Communication, the ability to talk to other people, is one of the most important skills you can develop in life. We communicate with other people all of the time. Sometimes it’s easy but at other times it can seem impossible. Especially, When it comes to starting a conversation with people you don’t know. So, in this article we’ll discover The 5 common fears and barriers that prevent you from speaking to absolutely anyone.
1. Your Mindset – The Biggest Potential Barrier:
The biggest potential barrier to successful communication is you and your mindset. The meaning you attach to the responses you get will have a huge bearing on how you build your communication skills. You may have heard it said that it’s not what happens to you in life – it’s the meaning that you attach to it.
If you tried to talk to someone and they looked away, what meaning would you attach to that? You may think you’ve done something wrong, and conclude that starting conversations with people you don’t know is unacceptable. If you internalize that meaning you are unlikely to have much of an appetite for starting conversations with people in the future. But what if they were just shy? Maybe they were upset or having a bad day. If you attach this meaning to it, you’d have a very different outcome.
This shift in your mindset is what can help to overcome the fear around talking to absolutely anyone.
2. Fear: Does It Hold You Back?
Like most people, you’ll have experienced situations where you’ve held back from saying certain things or starting conversations. It can happen with people you know well and with people you don’t. Some of this is due to a lack of skill set – simply not knowing how to start or handle a conversation. But there’s another factor that holds many people back and that’s fear. Perhaps you don’t label it “fear”. Perhaps you call it “uncertainty”, or maybe you pass the moment off because it “just doesn’t seem right”. However you justify it though, it is one or another form of fear that is presenting itself and stopping you.
It could be the worry about what other people might think. It may be concern about looking stupid or making a mistake. Or it could be fear of rejection. After all, you’re not holding back because you’re worried people will accept you with open arms are you?
When it comes to starting a difficult conversation, or a conversation with people you don’t know, how much fear do you feel? It’s important to understand how much fear you feel in a given situation. For many people, the fear doesn’t have to be totally eliminated in order for them to take action – it just needs to come down to a comfortable level.
For some people fear is part of the process and they will push on even with a moderate to high level of it. For others, even just a small amount is enough to hold them back. If, in the past, you have achieved something despite an element of fear, you are likely to have a higher fear tolerance. As you’ve carried on despite fear in the past, your mindset could be that fear isn’t a reason to hold back and not take action.
3. The curse of getting started:
Hesitation kills spontaneity and spontaneity is your friend. Your inner critic will try and stop you, but when you see an opportunity to start a new conversation just go for it. Put aside the urge to critique your opening lines. Just come out with it, straight away, within the first few seconds. If you over-think it, it won’t seem natural to you or the person you’re connecting with.
Respond to events around you in the environment. If somebody drops something on the floor near you, you could react to it and make a connection with someone else nearby with: “Glad that wasn’t me. That’s the sort of thing I do.”
Over-analysis is a short cut to missed opportunities. Don’t overanalyze. Another person will accept you if it seems natural to them; and that will only happen if you come across with energy, make good eye contact, and give the impression that you’re an open, chatty person.
Aside from responding to events, the most natural moment to engage with somebody is when you move into their physical space.
4. “I don’t want to experience rejection”
One of the biggest reasons people don’t speak up or ask for something or talk to somebody they don’t know is fear of rejection. This stems from not knowing how to handle what appeared to be rejection, if it happened, and goes back to childhood for most people. As a child, when you get into trouble, you can’t defend your position because it’s an adult, teacher or parent, telling you off. You just have to take it: feeling humiliated and embarrassed. As an adult though, you can stand your own ground in a calm, confident and friendly manner. You no longer have to fear vulnerability from rejection.
When approaching someone to start a conversation, fear of rejection returns in the form of the fear of getting a bad response. But how rational is that fear? If the person you’re talking to is shy, they might ignore you or look away, but that’s down to their own shyness not you. If they’re confident, they’ll probably engage with you or at least answer you. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get a bad response in either situation.
5. What Others Might Think of Your Interaction:
A lot of people get concerned about talking to somebody they don’t know in public. They worry about what people around them will think when they see them talking to a “stranger”. What you need to remember is that people nearby do not know whether you know that person or not. The only people that know there is no existing relationship for sure are you and the person you are talking to. So worrying about what by standers may think needn’t be an issue.
Often someone who worries what other people think will also worry about making a mistake, looking stupid or getting something wrong. This goes back to the classic fear of failure where you assume you’re no good at something just because the immediate outcome isn’t fantastic. But there’s a learning curve to everything in life. You can’t expect to do things perfectly first time. Focus instead on how your results improve with practice.
Your time for living is now, not some time in the future. So, start doing more of the things you want to do today and worry less (or not at all) about what others may think. The likelihood is that they’re not thinking about you anyway.
Talking to new people takes time and practice. We get better over time, but most people experience the really strange phenomenon where they can feel like they’ve cracked it one day, and the next it’s all gone. It almost seems like yesterday didn’t happen and it becomes awkward again.
There is a way to really help this and that is to start every day being very social with people that are quite easy to talk to. For example, this could be the person at the station where you buy your ticket, the taxi driver, the shopkeeper or the bus driver. People tend to find that by the time they have had three “warm up” conversations at the start of the day, all other conversations are much easier.
So, instead of paying for your petrol or newspaper and just saying “Thank you”, ask a question or pass a comment – engage the other person in a brief conversation.
Sometimes these interactions may develop into conversations; other times they will not. The outcome or amount of conversation that takes place isn’t important. The point is you are developing your conversation-starting skills and making progress all the time. Like most things, the more practice you have the more you improve.
Source: Mark Rhodes (2013) How to Talk to Absolutely Anyone: Confident Communication in Every Situation