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How to Make New Friends Even If You’re Shy

Social or business events full of strangers are more enjoyable when you know how to get them chatting
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEFebruary 11, 2022 PRINT

Starting a new job, joining a new club, or even using the condo pool for the first time are all opportunities to make new friends. We’ve got a few suggestions to make doing so easier.

Be Brave

At any social or work-related gathering, there will be times when you don’t know anyone or when you see someone standing or sitting by themselves. Etiquette expert Myka Meier suggests that you be the brave one who starts a conversation. This allows the other person to relax so the conversation can flow. It won’t work for everyone, but give it your best effort by smiling as you introduce yourself, and remember to maintain eye contact as you talk.

Let Them Talk

It’s human nature to want to talk about ourselves, but let the other person do most of the talking. You may have to ask a few non-threatening questions to get them talking, such as, “Bob is my favorite neighbor! How do you know him?” The goal is to get them engaged in the conversation: As you listen to their stories, you may learn new things and discover shared interests.

4 Steps to Start a Conversation

Meier has a four-part technique to kick-start conversations after you’ve introduced yourself. First, ask any “What” question, such as, “What are these snacks? They’re amazing.” Second, ask a “Why” question, such as, “Jessica said you went to NYU, why did you choose to go there?” Next, ask a “How” question, such as, “How do you like this weather?” The fourth and “C” step is to compliment them: “Your tie/dress/dog is really nice!”

Avoid Controversial Topics

Take care to avoid potentially polarizing, off-putting topics, including anything related to religion or politics. Other dangerous topics might include controversial entertainment figures or how another person at the event is dressed (he or she who might be their significant other). Unsolicited suggestions for losing weight will rarely go over well, nor will attempts to sell goods or services to someone that you just met.

If in Doubt, Dogs and Cars

While you sometimes instantly connect and spend hours chatting with someone new, don’t be overly concerned if the conversation suddenly develops awkward silences. Meier suggests asking an innocuous question, such as, “Bob’s puppy is so cute; do you have pets?” By focusing on topics other than them, people relax and are more likely to continue the conversation. As another example, if you saw them arrive in their car, ask how they like it.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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