When we’re focused on “wanting connection”, we try to find it (and sometimes force it) with anyone who crosses our path. When we shift our focus to other things, we give ourselves room to breathe, and put a lot less pressure on our interactions.
But the problem with just letting spontaneous connections happen is that a lot of times, they don’t. When we leave things entirely up to chance, more often than not, we don’t meet anyone.
So how can we take active steps to bring new people into our lives while still keeping the magic of spontaneous connections alive?
These 8 habits are a great place to start!
Whenever you’re walking out in public, make eye contact with someone walking in your direction. Hold it for a second longer than you’re comfortable with. Let go, and repeat with someone else.
Remember that you can start small, and just get used to looking at people’s faces as they walk by. Then you can work up to looking at their eyes, and then to holding their gaze for a little bit longer each time.
Make a habit of talking to everyone who serves you: wait staff, baristas, sales people, delivery people, Uber drivers, concierge attendants. Service staff talk to customers every day as a part of their job, so they’re usually friendly and approachable. And more often than not, it makes their day when someone cares to be genuinely nice to them.
If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, just ask them how their day’s going. “How’s your day going?” is something you can always ask anyone in any situation. When they reply, follow up with another question, or a comment about the weather. If it’s Friday, ask if they’re doing anything fun this weekend. Ask them to recommend their favourite thing on the menu.
Whether it’s the person who hands out the towels at your gym, the person who serves you lunch, or the security guard at your office, if it’s someone you see around regularly, make an effort to learn their name. Introduce yourself and tell them what brings you here — do you work in the building? Did you just move into the neighbourhood? Is this your favourite spot in the city?
Make it a mission to get a new name from someone every day.
Whether you’re at the coffee shop, the grocery store, or waiting for the elevator, strike up a conversation with the person next to you. If you struggle to talk to strangers, start small. Ask them for the time, or just make brief eye contact and say, “Hey, how are you today?”
Even asking someone to move so you can grab something off the shelf counts! Anything that gets you looking and talking to each other can break the ice and start a conversation.
Speak to anyone you see holding a book you have read or want to read. Comment on it or ask if they’ve read any of the author’s other books. If you don’t know where to start, just ask if they’re enjoying the book, or whether they’d recommend it.
Whether you’re at a networking event, a party, or a class, make a it rule to talk to at least 3 people before you let yourself leave. This is one of the easiest ways to meet new people, because everyone’s there to connect! And chances are, if you’re at the same event, you have something in common you can talk about.
Even if you don’t like the event, still talk to 3 people before you leave. It usually takes a few conversations to break the ice. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself I’d leave an event after an hour, and then ended up staying for the whole thing. That first hour is always the hardest!
Clothing, shoes and eyeglasses are easy to compliment. Eyeglasses are great to compliment, because it gives you a reason to look directly into someone’s eyes. Hats too, since they force you to look up, not down at someone’s shoes.
Hold the door open for someone. If you’re driving, smile and let another car go ahead of you in traffic. Help an elderly person cross the street. Buy someone you barely know a cup of coffee. Even exchanges that feel unrelated to our personal life have a cumulative effect on our confidence and our ease with spontaneous interactions.
These habits are all there to tone your social muscles and give you more opportunities to meet new people in different situations. You’ll feel really awkward doing them at first, but that’s just part of the process. The trick is to not get too in your head about it and to just keep doing it. I recommend picking just one habit (making eye contact and chatting with service staff are great, because you’ll have lots of chances to do them every day!) and practicing it until it becomes second nature.
One of the best meet-cute stories of my life happened a few months after I started practicing talking to people in lines. I remember I got in line at a tech event to talk to the speaker, and immediately said, “Waiting in line, eh?” to the person in front of me. It was a complete knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t even register who was in front of me.
He turned around and we started talking, and within five minutes we could both feel it. There was a real connection here. We were both grinning from ear to ear and ended up talking for an hour right there — completely forgetting that we were in line to talk to someone else!
It was such a perfect chance encounter, and it would have never happened if I hadn’t made a habit of talking to people in lines.
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If you wanna learn how you can make meeting new people even easier, check out these 8 quick ways to expand your social circle!
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