Last semester I spent a lot of time working on being friendly to other people. I had a lot of anxiety, so meeting new people was an uncharted experience for me. I still have lots of lessons to learn, but here are a few things I learned to practice when meeting new people:
When your face says that it’s happy to see other people, the rest of you will begin to follow. In the same way, if your face is terrified, the rest of you will be too. Plus, if you’re scared, it can make the other person nervous. If both people are freaking out, the conversation is much more likely to fail.
Introduce yourself first.
You don’t have to be ridiculous about it, but don’t wait around to introduce yourself. The longer you wait, the more awkward it will get. I made a goal in the fall to introduce myself immediately to new people, and it made the terror much easier to manage.
Ask lots of questions.
I’ve heard this advice from a lot of people, and it’s super helpful. A good idea is to ask a question, then really listen to their answer. Then, try to ask a thoughtful follow-up question. For example:
You: How many siblings do you have?
Stranger: 2. I have a brother and a sister.
You: Oh, are you the oldest?
And so forth. When I first tried this, it felt fake and uncomfortable, but it has gotten easier with repetition. This has the added benefit of learning about the other person.
Learn their name.
This can be easier said than done, but here are a few tips:
- Introduce yourself using your name. When they respond in kind, try to remember it.
- Write it down. Don’t be awkward, but if you get the chance, jot their name down. You can also type it into your smart phone.
- Ask again. If you lose their name partway through the conversation, just ask them to remind you at the end of the conversation. They’re more likely to be happy that you care than offended.
Some people recommend making word associations for people’s names. I don’t do this often, but I’ve seen it work well for others.
Embrace the awkward.
Meeting new people is really hard, but push through it. Remember: the other person may feel just as awkward as you do. Focus on helping them enjoy the conversation, and don’t worry about it being weird.