Have you ever met a stranger you thought could be a great friend, but you let them walk away without making a connection?
It would be a shame to know you would have been more than strangers had you tried to break the ice. You are not alone, though. Making new friends is not as easy as it seems, especially if you are an introvert.
In a first time interaction, it can be hard to balance showing enthusiasm for creating this new connection, while still giving the other person enough space, as well as allowing yourself that same space and comfort.
Keep on reading for some tips to help you turn a stranger into a potential friend in just one conversation.
Discuss the circumstances that brought you together
Friendship works in a way that it needs a context, an environment, or something that brings you together.
The most natural way to start a conversation is to talk about what brought you together. Here are a few examples of contexts:
- You’ve both been invited to a birthday party
- You’re both attending a cultural event, like an art exhibition
- You’re both attending a meetup
- You’re both attending a seminar
Start the conversation by discussing that very thing. If it’s a birthday, then ask “How do you know so and so (the person who’s birthday it is)?” If it’s a seminar, you can ask “Is this your first time attending a seminar of this speaker?”
Expand to Similar Topics
After you’ve exchanged a few comments about what brought you together, you can talk about similar topics.
Let’s say it’s the birthday, you asked how they know the person who’s birthday it is, and they told you they used to work together.
You then tell them how you met that same person. You’re basically exchanging stories.
Now, you can either talk about your work history, and theirs, since they mentioned work. Or expand to other stories similar to the one you shared.
If you’re in a seminar about real estate investing, then you can talk about other seminars you attended, or other ways for you to learn to invest in real estate, or other types of investing altogether.
Ask the basic get-to-know-you questions
One of the best ways to spark conversation and become friends with a stranger is to ask them questions. Since people like talking about themselves, you will find they are happy to answer basic questions.
You could ask them to tell you where they come from, what they like doing during their free time and what they do for work.
As they answer your questions, ensure you listen attentively and show genuine interest in what they are saying. It would also help to let them speak before you interrupt them.
Another pro tip is to ask “why?” When you ask something like “Why did you move from here from Tulsa?” The answer will most likely be a story. When you ask “Why?” they either tell you a story or reveal their underlying motivations. In both cases, they feel like you’re getting to know them beyond the obvious.
Give a genuine compliment
People appreciate compliments more when they come from strangers because they are unexpected. Your compliment could make such a huge impact on someone that they remember you days after your encounter.
The easy path to take would be to compliment someone on their dress code, physical attributes, or their accessories, anything that captures your eye and is genuine. If you are feeling bold, you could tell them they have a beautiful smile or that you like how they laugh.
Apart from capturing their attention and laying the foundation for your friendship, a simple compliment could turn a stranger’s frown upside down and brighten their day.
Offer a helping hand
The difference between a casual acquaintance and a good friend is genuine emotional and social support. An excellent way to subtly lay the foundation for friendship is to offer your help.
You could lend them your time or material things or simply be there to help them get through a difficult time in their life.
For example, during your small talk, they could mention they moved from a different town miles away, which is a big change from what they were used to. Offer to show them around and give them a tour of their new environment, show them your favourite spots or introduce them to a couple of friends - these simple gestures will make all the difference to them, and will offer a good opportunity to get to know each other better, at the same time.
Highlight your similarities
Shared interests and underlying similarities are the backbones of most friendships. If you are interested in approaching a stranger for friendship, you could start by pointing out your similarities.
For instance, if they wear your favorite football team's jersey, you could tell them that you support the same team. If you both like to do the same things over the weekend, that makes things easy. Another example would be that you share the same values and principles, or just like to discuss the same topics.
Your potential friend will become more at ease when you notice shared interests and be more willing to make acquaintances with you.
Send a follow-up message
After you have had a fruitful conversation with someone and you feel a connection, you could ask for their number or social media profiles. Not everyone will be comfortable giving away this kind of information after a first conversation, so don’t take it the wrong way if they say no. Leave it to them to propose an alternative to get in contact again.
If you do exchange contacts, don't hesitate to reach out. After one or two days, send them a text saying it was a pleasure meeting them and that you would like to see them again soon. Don’t forget to suggest an activity you think you would both enjoy, as well as a time and date.
In a nutshell
When meeting someone for the first time, remember the important steps:
- Talk about what brought you together
- Expand to similar topics
- Talk about something different, get to know each other by asking basic questions
- Look for ways to contribute in small ways
- Show a little bit of vulnerability
- Find commonalities
- Exchange contact info (so you can reconnect around those commonalities later)
- When you go home, follow up with a “it was nice meeting you” message
After that, you got yourself a potential friend.
Here is the thing: the more you do this, the better you get at it.
Not everyone has mastered this. If you apply yourself and get good at it, pretty soon, you’ll be able to go anywhere, meet anyone, and make friends with some amazing people.
You just have to learn!