How to appropriately and reasonably converse with a stranger

Recently, I made my Facebook page public, very public in an effort to create exposure for my blog which I had just begun. Likewise, I dove head first into so many other forms of social media, my head began to spin. I’ve been able to network with success. I’m meeting other bloggers and small business owners, like-minded individuals and other “creativepreneurs” … all of whom have something to share and wisdom for me to glean. Of course, I hope to spread my own goodness among the lot, but I’m still a rookie…and I HATED social media.

When I came out of hiding from Facebook, I had little to no restrictions on my privacy settings. I was open arms to anyone who wanted to follow my page and reap the goodness that I had to give. I did take a preventative measure first, however; I changed my relationship status to: “in a relationship” hoping to ward off randos who are looking for something I am not offering. Now, this wasn’t a lie. I am in a relationship, a happy one no less … I tagged my boyfriend in my relationship status, making it even more official, I guess. I felt so juvenile. I’d never tagged anyone as my significant other before; I was way off the radar there. But of course, I was proud to tag this one, still feeling juvenile, but with a proud, girly giggle behind my smile.

I received my first “outsider” friend request from a guy that was in one of the groups I’d joined. I smiled, thinking that I had taken these precautions and was quite proud of myself. I clicked “confirm” and continued without a worry. This went on for a bit, more females than males, really, and I was happy to be learning, sharing, and growing with these people. I noticed, though, after I had accepted one friend request in particular, that I began to get more friend requests from males. I hadn’t posted anything to attract an audience, I was sure of that. And then a few messages started to come in. It wasn’t incessant by any means, just a couple here or there, and I felt the responsibility to give people a fair shot if there might be a reason or need to connect with me, then I wanted to help and do my part. That sounds naive doesn’t it?

I hate it when women degrade men for simply trying to strike up a conversation or give them a compliment. I could sense the intent of the person on the other end of Facebook pretty quickly, and it usually went the same way every time. I was always polite, but after a while, I just started ignoring messages like this.

“How are you?”
SNORE!! I decided that if there was a person with the intent to share goodness, that’s how they would start their message, not some lame one-word reply situation. In fact, the females that contacted me did exactly that, but I continued to field messages from random males, trying to determine intent. I was lucky because my intuition is pretty good and I didn’t waste time. I responded to these males the same way I would want my boyfriend to respond to other females, and I was content.

But then I started thinking. What if these people had a list of ideas relating to a good conversation? What if they were given tools? Our social networking communication would mature greatly. Now, I totally assumed that someone else has written a bigger, worse, better list on how to talk to girls, boys, anyone at all; but I ignored that assumption, did no research and am here to provide you with MY list – How to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, anyhow:

1. Cold turkey sucks. Have you ever eaten it? I mean, maybe it’s good if you’re hungover or super hungry, but eating it and quitting like it are obviously two very different scenarios. I’m realizing this may not have been the best example, because thinking about it, cold turkey is pretty delicious and now I kind of want some. But don’t bring a cold turkey to interpersonal conversations. Don’t get involved in a conversation if you have nothing to offer. Flying by the seat of your pants is one thing…that’s totally acceptable as long as you have a general direction, but cold anything (for our intents and purposes today) is no good. So don’t start a conversation cold. Would it kill you to do some research? I’m not talking stalking, of course, but you sent me a friend request and I accept, so take a look at my profile. Where am I from? What do I like? Am I in a relationship? Do we have any binge-worthy Netflix series in common? These are key questions to determine before sending a thoughtless “hi” across messenger, and expecting … I don’t know what. Find an icebreaker that works for you both. Be creative. Make an effort.

2. The research that you do on a person who you want to begin a conversation with may not always be possible, but asking questions is the best way to determine common ground. Everybody likes talking about themselves, and everybody gets so excited when they find someone else who shares a passion, a belief, or anything that might spawn camaraderie. It’s likely you will have at least one thing in common with anybody you talk to, even if it’s only your gender. Find something you both enjoy and start with that. Don’t give me a half-assed “How are you?” because I will give you right back “I am fine,” and I will not ask how you are, because our conversation is over before it begins. I know where your head is…or at least, I know where your head is not… It’s not here in the present moment as you’re trying to talk to me. You are on autopilot, and I’m an empath, so I can read your energy, even from across the vast internet.

3. If you’re introducing yourself to someone, and you begin to find yourself listing your details…stop. Breathe. Bring your mind back to the present moment and remember what your intent is. If you don’t have a specific intent, create one. You may have found common ground with someone, and you’re ready to share your demographics and viewpoints on life as a whole and probably some quirky idiosyncrasies for fun. Don’t give me *Where are you from? I am from the US. *What do you do for work? I am an accountant. *What religion are you? I am a Catholic. BORING!! Work the information you want to share into an active listening conversation, not just waiting your turn to talk. When you listen, you learn, but when you’re just mindlessly waiting to talk, the other person can tell and will respond accordingly. You get out of something that you put in, most of the time anyway.

4. Questions, questions, questions. . . ask mindful, thoughtful, purposeful questions. Mindfulness keeps you in the present moment, rather than thinking of what might happen or might not happen or what you can or can’t do to change things. Being thoughtful shows that you’ve been listening, absorbing what the other person is saying, and responding with follow up questions. Don’t be a robot. Don’t be mindless. Think. Pay attention.

5. Kind of touched on this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. Pay attention to what you already know or have access to know about this person. If you see that I’m in a relationship, don’t hit me up for casual flirting, sexting, or anything else really that’s not business related. Do you want to feature me on your blog? Say that. Do you want to hire me? Say that. Do you want to flirt? Keep moving. If my profile says I’m committed, assume that I’m committed, and be respectful.

6. *Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.* Be yourself, but don’t push yourself forward. Don’t try to impress anyone, just conversate, and be nice. Nobody likes an a-hole, not even the insecure women who continually fall helplessly in love with them.

7. Keep the braggadocious chatter to a minimum, if you must give it a place at all. People are interested in your achievements only to the extent that they ask. Be modest, but truthful. Do you remember Gaston from Beauty and the Beast? He was quite the spectacle, doting on and admiring himself in every mirror he passed, reminding each person he came in contact with that he was the absolute best of everyone and everything. How many friends did he have? His sidekick, Lefou was loyal to him out of sheer obligation, a need to be liked (which he wasn’t), combined with a crippling fear of rejection and insufficiency. People liked hanging out with Gaston until his novelty wore off, and if you remember correctly, it wore off rather quickly.

8. Let’s revisit active listening, being mindful, in the present moment. Active listening, simply put, is giving the present moment your everything. It’s more than hearing someone, it’s giving your full, undivided attention. Get off your phone. Unless you have an emergency situation, which you won’t, put your phone away. You have voicemail, and interrupting is not cool. Ever. It’s rude to entertain a separate conversation when you’re already involved in one. Give your entire being to the present moment, and listen intently. Enjoy this moment. You can never get it back.

9. So, this one is pretty straightforward…don’t be creepy. You know what creepy is. If you’re unsure, err on the side of not being creepy. Earlier when I said to research, I reiterate do NOT stalk, do not creep. Don’t be obnoxious. Use manners. If you don’t know any manners, Google it or call your mother. Speaking of mothers, a good rule of thumb is to treat anyone and everyone in a way that would make your mother proud. And if your mother doesn’t have that sense of decency or propriety, then treat people in a way that would make MY mother proud (she’s got pretty high standards, so step it up).

10. Finally, and maybe most importantly, be honest about your intentions. If this is a request to do business with me, say that. If you are looking for a fling, say that so I can tell you I’m not interested. Now I can go about my business, and you can move on to your next victim, and we won’t waste each other’s time.

Now, I want to say, I am not approaching this topic as though I am offended because I am not. I have no dog in this fight. My experiences showed me a need for a few guidelines regarding mindful, pleasant, and successful personal interactions. Additionally, I must say, I can appreciate someone who steps out of his or her comfort zone to attempt a dialogue with a complete stranger. That takes guts, and I respect that. Let me keep my respect for you. Don’t make a fool of yourself because I politely reject you. It’s not you, it’s me! I’m the one who’s unavailable and perfectly happy in the relationship I currently have. Don’t waste your time on me. Go find an available person with which to try these suggestions. And thank you for reaching out to me. I am flattered. But you keep on doing you until you find someone that you can do you with.

Comment! Tell me what you think of my list…am I full of it? Or does it help?

Keep your head!

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