Since I was a child I discovered that talking to strangers was exciting, fun and sometimes opened up new worlds and began new friendships. On my regular bus rides from NY Port Authority to my home in New Jersey, I would often spark up a conversation with a person seated by me. Often, by the time we got to my stop, we would have already exchanged contacts. We would both be warmed by the mutual glow of feeling great by connecting with another human being. Sometimes we laughed at some cool and wonderful story, another time we talked philosophy and politics, or merely discussed the merits of the iPhone vs the Android. Often girls ask where I got my clothes or shoes, and it starts a fun conversation. (Most hail from discount stores or drastic sales – thus proof that $19.99 can get you the look if you wear it proudly). I also talk to people on the subway and online at the Apple store – anywhere, really.
I meet people from all different countries and they tell me about their Impression of the USA and what it’s like back where they came from.
It’s not easy for many of us to approach a stranger and start a conversation. There’s a fear of rejection, not knowing what to say.
Therefore, I recommend that you start in stages:
1. Spend an hour observing people in a public park. See what ideas you form about them – this one is confident and rich, this other one is pathetically needy and her friends are ignoring her and son on and so forth.
2. Greeting everyone who passes you. A walk in a busy park is ideal for that, so even if people don’t hear you – continue doing it. Yet rather than saying hello, try saying things like "Great hairdo", "cute dog", "nice hat" and smile warmly and genuinely. People respond to that like magic.
2. Pretend to be lost and get people to draw the path to your destination. You’ll get lots of smartphone users sending you directions on Google if you say you have a phone on you. You may also get people to exchange numbers with you and actually accompany you to your destination. This happened to me many times and I didn’t pretend – I was really lost in the confusion of the West Village. What fun!
3. Ask a question. This comes from Kio Stark of "When Strangers Talk". Ask a really intimate question like what are you most afraid of. To legitimize the question, pretend to be interviewing and have your camera video or recorder running, People begin to open up and talk – I tried this and it’s magic. We forgot about the fake recording and a real deep conversation took place. At another one we were almost doubled up laughing. Connecting to the max!
4. Don’t belong. This one is interesting. For some of us it’s not a big deal. We are always different than the norm. But put yourself in an environment totally different from your own. See what it feels like to be an outsider. It will give you compassion and open your heart.