Getting the Courage to Talk to a Stranger

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It can be highly frustrating being shy when it comes to approaching strangers. You see someone across the room that you like the looks of and that you’d like to get to know better, and you know no harm can come from approaching yet for whatever reason you find yourself unable to build up the courage.

The key point here is that you know no damage can come from approaching and being unsuccessful. In fact this can actually be quite a good learning curve and a good way to toughen yourself up. Yet this doesn’t really have much impact on your ability to go up there and start the conversation. Thus there isn’t that much that you can get in terms of encouragement from an article that you probably haven’t already told yourself countless times. You’ll never see this person again – it doesn’t matter.

So while reading the same pep talk that you already know off-by heart won’t help much, an article can instruct you on how to actually train yourself to approach the woman or the man that catches your eye. The key here is not to tackle the problem head on, but to tackle the problems that are causing your reserve – which will likely come down to a basic fundamental shyness or lack of confidence. This is a type of social self conscientiousness that you will likely affect other areas of your life too – you’re probably not a fan of speaking in front of large groups or meeting new people either. This article can’t tell you how to approach people when you’re too scared to, but it can teach you to gradually become less scared. Following are some exercises and tips to try to train yourself into becoming more forthcoming:

Try and fail

Of course the easiest way to learn to do anything is to practice. You need to practice approaching people in order to learn that the worst case scenario really isn’t that bad, and in order to become better at doing it. In order to do this then you should create some circumstances highly conducive to your plight – so make sure you’re on your own so that you don’t have an audience when you crash and burn, and make sure that you’re in a situation where it’s easy to strike up a conversation such as a coffee shop or a bus.

Up the ante incrementally

Then to make things easier for yourself look for an ‘in’ which is a way to way to start up a conversation without looking suspicious or like you are necessarily interested from a romantic perspective. For example ask if they have the time, if they know directions or if they could recommend a good drink. As you practice, start to increase your brazenness and ask more probing and more engaging questions. By incrementally upping the ante like this, it will seem like you’re taking baby steps rather than jumping in at the deep end. Learning to approach a stranger doesn’t have to mean just randomly asking someone for their number.

Practice on others

Of course if you are really frozen at the site of people you like then you might struggle with this too. The problem is that when you fancy someone it becomes a whole different ball game and they become a lot more difficult to talk to. To practice then try striking up conversation with random people just to teach yourself to get over that social inhibition and the belief that you don’t talk to people unless they start the conversation. Try making conversation with a shop attendant for instance, or even try phoning up a random number and making conversation that way. This is training, just like lifting dumbbells makes you stronger, this will make you socially braver.

Crash and burn on purpose

Failing is an important way to get better at succeeding as it teaches you to realise that the worst case scenario really isn’t that bad. Think of a terrible, odd and random joke, and then say it next time you’re in a shop that you won’t need to go into again.

Use CBT

CBT means ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ and that means looking at the contents of your thoughts and using that to see what’s helping you and what isn’t. See what’s going through your head when you try to approach a stranger, most likely it will be things along the lines of ‘what happens if they laugh at me’ or ‘it’s too weird’. Now use positive affirmations and repeatedly repeat the opposite to yourself ‘it doesn’t matter if it goes wrong’ and ‘people talk to each other all the time – they’re odd if they have a problem with it’.

Force yourself

If you really can’t get up the courage to try any of these things then you will need to put yourself in a situation where you have no choice. A great way to do this is to take up a job where you work with the general public. Failing that try going on a holiday or trip all on your own and you’ll be forced to speak to people to get directions and make bookings etc.

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Colleen Crawford

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