As children we’re taught to never talk to strangers, but as we age it seems like this advice becomes less and less applicable. By time we’re adults strong social skills are a necessity for a successful life; the tables turn, yet many of us never catch up and develop these abilities. Talking to a stranger can seem like a gargantuan task to some, but these skills can easily be built with proper technique and practice.

Why Talk to Strangers?
Some people may think that being able to start a conversation from nothing is an unnecessary skill; after all, you can still get through life without interacting with the many strangers you cross each day. However, there’s a lot to be gained by opening up to new people. For example, you may open up new networking opportunities. You may meet new friends that stick with you for the rest of your life. You may just enjoy your day a little bit more.
There are countless reasons to learn strong social skills, but the biggest is the contribution to your overall level of success. Think about it; when was the last time you saw a highly successful person who was afraid to talk to the people around them?
If you want to succeed in life then you have to learn how to be social with those around you. You’ll find that being more social almost instantly opens up the amount of opportunities that you have available, and this is an invaluable perk. Making more friends is never a bad thing to do, and as the old saying goes, “strangers are just friends that you haven’t met yet.”

Step 1: Remove All Fear
Many people scare themselves into thinking that a conversation is bound to fail before it even begins. Some go so far as to envision how a conversation will go, (incorrectly) assume that it will be negative, and resign to keep to themselves without ever saying a single word.
It’s easy to see how this practice can hamper your abilities to interact with strangers. Fear is a powerful emotion, and it can instantly halt any potential socializing if left unchecked. This brings up the first roadblock; fear can be so damaging that it stops people from trying to converse with somebody altogether.
I don’t care if you’re a sweaty, stuttering mess: trying and being sloppy is far better than never trying at all in any social situation. While confidence will definitely increase your odds of a successful conversation, those odds remain at a flat zero if you never bother to try at all.
If you’re brand new to this activity, remember that you will need a little bit of practice before you’re proficient. You probably won’t be able to charm a whole crowd on your first attempt, but by trying in the first place you’ve already progressed by leaps and bounds.
What’s really at risk in a situation like this? Absolutely nothing! You have nothing to lose by starting a conversation with a stranger, and a whole laundry list of potential benefits to gain. What’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps the other person ignores you altogether and pretends like they never heard you. I guarantee that this event won’t result in the world imploding upon itself, so why worry?
You truly have nothing to lose, and the worst case scenario is nothing but a minor speed bump compared to the rest of life’s problems. Plus, if your conversation partner is legitimately unresponsive then their social skills probably need far more improvement than yours do.

Step 2: Relax
You’ve probably heard that dogs can smell fear, right? Well I’ve always believed that people can smell nervousness. If you’re approaching somebody and are clearly nervous and fidgety, it’ll probably be noted. This doesn’t necessarily destroy your chances of a successful conversation, but it will affect the impression of you that the other person retains once the interaction is finished.
Breathe deep, and imagine how you would act when speaking with a friend. After all, the only real difference is that you’re a little less familiar with this person’s mannerisms and interests, but realistically this is hardly a hindrance.
Appearing confident and relaxed may seem like a struggle at first, but with practice it’ll become second nature before you even notice. Once you discover how easy socializing is you’ll feel like a suave pro, but until then just focus on being calm. Remember, there’s really not that much at stake here; you’re striking up a conversation, not defusing an atomic bomb.

Step 3: Watch Your Body Language
Feeling relaxed and confident allows your mind to focus less on the fear of random interactions and more on the nonverbal messages that you’re giving off. Your intonation and body language both offer a lot towards how your message is interpreted, so maintaining good form can also make sure that you aren’t seen as inappropriate or weird.
What does this mean for you? First of all, always make sure that you’re smiling when you approach somebody. As discussed in our article on the Benefits of a Smile, a cheery look will make you appear much more open, approachable, and likeable. If you don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself the other person probably won’t think that you’re very interested in the conversation anyway, so a smile is a great first place to start.
The second thing to practice is good eye contact. This conveys the message that you are actively listening to the other person and that your full attention is on the conversation. Remember, you want to seem engaged without staring and coming across as creepy, so a good rule of thumb is to keep eye contact 50% of the time while listening and 80% of the time while talking.
I personally find that the first time that you make eye contact is the best time to actually start the conversation. Hesitating to do so can make it seem like you were busy thinking of something to say (which you probably were!), and this can make the conversation feel artificial and forced.

Step 4: Say Whatever’s On Your Mind
Possibly the biggest roadblock when initiating a conversation with a stranger is that many people aren’t sure what to say. They worry about their words being misinterpreted as rude or inappropriate, and when they can’t find a suitable premise to start speaking they often give up.
I’m going to let you on a little secret; you can start a conversation with almost anything. I’ve opened up social interactions with some very strange lines, and because of my grasp on the first 3 steps I’ve found remarkable success, even when using some rather curious openers.
For example, I once used Patrick Bateman’s music rant from 'American Psycho' to open to somebody when we were in the same room and Huey Lewis and the News came on the radio. The stranger I chose to talk to had never seen the movie in her life, yet my delivery alone was more than enough to begin a successful conversation.
Social rules dictate that there are obviously some topics which are too odd for a first conversation – you probably shouldn’t go around asking strangers their opinions on abortion. However, anything that’s considered politically correct is fair game, leaving you with a huge variety of topics to choose from.
The point of your opener isn’t really to set the direction of the conversation; that’s what transitions are for. This throw-away nature means that as long as it’s interpreted as friendly and sincere then you’ve got your foot in the door for a pleasant conversation.

Step 5: Transition
This is arguably the easiest step of the process – all you need to do is smoothly transition from your opener to a normal conversation topic. This doesn’t take much skill; the simplest way is to simply apply the vague topic of your opening line to a more personal note.
For my example above, when I was finished with the opener I smiled and asked, “You’ve never seen ‘American Psycho’ before, have you?” She shook her head, and my next response was, “but seriously, do you like Huey Lewis and the News?”
Just like that we were talking about music, and from there the door was open to carry on the conversation for as long as was appropriate. It’s not like that was the only option available either; we could have talked about music, or movies, or serial killers (probably not a good idea), or the 1980s’. The list is almost inexhaustible, so don’t stress yourself out over what you want to say.
If you can manage steps 1-3, the rest should all come naturally anyway. If you still find yourself struggling, check out our article on How to Prolong a Conversation.

Author's Bio: 

Dakota is the founder of, a website created to help visitors unlock their true potential and become more well-rounded in all aspects of life. When not writing or working on improving himself he spends his time making silly faces, creating merriment, and otherwise frolicking.