Talking to someone who seems different from you can be intimidating. What if they think you’re trying to bother them? What if you don’t share the same language? What if you unintentionally offend them?
As different as we may seem, there are always similarities between people from different cultural backgrounds. Our common experiences can begin conversations, bring new understandings, or even spark a surprising friendship. Sometimes, it’s all about getting started.
Here are a few ways that you can start a chat with someone new.
Start with a smile
It’s incredible what a simple smile can say. Smiling makes other people feel more welcomed, more confident, and shows you care. Smilers get to feel better too – the brain releases mood-enhancing chemicals which makes everyone feel great.
Pay a compliment
Most people enjoy a compliment, as long as it is sincere. A simple “I like your shirt” or “nice car” can be the beginning of a chat about shirt colours or cars.
Ask for help
Seeking someone else’s assistance is usually met with both help and the chance to meet someone new. We tend to underestimate how likely people are to help us. At the supermarket, you could ask how do you know if a fruit is ripe, or if they know where to find the pet food. At work, you could ask for help with new software or where the best parking is.
If you see someone having a hard time – confusion about a bus route, an injury on the sports field, a problem at work – step in to offer help. Even the smallest acts of kindness will immediately connect you to another person.
Here are some topics that are usually OK to ask people while you’re waiting at the school gate, in the lunchroom at work, or sitting at the bus stop.
People who are in the same location always share the same weather. Use it to spark a conversation by saying “Nice day out there isn’t it?” or “I wonder if that rain is coming today?”
A sight or sound in your immediate environment
If you notice a funny sight or an interesting sound, mention it to a stranger. Ask them “Did you see that!?” Or “What’s that odd sound?”
It’s nice to draw attention to people’s lives outside of their jobs. Try asking “What keeps you busy when you’re not at work?” Their answers may surprise you!
Across the world, there are over 8000 different sports! Many people either play or watch at least one of them. By asking “Did you watch the cricket last night?” or “Do you play a sport?” you are likely to start a conversation about a shared interest.
For Cantabrians’ ideas on meeting others – and to add your own – check out the Tips for Connecting on our homepage.