Start Making Friends


One thing I have never particularly enjoyed is making “small talk” with strangers. Everywhere we go we are surrounded by new people (a nicer term than strangers) – just try walking down a shopping street. Most of the time we make little effort to interact with them. “Small talk” situations arise socially or at work when we are thrown into a confined space with these new people, and feel we have to interact to be polite.

Yesterday I had to go one stage beyond making small talk. As part of my photography course we went to a local market to do a social documentary project. It was suggested we politely ask stall holders if they minded having their photograph taken before shoving a camera in their face!

It was an interesting morning. Before setting off, most of us expressed misgivings about approaching total strangers and asking if we could take their photograph. We joked about being arrested or punched for our trouble – trying to hide the fact that we weren’t particularly confident. Even our tutor, Simon Lawrence – an experienced photo journalist – reflected on how such situations can create tension.

The worst thing that could happen did – people said no with varying degrees of politeness. Fair enough, not everyone likes being photographed. But quite a few said yes. What was also interesting that after a while it became a lot easier to ask the question – and a more positive, friendly approach was more likely to produce a positive, friendly response.

toolsOne of my favorite blogs, the positivityblog, had a good post last year on”assuming rapport“. This basically means that instead of going into an interaction with a new person worrying about how it will go, you adopt the attitude that you will make a good connection:-

Just before the meeting, you just think that you’ll be meeting a good friend. Then you’ll naturally slip into a more comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind.

This is logical and perhaps just another variation on my old favorite of positive thinking. But meeting new people and being able to “connect” is a vital skill if we are to progress in any walk of life. And its an area where it is easy improve your confidence – there are so many new people out there to practice on!

Try building on your current interactions – have a conversation when you’re next in a shop. Try asking a question that will need them to respond in some way other than yes or no. Focus on them – be genuinely interested in them. The more outward you look, the less you worry about yourself.

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Dale Carnegie

The longer people talk, the more information they share, the more they learn about each other. Be prepared to share information about yourself – but wait to be asked rather than offloading at the first opportunity.

tools2The more confident you become at breaking the ice with new people, the more your body language will reflect your more relaxed and positive attitude. Consequently other new people will feel more relaxed when you approach them. Like with our photography project – its easier to get results when you are confident.

Jenna April 8, 2008 at 5:11 pm

I like the term “new people” rather than strangers. I agree breaking the ice is a good way to boost your confidence and help you feel more relaxed when talking to new people! Great post!

Jenna’s last blog post..Stars Dancewear: Another Small Business on the Rise

Haney April 10, 2008 at 7:23 am

Some people rather be the one to be approached instead of otherwise. As for me, it depends on my mood 😛

But if one is too sociable, one will have difficulty during weddings. He/she will have to invite a lot of guests! Well, that’s what happened to my uncle.

Haney’s last blog post..Swap Your Snack

Beth May 2, 2008 at 9:06 pm

I’m so glad you mentioned “small talk”. The older I get, the more I enjoy it rather than being annoyed or feeling like it is forced. Talking to new people can be really interesting, even if it is only briefly.

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