Want to get out of a rut? Start talking to strangers, you never know what can happen.
I grew up with a mother who, within 5 minutes of going anywhere, would create bonds with all those around her. As a child, I found it incredibly annoying that I couldn't leave a grocery store without the group hug between butcher, baker and cashier. It was years later, that I realized what an incredible lesson she provided for me, that I now integrate into my life (with far greater moderation) and that really allows me to feel connected to the world around me.
I've gotten numerous perks from talking to strangers to having a great gym buddy and friend, learning about the history of typesetting and why comic sans is a design disaster if you want to take yourself seriously, the history of Maltese and the aristocracy, to a beautiful moment of prayer with a Christian woman who I bonded with when I found a pile of brand-new storage bins on the streets of New York, and she asked if she could possibly share the wealth. On a business level, I've also gotten business speaking engagements, clients, referrals and met new friends that are now in my life, simply by being open and initiating a contact with a so-called "perfect stranger."
These strategies, by the way, are also wonderful in networking situations as well, for those times you feel a tad reserved or find talking to strangers daunting.
1. Wake up and pay attention to your environment - Maybe someone on a bus or grocery line has an interesting pin, hat or accent. Be interested and then act interested. One woman in an elevator had sparkled Vera Wang flats that I commented on, which ended up leading to a relationship with an association that I had several speaking engagements with. Years ago by joking with a person in an elevator, I ended up getting a commercial audition a week later. While you don't want to go into these encounters with an agenda to get anything, it's a nice perk when it happens.
2. Don't be afraid to ask someone a question or ask their opinion - People may at first be taken a little bit aback, but ultimately, as long as they are not in a hurry or in some form of upset, are complimented that you want their opinion on something. One of my most tender moments with a stranger, started by her asking for directions to a certain gate, where we found out we were going to the same place, and I escorted her there. It lead to a heartfelt conversation about her losing her husband suddenly and hoping a certain retreat may allow her to heal. While we never stayed in touch, I came away with a tremendous gratitude for my partner, Charlie, and the fulfillment of having supported another human being that day.
3. Eye Contact and a simple "How are you?" is all that you need - I heard it said, "We have never been so disconnected in a connected world." People crave contact, depending upon the person and the situation. A client of mine loves to go into elevators and look people in the eye, say "How are You?" and ask them what floors they want to go to, and simply press the buttons herself. While some people are texting and uninterested in connecting, there are often one or two, who will look her back in the eye, with warmth, "Thank you." A stilted disconnected elevator ride transforms into a shared moment.
4. Share an observation with a stranger- While the weather is a common ice breaker, see if you can be more creative with someone. If they're reading a book and the title looks interested and they don't look like they would mind an interruption, and you've read that book, share one thing you got out of that book, and what they're enjoying about it. If they answer with one word responses, then it's clear they don't want to engage, and just move on.
5. Enjoy the process of leaving the same ol' same ol' and getting to meet new people- While you may never find your BFF, Soul Mate, or your next best biz transaction, there is something so rejuvenating by expanding the world you're in by talking with strangers. You'll find that this renewed energy and connections while not only enhance your personal life but professional one as well.