Talk To Strangers: They Might Have Candy

Goal: Become a social hero

I am not a hermit but I’m definitely not a social superstar. I want to be though and I think that’s natural. We all would love to be the guy/girl who everyone is excited to talk to. We’re social creatures – people on MySpace acquire friends they’ve never even talked with! The outgoing people in our society tend to be more confident, happier, take action, have high social standing, and make more money.

There are extroverts who can interact with people in almost all settings and there are introverts who are too shy to even talk to themselves. Then there’s the rest of us who I’d describe as social caterpillars. On occasion we try to to morph into butterflies, but we can’t quite produce enough silk to get the cocoon started. Deep, I know, but also very true.

In my mind, I can see several advantages to being a sociable and extroverted person:

  1. People who are social live longer. Studies have shown that people who have strong social ties live longer than isolated people. The other day I was waiting to use a bathroom in a hotel lobby. A girl came and stood next to me. Normally I would have said nothing and stared directly at the door contemplating why the stick figure with the dress has no hair…
    But I remembered my new mission, decided to do something uncomfortable, and actually struck up a conversation with her. The person occupying the bathroom must have been releasing some demons because the conversation went on long enough for her to reveal that she was in school to become a physical therapist. This was awesome (and relevant) for me because I’ve been having back problems lately. I asked her several questions about physical therapy and my back and she gave me some stretches and advice! Since that time, I’ve put her advice to the test and can honestly say I feel better. I am now healthier because I talked to a stranger. Will I live longer? Probably.
  2. People who are social are richer. People who network make more money. In the corporate world, it can lead to bigger and better jobs. In the marketing world, the more people you know, the more people you can try to sell your ideas to. A couple weeks back I was sitting at my desk on Monday and realized that Coachella was that weekend. I hadn’t planned on going this year because I didn’t want to cough up $250 for the tickets. So, I brainstormed a little, and started sending out text messages and emails to some of my friends who might be able to hook me up. Within 10 minutes, I got a response from a friend who works as marketing coordinator for a music magazine. She said she had free tickets for me if I could pass out fliers at the end of the night. Boom! Saving money is making money.
  3. Social people have more exposure to potential partners. Before I met my current girlfriend I was at a party. I was forced into an awkward conversation with a girl I didn’t know. Before I knew it, her and all of her friends were back at my apartment hanging out. One of those friends turned out to be my girlfriend.
  4. Social people have more stories to tell. “Hey remember that one time…” No, I don’t because I wasn’t there. I was sitting at home playing World of Warcraft. Have you ever noticed that coolest old people are the ones who tell stories? If you’re social you can even acquire stories from other people and make them into your own.

The list could easily go on but I’ll stop there. I think I’ve established that the pursuit of a social life is a worthy one and I want to be the biggest most impressive social butterfly around! I want to be confident talking to everyone from hot women to grandma bums.

But it’s hard and not comfortable. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

So, what can I do to change my habits? How can I change my behavior and become socialalbe? I’m not sure really, but I’ll experiment a little and take some baby steps to get there.

My first mission is to say “hello” or “good morning” to everyone I see on the street for a week. No matter what. If I have to go out of my way to say “hi” I’ll do it. If I have to fire off “how are you?” 10 times in a row to ensure everyone gets a greeting I’ll do it.

I’ll post my results one week from now in part 2. Wish me luck.

Published by

Derek Johanson

The personal blog of Derek Johanson.

4 thoughts on “Talk To Strangers: They Might Have Candy”

  1. I’ve been trying your exercise in saying “hello” whenever possible and i just thought i would share some interesting observations and revelations i had. First off, its crazy how fast you start to feel the effects of “just going for it”. I became increasingly more confident (or maybe it was indifference to a possible negative response) with every person i spoke to. After a few days of trial and error you learn how to approach people without seeming awkward or “weird”. All of this culminates into a life skill of being able to connect with someone without needing and introduction or a connecting circumstance. EVERYONE is now a potential friend, business partner, lover etc. It opens up an infinite amount of doors, and in my opinion, is the most effective way to break down your previous limiting mindset.

    That being said, i want to point out some disturbing observations. Most people i talked to were reluctant to have a conversation…at first. I would say “hello” or comment on the magazine they were reading, and they would be very short with their answers. Through repetition, you can feel out which people will eventually be receptive and which ones are just so uncomfortable by your presence, that they actually fake a cell phone call or something.

    Its too bad that society has deemed that talking to strangers as a dangerous and taboo. Having experienced this social enlightenment, i can truly say the world would be a better place if people weren’t so closed off.

  2. I think it’s all about balance. I like mix a social and alone time. It depends on the area too. I live back and forth between Salt Lake and San Francisco and SF people are SO MUCH MORE FRIENDLY and open than Utah people. I chalk it up to logistics. SF is more “squished” ….. you just are right next to people more and conversation just pop up. I go back to Utah and random conversation just don’t happen as much. ~Amanda

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