After starting over from scratch in two countries, an expat or whatever you call the new girl that gets to answer the question -where are you from?-, I might have exercised the art of starting conversations a bit. I don’t think I could ever state a list of how to make friends. Because friends, like love, are nature’s ways of speaking to you in a very low voice, a whisper, and you can only listen sometimes, with some luck. But I can tell you a few hacks on how to start a conversation, how to skip small talk and time wasting-void-words.
But, why even start a conversation with a stranger? It’s just a humble suggestion of a way to live. I suggest you converse like you breathe, living life like that, fully and shared with the people that surround you. There is goodness in everyone. Converse for the joy of every day sharing, of living. Just because you can. Social media involves no emotional risk of awkwardness, of WTF stares. But, why do we even fear awkwardness?Awkwardness happens when you stop listening and engaging. Stop rationalising it and just engage. The conversation is there, the line you want to cross, the yes! I know how you are feeling look. And once you cross the line of that fear, imagine yourself turning the pages of a good book. You are in.
So, are you in?
- Well first get on tone. Be open. Feel curious about someone. You must be asking yourself something about them. Admire the little things, their journey. Admire the love they have for their dog –if they have a dog, the book they are holding. Wonder about the trip they are making, the places they are going, or are the person they are waiting for. Then gather the enthusiasm, the energy, so your first “hi” shows your genuine interest.
Don’t be scared of looking desperate, being weird. Having a conversation doesn’t compromise you to exchange facebook accounts and CVs. But it can change your day, add to the warmth in your heart. Taking the smile with you just made you a whole lot richer and you could have also changed that person’s day. It can only build up.
- Now, say a unique genuine compliment. Skip the predictable words, the awesome, cool, pretty. Say something specific to them, to that day, or that you just know they have put an effort on on that day: shaping her eyebrows, picking green earrings that matched perfectly their green scarf, or just say something about their smile. There is always something revealing about smiles.
- It is a good idea to try to construct on that basis. Think of what you have in common with that person. Don’t start talking about the things you hate, hoping that they hate them too. Chances are that if they don’t hate them, you might have just spoiled an image for them, or showed them something negative that they didn’t see before. YWhy would you like to hear from them: Oh yeah, you are right! The medical system in Denmark actually sucks! It is not that hard to construct on something positive. You could find something good always if you are, in fact, sharing the same geography, same weather, same exact light with that stranger. Of course, you can always debate later.
- Really listen. Be present. Make eye contact.
If it is the second time you see them (and they are still complete strangers) mention the things you talked about before and that you remember. They are that important to you.
I stayed in an Airbnb in Aarhus and this is my friend here, best hygge around town. I met a man in a shop that gave me life changing advice about parenthood. I recently met a man in GoMore and had the coolest conversation on Aarhus and coffee. The word stranger is overused. There is no such thing.