How to Talk to Strangers Without Getting Tongue-Tied
It's important to think things through before opening your mouth
In his book, Talking To Strangers, author Malcolm Gladwell argues that something is very wrong with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know.
And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.
“Today we are now thrown into contact all the time with people whose assumptions, perspectives, and backgrounds are different from our own.” — Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers
Last week, I ran into a friend at the grocery store. We’ve known each other a few years and immediately started chatting it up in the produce aisle.
He had a friend with him and, after introducing her as his neighbor, I began to ask her a string of casual questions — where she was from, did she have a family, what kind of work did she do.
But instead of joining in the conversation, she just stared at me, as if hesitant to reply.
I told myself she might be shy and, because I was a stranger, she might not be sure what to say — or if she should respond at all. I felt embarrassed, as if I’d put her on the spot.
Rather than make either of us any more uncomfortable, I told her it was nice to meet her, then said goodbye to both of them and went back to shopping.
I knew I shouldn’t have taken her reluctance personally.
Still, it made me wonder how open and comfortable my vocal interactions were when talking with others — friend and stranger alike. Truthfully, I occasionally felt a lack of connection, and I wanted to learn how to become a better communicator — and listener.
It seems more important than ever to develop mutually relatable verbal skills to establish honest communication.
The ability to be receptive, open, and engaging without an underlying agenda is the key to creating positive relationships.
In an article by Lauren Rice in Qualtrix, she states:
“When people know that you are welcoming and open to hearing their thoughts and ideas, they’ll continue to come back to you in the future.”