Think of it this way, you don't know them and they don't know you... so what's the worst that can honestly happen for either party?
With this being said, here's a few exercises to make speaking with strangers as seamless as it can be when speaking with your well acquainted friends. It is a follow-up post to my previous article on how you can improve your conversational skills.
1.) Conversation in Environment
Commentating on a current event or something simple (such as the weather) that is going on in your/their environment is a wonderful icebreaker. News, sports, or you name it as anything that could come in the form of a question that would require a simple lighthearted response works best. Also choosing an appropriate topic in a like-minded environment works perfect.
Keep in mind these aren't excuses to come across as a sociopath, but, they are excuses towards building friendships in the future.
2.) Pay Attention
Let's face it, it isn't possible to communicate without listening to the other person. A civil conversation cannot be held if only one side is expressing their perspective without interest in the other person when looking for breaks in the conversation to express their perspective (which shouldn't be a case unless you're strictly looking for an argument).
Paying attention (really listening) is not only respectful to the other person speaking, but, it's also rewarding for both parties. One of the best quips of advice I've overheard is "it isn't about you" which in all honesty gives you time to think about the moment and the world going on around you.
3.) Entry to Conversation
A simple but friendly "hello" or "thank you" goes a long way. In all honesty, what is the worst that can happen? A brief conversation? No reaction?
If anything starting conversation (like so) with your gas station employee, postal worker (ect.) goes further than you'd think. If that seems too much, simply asking a friend or family member how they're doing goes a long way towards showing compassion. If the response happens to be negative, chances are you're talking to a person that could use this article.
4.) Open Ended Questions (For Answers)
Open ended questions (especially with no point of view) make a better conversation. The assumption thinking you're always right/wrong and the person on the other end of the conversation is always right/wrong is outrageous.
For example, the best interviewers on television ask questions followed by questions... but still listen to what the person has to say. This making the interviewee at comfort with their opinion (regardless of each other's opinion.) It's just as easy in real life as well. Following this method makes a valuable conversation for both parties as both are not only developing tolerance for opposing point of views, but, considering how a another person may live their lives.
5.) Try Online (If Real Life Is Too Much)
Small talk online with strangers is a great step because chances are it will (more than likely) lead you to healthy relationship communication (when dealing with people in real life).
Make sure they're like minded with you as well to carry a conversation. Sharpening your skills online only enhances your social skills and confidence in offline conversation. If that still sounds scary then what's the worst that can happen? An ice breaker for someone else? Exactly, so go out and get started!