won’t seem like a cliche attempt at small talk. It’s still small talk – but it’s meaningful small talk that feels genuine.

When initiating small talk with a stranger, you should incorporate the scientifically-proven theory that people love talking about themselves. Ask questions that encourage them to talk about themselves.

How To Make New Friends as an Adult

Making new friends is just as important as forming new business connections. Why? Because a network of good friends will support you, spread the word about your business, help build up your confidence, and allow you to bounce ideas off of them. But how do you make new friends as an adult?

It’s much easier to make friends in high school, in college, or at summer camp. But what if you’re an adult now, and you’ve moved to a new city, and you want to make friends? There are certain places that are favorable when it comes to meeting new people. Coffee shops with communal seating, for example, create opportunities to talk to others. Many coffee shops are filled with young professionals. They’ll often be seated at those long communal tables, or the barista bar seating.

Public transit such as the train, the subway, or the metro, will also be full of young professionals commuting to a meeting

The World is a Better Place When Strangers Become Friends

Science has proven that the world is a better place when strangers become friends. Research suggests that if more people talked to strangers every day, everyone’s daily experiences would be more positive. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology entitled Mistakenly Seeking Solitude, by University of Chicago researchers Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder, found that participants who engaged with strangers on their commute had a more positive experience than those who kept to themselves.

Imagine you are riding the train to work, and a bunch of strangers are riding the train with you. Participants of the Mistakenly Seeking Solitude study falsely estimated that only about 40% of their fellow train passengers would be willing to talk to them. And yet, 100% of participants in the experiment found that the stranger sitting next to them was actually happy to chat when conversation was instigated.

Networking Requires That You Talk To Strangers

It’s a well-known fact that networking is good for business. But what is networking? Networking is essentially talking to strangers. At networking events, your goal is to talk to many like-minded strangers with confidence and positivity.

Many of my mentees have confided in me that their biggest break happened because they talked to a stranger at a networking event. Talking to the right stranger could result in your greatest opportunity in your professional life.

Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, in a room full of strangers, you can’t judge which one will provide you with a great professional opportunity. That’s why it’s a good idea to build confidence to talk to strangers. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of it, and to talk to as many strangers as you can.

Good communication skills are important when talking to strangers. Your communication skills will naturally improve as your confidence improves by talking to more and more strangers.

Summary

Talking to strangers will result in many benefits. If you talk to more strangers, more opportunities will come your way, both in life and in business. Talking to strangers will lead to a multitude of benefits.

It is a MYTH that strangers don’t want you to approach them. Studies have proven that strangers will actually enjoy talking to you, and they will have a positive experience when you strike up a conversation.

Knowing how to start a conversation will definitely improve your confidence when it comes to talking to strangers. The key is to introduce yourself in a warm and friendly way. Offer a sincere compliment to the stranger, and ask them some open-ended questions about themselves. Don’t talk about the weather, because this cliche type of small talk is not the right way to build a connection.

Remember that people love to talk about themselves. When in doubt, ask someone a question about themselves. Scientific studies on the human brain have found that people love talking about themselves to anyone who will listen.

Communication Mastery

Although my High-Ticket Closer Certification Program is designed for people who want to close high-ticket deals, the program also improves your communication skills. The program offers participants the opportunity to develop your communication skills through role-playing. There is a community that role-plays and practices talking together in a safe environment. This is how you learn how to turn strangers into friends. You’ll also get feedback on your closing skills, your confidence, and your general communication skills. These skills will be immensely valuable to you throughout your life.