I like meeting new people. By meeting new people, we can be exposed to new knowledge and perspectives, which might open new doors in our lives. However, it is very challenging and intimidating for me to speak to a stranger. I can talk comfortably with strangers at social gatherings or business meetings. I am not shy in this context. Still, I am too shy to speak to a stranger even if I am really curious about a person and wish to have a conversation and I think I am not alone in this.
However, I successfully meet new people frequently and it is not because I am lucky. I have one thing that I practice intentionally. Here is what I do: I make it easy for strangers to speak to me.
In this way, I don’t have to speak to strangers. I am shy, so I don’t want to speak to strangers. I want people to speak to me. So, I make it easy for them to speak to me. Then I can meet new people without having to be brave and speak to strangers.
When I travelled around the world, many strangers spoke to me. I did look like an absolute tourist, having a map in my hand, looking around, and probably looking confused. Many people spoke to me: Where do you want to go? And then, a conversation starts, and I did make many friends.
You may think this can be applied only to a travelling situation, but it does not have to be. If a person looks lost or in trouble, it is easy to speak to them, asking: “Hi, are you okay?” Now you might be thinking you have Google Maps, and you don’t get lost. Yes, indeed. I won’t be lost, so often, and I am not recommending that you fake being lost either. But this method, making it easy for others to speak to you, can be applied in many other ways.
One thing that works for me is wearing kimonos. I like kimonos, traditional Japanese clothes, and when I wear one, I am frequently spoken to. Some people just say: “Nice kimono.” Then, I reply: “Thank you,” and when I feel like it, I can keep having conversations, asking “Do you also wear kimono?” or something, and if a person says “yes”, we can be friends, and even if they say “no”, still I can explain how it is wonderful to wear one.
Another thing I do more frequently is to carry some items that might get the attention of others. For instance, I carry a bag or towel with my university name and logo. Recently, I was shopping and one of the shop staff spoke to me just because he noticed the university logo and he was also a graduate.
Also, I play tennis and when I had a tennis lesson at the tennis club, one of the coaches came to me and asked if I was a student there because I was wearing sportswear with the university name. He was not in charge of my lesson, and I have never taken his lessons, but he spoke to me anyway. Just carrying a tennis racket will do the trick as well. When I carry a racket or two with me, it is not small luggage, and many times people sitting next to me at cafes speak to me. Most likely, they play tennis as well or like playing some other sports, and sometimes we end up talking for an hour. In this way, you don’t meet new people randomly but meet people who probably have the same interest as you.
You must have something. Something that might get the attention of others. At least one. If you cannot come up with something, imagine what kind of things get your attention. Who is the person you cannot help speaking to (if you are not that shy)? What makes it a little easier for you to speak to a stranger? That is the answer for you, and that might lead you to new people and a new world.