Whether for school, sorority life, or my involvement with student media, I'm meeting new people all the time, and it's harder on some days than others. I've picked up a few strategies along the way to make your interactions easier and more enjoyable.
1. Put your phone down.
Millennials are said to have poor conversation skills from too much time spent texting. Please don't prove that stereotype true, and especially not when you're meeting someone for the first time. Your phone is something you use to schedule a coffee date, not something to hide behind while you're there. Stopping to check your texts in the middle of a conversation may come off as scattered, or that you don't care what the other person has to say. If you need to take a call or keep track of the time, let the other person know in advance. Besides, you might miss a key connection point if you're too busy scrolling through Instagram to notice.
2. Have three go-to topics...
Whether it's a job interview or a casual meet-up, going into a conversation unprepared will only heighten your nerves. Memorize a list of three talking points that you can spend a long time discussing and will give the other person a clear sense of who you are. Make sure these topics are widely applicable so the other person feels included, too. For example, if I'm meeting a fellow student or someone similar in age, I'm most likely to talk about my major, campus involvement, and travel experiences.
3. ...and three deeper-level questions.
Done with the go-to topics, or ready to get to know someone on a deeper level? Don't be afraid to ask a few (reasonably) personal questions. What's at the top of their bucket list? What's their favorite emoji, or their absolute dream job? Your curiosity will spark the other person's interest and show that you genuinely care.
4. Follow up.
People are proven to like you more if you as follow-up questions. So go ahead, ask away! If the other person makes a statement, don't just leave them hanging. A quick "Oh! Tell me more," is so easy, and will take a lot of the pressure off you.
5. Engage, meaningfully.
If you do what you love, you should have no problem talking about it. Engaging your interests will give you tons of talking material and even heighten your confidence. Explain what you've learned from 14 years of competitive gymnastics, and don't be shy about your love for Nicolas Sparks movies. Who knows? You might meet someone who's just as obsessed with The Longest Ride as you are.