- Pray Before You Approach
Say a prayer before approaching the new person. A short prayer like: Come o Holy Spirit, said sincerely and with faith, is enough.
- Downplay the Apparent Difference
Get to know them and maybe if you hit it off, one day in the near future, you will learn where her accent is from, or her ethnic background. For now, enjoy your common humanity and talk about more general things. Let love trump curiousity.
3. Ask Open But General Questions
Ask questions that begin with “who,” “what,” “when” and “how”. These should be general and not particular to the new person. Examples of questions to ask: Who is hosting the party? How do you think they got all those balloons up there?
Ask no more than three open-questions in a row. Make an effort to make a statement after you have received an answer to your question. For example
You: How do you think they got all those balloons up there? (Your Question)
New person: I think they are glued to the ceiling
You: Wow, must have been a lot of work. Looks great though. (Your Statement)
4. Listen Actively
Ensure your listening is active. This means, try to listen to understand. Avoid the silence-while-I-wait-for-my-turn-to-speak type of listening. It would be obvious at some point and is unattractive.
4. Smile & Eye-Contact
A smile with brief eye contact will often relax an atmosphere especially when it is natural and welcoming. It is easy to smile at someone who you have just prayed for (see number 1 above).
In some cultures, eye-contact or a smile before you know someone could be taken as odd behaviour. Do some research before striking a conversation in a culture that you are new to.
5. Avoid Religion, Politics and all Hot Topics
Avoid hot topics or topics that gets people riled up to unusual or passionate proportions. The exception is a situation where you have connected well on the matter.
Otherwise spend most of your time talking about what you have in common: your job, literature, sports and so on. Hot topics can come later once friendship is established.
6. Make Sincere Compliments
This is often a good conversation starter. But you must mean it. Oftentimes people can tell when a compliment is not sincere. A compliment is useful for asking follow up questions that are open-ended. For instance, saying, I like your shoes could help you with a natural follow up question of where did you get them?
7. Avoid Too Much Information – “TMI”
Sharing about your diarrhea or your surgical procedure should be avoided unless it is relevant. For example, your recent surgery means you cannot speak properly or shake hands. Also, sharing heartbreaking stories to someone you just met is not a good idea unless it is relevant e.g. you are both at an event about such heartbreaking stories.
8. Assume the Best & Consider all Possibilities
If you encounter a bad habit e.g. you get interrupted constantly, do not assume it was done on purpose. It is better to assume the best of the person. Maybe she doesn’t mean to and has never been told about this bad habit. Maybe she is not in the right frame of mind.
9. Make Plans You Can Keep
If all goes well, make concrete but realistic plans. Often, it is better to start small. Add each other on social media or exchange phone numbers. It is not necessary to plan a trip to Vegas together because you connected on that topic. The reason is, this trip to Vegas is unlikely at this point. In failing to carry it out, you inadvertently lay a weak foundation of trust for the potential friendship.
10. Relax & Enjoy
Try to enjoy other people’s company. If you think you did a bad job as a conversationalist, do not beat yourself up about it. There are always other opportunities.
One good practice is to pray after all conversations in your heart, using words like these:
Lord, if I said anything right, may it help my interlocutor and myself, for you glory. If I said anything wrong, please fix it for my friend and for me.
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