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How to Talk With Anyone: 9 Lessons From A Shy Dude Who Talked to 1000's of People
Benjamin Oliver Jenks,
Author of Shoot The Breeze With Anyone
"Oh… no thanks…" I mumbled as I felt hot blood rise to my cheeks.
"I'm pretty tired…" My excuse trailed off though, because I was concealing a lie. I wasn't tired at all, in fact, I'd slept like a drunken baby last night. But I didn't want to tell the cute brunette girl the truth.
"I'm too shy to go out to the club with you and your friends."
That wouldn't go over so well, right? AND I definitely wouldn't tell her, "I get pretty darn nervous in social situations. It is sort of a problem… AND hanging out with a lady like yourself is definitely one of those situations. It would be awkward for most of the night… unless I got blasted and could slur my words romantically. Then, even tanked, I'd probably hope you made the first move."
Back then, I couldn't talk to anyone.
You know… looking back, it seems perfectly clear why too.
Talking to people is a skill, an artform, and a habit. It takes years to master and is truly understood by few.
But if you can master it, then it makes everything easier… money, friends, sex, laughter, connection, fun, and so much more are your reward, if you can walk up to anyone and blow their hair back with a killer conversation.
Learning to talk to anyone is the most valuable skill an adventurer can cultivate.
So… how are your 'Shooting The Breeze' skillzzz?
If they can be improved, then you are like most people. If you want to improve them and are willing to put in the time, then I commend you. It will pay off and it can even teach you a vital lesson that can change your life. I wrote this article specifically for you.
Talking to people doesn't have to be terrifying. If this shy guy (ME) can go out and talk to thousands of people, then so can you.
Quick Story: How I Talked To Thousands Of People In A Few Months.
I was on a mission.
I was hitchhiking across the USA and I wanted to take pictures with 1000 people. I'd been hitchhiking around the USA for 9 months and I was feeling so much love from people. Things could have went terribly wrong and I was so grateful they didn't. I wanted to show the side of humanity that I saw.
So… of course, I wanted to make a viral video to show the world.
But as I stood on street corners, in restaurant parking lots, near tourist hot spots, and anywhere with people… I asked thousands of people, "Do you want to be in a movie?"
Some said, Yes. A lot said, No.
The Point Of My Quick Story: I learned to talk to anyone… by talking to thousands of people.
If you genuinely want to learn to talk to anyone, then start talking to people today. Below are 9 lessons to make your practice easier.
But first… shyness is like an STD.
A lot of people have them, but no one comes right out and tells you. :/
50% of people are shy in certain situations and 90% of people have been shy before. A lot of people don't appear shy, but inside they get just as nervous as you.
"Shyness is a universal human experience," explains psychologist F. Ishu Ishiyama, of the University of British Columbia. It goes beyond humans. 20% of Rhesus monkeys are shy.
So let yourself be shy. Relax and accept it. Read this post, Why You Are Shy? for more information. This will set yourup for the following 9 Talk To Anyone Lessons.
Here Are 9 Lessons To Get You Started Talking To Anyone:
1. Find Your Definition.
Your Definition is your core meaning in the world.
It is what you are good at and what you love to do. Some call it your passion, your life purpose, or your calling. Do you know what your definition is?
When you know what defines you, then talking comes easier.
For me, I can't talk to anyone about ancient Greek literature or cellular biology. They aren't my definition… they don't excite me. But I can talk forever about the subjects that define me.
• When I hang out with other Couchsurfers, I can swap adventure stories forever.
• When I'm with video dudes, I can talk about frame rates, time lapses, and Youtube views all night.
• When I'm Skyping with other personal development bloggers, we can rap all day about life lessons, growth, risk, challenges, sex, and personal experiences.
It is so easy to talk with these people, because we speak the same language. We get the same things and we both enjoy the conversation. We have similar definitions and we harness that energy to connect with each other.
Maybe if you don't have much to say, because you aren't doing activities that define you. Maybe you don't know what your definition even is and you feel lost, unfocused, and out of place. Maybe you aren't proud of your life, so what is there to talk about?
2. Find Your People.
If you know what defines you… then you can seek out people who share your interests.
While talking to anyone is your goal, the root goal is to Find Your People. Your People nourish you, support you, inspire you, and challenge you to push yourself further. These are people you connect with on a deeper level. They share your core values, interests, hobbies, and lifestyle.
When you have found Your People, socializing with everyone will be easier. You will be more confident. You will feel a place, so you won't feel the need to fill every place. You will be able to sense if someone isn't a good fit for you. Then you just talk to someone else without taking it personally.
Find your people by:
• Joining a Meet-up group.
• Going to a Couchsurfing meet-up.
• Online dating.
• Meeting people using Reddit.com.
• Looking through events in your local calendar.
• Joining a class based on your interest.
3. Boring Conversations Rule.
Most intelligent people despise small talk.
It's boring, right? But it does serve an important purpose. Small talk is the gateway to Huge Talk. Small talk is the boring conversation that let's us feel comfortable around another person, so we can open up more personally. You don't need fantastically interesting conversations starters either. It doesn't really matter what you say, just as long as you start talking.
Boring conversations rule… so just ask something that is completely cliched:
A. The Weather: "Great day today, eh?" or "This rain sure sucks."
B. Ask for Directions: "Excuse me, could you help me find (some place in the town)?"
C. Your Surroundings: "What is with the huge sign on that restaurant over there? Have you ever been there?" or "These roads sure have a lot of potholes!"
D. Notice A Detail: "Cool shoes!" or "My friend has the same shirt."
E. Get The time: "Excuse me… do you have the time?"
***Extra Sauce: Take your conversation to a more personal (and fulfilling) level by then sharing something about yourself. It doesn't have to be monumental… "I'm out book shopping for my sister," or "I got caught in the rain yesterday and got soaked," This will encourage your conversation partner to share too.
4. Wear A Conversation Magnet.
Why approach people… when you can get them to come up to you?
I used this strategy as I hitchhiked. I wore my own eye-catching uniform to stand out. With a red, white, and blue headband, a huge backpack, and a t-shirt reading, I Love People, I did not blend in. So a lot of people came up to me to ask what I was doing. But you don't need to go to this extreme…
Just wear one thing that stands out.
Wear bright red shoes. Knit yourself a sweater with a portrait of you on it. Make a purse out of alligator skin. You could even grow out your hair and beard, so people think you look like Charles Manson (3 un-related people have mentioned I bear a resemblance to him).
Give people something to talk about.
5. Stand Tall
If you have unconfident body language, then your mind thinks you are unconfident. On the other hand, if you act confident, then you will believe you are confident. Psychologists call this… Cognitive Consistency.
"An upright posture makes people feel dominant and successful, which in turn improves their ability to relax and focus on problems," says Tomi Ann Roberts Ph.D, the lead author in a study by Colorado College. They found that sitting up straight improved the students test scores and their feelings of confidence.
When you feel confident, you can focus on the conversation at hand and engage your partner.
6. Get Warmed Up.
The biggest problem most shy people face is that their brain is yelling so many negative thoughts at them that it is really challenging to say anything.
Your angry, insecure brain says…
• "Those shoes you are wearing make your ankles look like loaves of sour dough!"
• "Everything you say is ridiculous, stupid, and worded like a 5 year old!"
• "No one will want to talk to you… because you only ever do the most boring shit in the entire world!"
All of these are lies, of course, but your brain might be able to convince you, if you are feeling vulnerable.
To get control of your brain…
Practice socializing in situations that don't matter. Before a sizzlin' date have a conversation with a friend of yours. Before you go out, talk to someone you can joke around with. Get your Social Flow going. Talk to random people you meet. Talk to the door guy and the bartender. Just a few words will improve your mood and take pressure off your brain.
7. Create A Unique Conversation System.
Do you know a guy, who always has something interesting to say?
An old friend of mine would always be sharing stories about hypnotizing, squirting female orgasms, climbing trees, and doing magic tricks. He understood a number of different topics and they were all interesting. He would captivate people at parties and have plenty of people coming to talk to him.
How does he do it?
He is a naturally curious guy, who does a lot of research about stuff. He likes learning, he seeks it out, and he goes deeper than the normal guy, who Googles something and reads the first article that pops up.
What if you could create a Unique Conversation System? This is my method for having a continuous flow of interesting conversations always in my mind.
Try this now:
1. Write down 5 topics you have always been interested in.
2. Do an Internet search for each of the topics. Add the word, 'Blog' or 'Website.'
3. Find 1 interesting website about each of your topics. Sign up to receive emails from it, follow them on Twitter, or "Like" them on Facebook.
4. Then watch your emails, Tweets, and your Stream for Conversation Gold.
5. Keep a separate word document and copy down the best ideas.
6. Review your Conversation Gold list often, especially before you go out socializing.
8. Be Judgmental.
Most shy people view themselves through other's eyes.
They are always wondering what other people think of them. Their mental camera is turned around on themselves and not out at the world.
Leila Lowndes, author of Goodbye to Shy, describes a healthy way of viewing the world.
Imagine you are happily settled in your seat munching popcorn at the movies. You are captivated by the characters on the big screen. You pass judgment on which ones you like and which ones you don't.
You hope the good guy gets the girl and the bad one gets the boot. You aren't thinking about yourself. You don't obsess about what they think of you.
You are observing them. You are comfortably inside your body looking out."
Psychologists call this way of viewing the world, an Observer's Perspective.
You don't overanalyze how other's view you. You don't pick apart every aspect of the way you said a phrase.
Instead, you look out at the world and judge it as an observer would. You notice that Tom spilled ketchup on his shirt, Suzie talks way too much, and Edwardo took the last hotdog, even though you wanted it.
Practice judging other people… and you might find it much easier to talk to them.
9. Listen, Listen, Listen.
"You don't have to be interesting. You have to be interested," says John Gottman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Washington. "That is how you have conversations."
If you are genuinely curious about other people's story, then they will love you.
When I meet people hitchhiking, I rarely shared the stories that I gathered from the road. Most of the time, I asked a lot of questions and encouraged the other person to talk about their passions.
Try these tips to listen encouragingly:
• Ask questions like What, Where, When, Why, and How?
• Encourage with Tiny Words like Aha, Oh, Okay, and Uh-huh.
• Figure out their Gem of Conversation: This is their burning passion that they could talk about forever.
• If you don't have anything to say: Listen, make eye contact, smile, and nod.
Extra Tip: Keep practicing.
Learning to talk to anyone is basically building a new habit.
You won't be able to do it in a day and it will be challenging. But shoot to make progress every day and you will overcome it.
Challenge yourself to talk to people every day.
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"Here's How to Overcome Shyness,
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