The Shy Man’s Guide on How to Talk to Strangers

Jun 01, 2023

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Communicating with others is crucial. Aside from cultivating friendships, socializing with new people helps you get ahead in your career, connects you with mentors and encourages you to reach out for help when needed. Of course, some still need to learn how to talk to strangers. 

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember when your mom warned you not to speak to people you didn’t know? As children, we’re conditioned to think that strangers equal danger — in some instances, they do. However, socializing becomes ridiculously hard for those that carry this mindset into adulthood.

Sometimes you must take life by the horns and create a positive change for yourself. Here’s a shy man’s guide to building confidence around others.

The Science Behind Shyness

To be clear, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with being shy. In fact, developmental-behavioral genetics professor Thalia Eley from Kings College London says that 30% of shyness is a genetic trait, while the rest is a response to one’s surroundings. That means, for some people, shyness isn’t something they can help. 

You’re probably well familiar with the physical symptoms of awkward encounters. You might feel your hands get clammy, get lightheaded or start sweating. Some people get upset stomachs or feel like their hearts are pounding out of their chests. The physical discomfort is enough to cause shy people to withdraw from social situations — a reason many shy people are also classified as introverts.

Shyness can also lead to heightened anxiety in men. Nearly 14% of American men have anxiety — yet men struggle the most to address their feelings, mainly due to society telling them fear is unacceptable and a sign of weakness. Discovering ways to overcome shyness could lead to greater social fulfillment and improve mental health outcomes.

The Best Places to Socialize

Impromptu meetings often make for some of the best conversations. Fortunately, there are several places you can find friendly strangers to talk to, including the following:

  • Coffee shop or a bar
  • Grocery store
  • Park or beach
  • During your commute on public transportation
  • Volunteer work
  • Local meet-ups
  • Fitness center
  • Parties and other functions
  • Community centers
  • Activities and classes
  • Sports games
  • Bookstores
  • Festivals, concerts and cultural events

Consider this: Billions of people worldwide — many shy like you — seek deeper connections. This should give hope to and excite any shy guy struggling with communication.

7 Tips on How to Talk to Strangers

Talking to people you don’t know would be much easier if you could muster just an ounce of confidence — only enough to say something first. Here are seven tips to help you talk to strangers.

1. Start Out Small

Conversing with a stranger might seem like a tremendous endeavor for any shy man — starting slow and steady may be your best approach.

Make eye contact with someone you want to talk to. While you don’t want to give them the creeps or make the situation uncomfortable, a glance and smile could go a long way. 

Look up from your shopping cart at the grocery store and lock eyes with the person coming toward you. When walking alone on the beach, say hello to someone walking by in the opposite direction. These brief interactions are an excellent warm-up strategy and may even encourage a chat.

2. Give a Compliment

Everyone enjoys receiving a compliment, and they tend to be good icebreakers when you’re out in public. Are you standing in line at Panera? Say to the guy standing with you, “I like your shirt. Where did you get it?”

You might also tell a co-worker at work, “I really liked what you shared in the meeting. I have a few myself. Would you like to get together and bounce some ideas off of each other?”

Of course, if you’re in the market for a girlfriend, complimenting a woman always makes a great first impression.

3. Try an App

Talking to people online might seem like cheating, but it could prove effective in boosting your confidence in the real world. When it comes to relationships, one-third of Americans have found their soulmates through dating apps.

There are even dating apps for introverts and more shy people. Anomo allows shy guys to embark on the dating world slowly and anonymously until they feel comfortable sharing more details about themselves.

Another good dating app for shy and introverted guys is Once. Rather than the system picking your match, a live matchmaker will search for your ideal partner. So, if you hope to date another shy person, the matchmaker will look through other profiles to figure out who you’d like.

4. Crack a Joke

Just because you’re a shy man doesn’t mean you don’t have a sense of humor. In fact, you’re probably more observant and aware of funny situations because you’re the quiet type — this could be great fodder for jokes. 

If an appropriate joke pops into your head, let it rip. Going out of your way to make others laugh and smile is a great way to show you’re friendly and approachable. Jokes also tend to be excellent icebreakers with women.

5. Find a Similar Interest

Do you drink coffee? Visiting a coffee shop may be the best place to practice how to talk to strangers. Instead of grabbing coffee to go, stick around. Fellow coffee drinkers are always looking for exciting interactions.

You can also look for a local meet-up event for hobbies like reading or writing. Meanwhile, joining a social group will allow you to meet people with a common interest, such as meditation, travel or vintage cars. You may even find a group that connects you to other shy men in your community.

6. Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Not everyone may be chipper and willing to converse — don’t take it personally. Although rejection hurts, you should be able to relate to someone having a bad day — it happens. Maybe they are cautious around people or have a history of being bullied or harassed. 

Simply take the high road, smile and part ways. Dwelling on the situation will only add to your insecurities unnecessarily. The last thing you want is to sit in those negative feelings and prevent yourself from trying again.

7. Change Your Mindset

Sometimes, talking to unfamiliar people requires you to change your mindset — from “stranger danger” to believing everyone has an interesting story to tell. 

Conversations are a learning opportunity — a chance to discover something new or be inspired by somebody’s journey. When people share about themselves, you feel enriched in turn. Likewise, another person will feel the same way while listening to and learning about you. 

Getting Over Your Shyness Takes Time

How often have people told you to overcome your shyness and put yourself out there? Shy men know all too well that talking to strangers is challenging. Don’t be so hard on yourself, though. With some practice, you’ll find yourself chatting up a storm.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.