By Mia Gutierrez
You might find yourself feeling lonely and in your own personal bubble. You recently graduated from college where you could make a friend by simply sitting next to someone in a lecture, or attending a campus event. After moving to a new area to pursue a new job, you feel distanced from your college and hometown friends. You have recently felt closed off from the world, and lacking social interaction. Maybe you have tried to make friends post-grad, and it has been harder than ever to truly connect with people.
This is not an uncommon feeling for recent college graduates who move to a new area. After losing your social circle and the comfort of your home, the feelings can be overwhelming. If the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger now seems daunting, you're not alone. Here's a guide to help you regain that college-level confidence and make new connections with ease.
1) Embrace Your Interests
Were you a part of a specific campus club, really enjoyed going to the gym with friends, or exploring new places? Channel that same energy! Your passion for these unique interests and hobbies can be a great conversation starter. Sharing your interests naturally attracts like-minded individuals, making the dialogue more comfortable and engaging. This can help find common ground and make the conversation just flow, while still staying true to yourself.
2) Lean Into Learning
You've been a college student studying a specific major with different applicable skills and projects. Find what about your college learning has taught you various characteristics or life skills. Maybe moving away from your hometown to go to college shows your adaptability and willingness to try new things – qualities that can ease the pressure of talking to strangers. Approach each interaction as a learning opportunity, whether it's about the other person's experiences, perspectives, or knowledge. Go into every experience with an open-mind, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
3) Utilize Past Experiences
Your internship and work experiences, where you worked with a unique group of individuals to meet a customer’s particular needs, have already equipped you with the skills to engage with diverse groups of people. Reflect on those experiences to remind yourself of your ability to connect and communicate effectively.
4) Start Small
Don't pressure yourself to have a deep conversation right off the bat. Start with small talk and simple greetings. Each positive interaction, no matter how brief, will build your confidence bit by bit. As you learn new and exciting things about the other person, you might find common interests or learn things that you might want to try. Ask engaging questions thar go beyond a yes or no response. And remember to celebrate the small wins throughout these conversations. If talking to new people is outside of your comfort zone, then having a conversation with someone at the gym or a coffee shop is a great first step.
5) Practice Active Listening
Good communication isn't just about talking; it's also about listening. Just like when you're answering job application questions, such as "What does good customer service mean to you?", listening attentively to someone's answer can provide you with insights and follow-up questions that keep the conversation flowing. Remember that the other person is likely in a similar position as you, and wants the respect to talk about theirself as well. You want to learn about the other person to see if there is an opportunity for a deeper friendship there.
6) Seek Common Ground
Finding common interests can bridge the gap between strangers. Think about your favorite things to do in your free time, favorite restaurants in your area, or dream vacation. These parallels can serve as a foundation for fascinating discussions. It is a lot easier to break the ice with someone that you have similarities with.
7) Stay Positive and Open
A positive attitude is infectious. Keep an open mind, smile, and maintain a welcoming posture. Your body language can speak volumes before you even say a word. You might even want to explicitly state your feelings or emotions throughout the conversation. Saying your nervous may explain the tension in the conversation, or even saying that you are having a good time may help the other person relax as well.
8) Reframe Rejection
Not every attempt at conversation will be a success, and that's okay! Rejection doesn't reflect your worth or ability to connect with others. It's simply a part of the process. Remember that each of these experiences will help you get better at talking to strangers and building your confidence. You may learn what works and what doesn’t. And you may even learn more about what you want to find in a friendship. The more you practice going up to people, the easier and more natural it will come to you. Expanding on building confidence to talk to strangers after college is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and finding your groove in new social landscapes. Keep pushing your boundaries, and enjoy the process of meeting all the interesting people out there.
Seeking out a mentor or offering to mentor someone else can be a wonderful way to build connections and learn more communication skills. These relationships can offer structured conversations that can spill over into more casual ones.
10) Social and Networking Events and Workshops
These are goldmines for practicing your conversational skills, and we have them available specifically for recent grads. They're designed for people to meet and spark new friendships, and a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. We also have some that are more networking specific, for young professionals who want to both make new friends, and expand their professional circles.
11) Remember, Everyone's Human
Sometimes, we put so much pressure on ourselves to say the right thing that we forget the person we're talking to is just another human being. They have their insecurities and fears, too. Remembering this can take the edge off and make the interaction more relaxed. While continually improving your communication skills and confidence in social settings is awesome, you certainly don’t need to be perfect to have great social interactions. No matter where you’re at now, there are people who will be lucky to meet you!