The Surprising Benefits Of Talking To Strangers

by | Jun 14, 2022

In the digital era, it can feel like connecting person-to-person becomes more difficult with each passing year. We’re not used to face-to-face interactions, at least not as much as we used to be. But despite all that, recent research shows that striking up in-person conversations with strangers can lead us to feel more connected with our communities, more optimistic, and happier overall. This psychological reality can teach us a lot about one key business necessity in particular: networking. 

While the term “networking” refers specifically to building business connections these days, it can also be defined as “talking to strangers.” If you met the CEO of a company in an elevator and wanted to give them your pitch for an idea, you were talking to a stranger. If you met someone on the street whom you invited to apply for a sales position at your company, you were talking to a stranger. Back before the digital era, if you wanted to meet someone and make a real connection with them, the first step would be talking to a stranger. 

Now, with the rise of digital networking resources like LinkedIn, talking to strangers means “messaging strangers.” While this is a great advancement for networking and maintaining connections, digital networking will never fully replace in-person interaction. Why? Well, people still prefer face-to-face interactions in the business world. 

People like to connect in person and believe those interactions are more meaningful. One study by Forbes found that 85% of participants believed meeting in person created stronger relationships, and 77% reported a better ability to read body language and facial expressions. That can make a big impact if you’re trying to pitch a product, build rapport with a prospect, or just chat with a coworker. 

Yet striking up a conversation with a stranger might seem like a daunting task — especially now that it’s not the norm. So, how can you get better at starting casual conversations? 

Well, the only real answer is to “just do it.” 

As pithy as that answer sounds, it’s the truth. Sometimes networking is hard. Sometimes people don’t react the way we want them to. Sometimes it’s awkward. 

Don’t let that discourage you. 

Some networking attempts might not go as planned, and that’s okay. You just have to keep practicing. The more you practice, the easier it will become, and the fewer awkward interactions you will have. Here are some pointers to get started. 

Practice Your Pitch. 

What you want to say and how to say it is central to your success while networking. You want to sound professional and confident while getting to your point quickly. So, take some time to practice! Write out what you want to say and include all the essential details. Your actual conversation may not go exactly like it did when you had it with yourself in the mirror, but the repetition will help you to remember the important details when the time comes. 

Do Your Research. 

If you’re interested in introducing yourself to a specific person, do your research ahead of time. If you can find a shared interest with the person that’s not work-related, then you will be empowered to strike up a casual conversation that will flow more naturally into the topic of business later on. 

Take A Breath And Relax.

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Yes, you will likely say something awkward or get flustered at times. That’s OK. This one person you’re trying to network with isn’t the be-all-end-all of the business world, and they’re human just like you. Sometimes, if you’re nervous, it can humanize you to just admit that to the person. Not everything has to be step-by-step and formal. That’s actually the advantage of connecting face to face. You have the opportunity to redirect, make mistakes, and form closer connections faster — even if you don’t say everything perfectly. 

So, don’t be afraid to talk to strangers! Striking up casual conversations helps us feel more connected with each other and might even lead to a better world. We know one thing for sure: It certainly leads to better networking outcomes.

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