Get my FREE insider newsletter that is helping 400,000+ people MAKE MORE MONEY!

I deleted a 2,000 word mega-post to write this instead

Ramit Sethi

This week has been very theoretical and high-level — on PURPOSE.

See, most people who write online have audiences with the intelligence of a snail. As a result of the misguided belief that they have to appeal to everyone, they spend their time writing Top 10 lists to get SEO traffic. I avoid this because (1) I don’t understand SEO at all and (2) I simply kick off stupid people from my list and leave the cream of the crop as subscribers.

The truth is, I can afford to spend time investing in deeper areas like intellectual frameworks, psychological techniques, and deep case studies to help you lead a rich life.

I’d rather take a long-term perspective instead of pandering with cheap Top 10 lists.


There’s one problem.

Sometimes, people take the high-level material, feel good for a couple days…and then NEVER DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

I don’t want those readers. If you haven’t taken action from my material and you’ve been reading for over 3 months, let’s not waste each other’s time.

Why would I do this? What kind of business person ASKS his readers to leave?

I do — because I’d rather have a core group of people who are invested in taking action than a large group of people who use this material as intellectual entertainment.

For example, after writing a massive post on this year being the year of taking control, I got this comment:

How much dairy were you eating beforehand? I eat minimal dairy (as in…maybe 2 tablespoons of cream cheese each week) like your example friend, so I’ve only briefly considered that cutting it out entirely would make a difference. Do you think going from minimal to none can have a large impact on weight/health?


ARE YOU SHITTING ME? After reading nonsensical comments like this, I had to reconsider whether I wanted to be alive or not.

This question is (1) totally off-topic and (2) actually betrays a lack of understanding of how top performers act. The correct answer is: TEST IT!

Other writers will give you Top 5 Ways to Digest Your Food. I will kick you in the face and show you how to test it.

For example, here are a few things I’ve tested in the last 12 months

  • How to take naps as short as 15 minutes (took me 6 months to do this)
  • What to eat before the gym to lift heavier (carbs, duh)
  • What to wear to get different reactions (try bowties)
  • Hilarious text messages to guys/girls (you wish)
  • How to write party invitations that get massive RSVPs

Or…I could have gone and randomly asked someone, Hey, do you think this would work?

THE ANSWER COMES FROM THE TEST. And that’s what I’m going to show you today.

I actually had a 2,000-word monster post with all-new frameworks on changing your behavior READY to post today…but enough is enough.

Instead of another framework, we’re going to APPLY the mindset shifts we’ve already created in 2013.

Oh, you want to learn how to get a better job where your boss actually recognizes that you bust your ass? One where you get paid what you deserve?

Ok, I can help with that.

You want to know how people just like you were stagnant and made subtle changes to earn more, travel, and even become more socially fluent?

Yeah, I’ll show you how to do that.

You want to know the exact words to say to someone you don’t know to build rapport?

Yep — I’ve got those for you at the end of this email.

Starting today, every post and email I write this month will end with a very specific action I want you to take.

If you’re not committed to following through, please leave.

But if you ARE ready to follow through…if you are ready to trust that I’ve tested and refined my material enough that it works, then I invite you to follow my system and come along. That’s how I get results for my students — the results I want to get for you in the next month.

These students put aside their barriers and said, “You know what? My approach clearly isn’t working, so I’m going to trust this weird, cocky Indian dude.” When they trusted my systems, you can see remarkable results my students got.

I want you to be on that list THIS year.

Ask yourself this: If you keep doing the same thing, what will life look like 10 years from now?

Will you be earning the kind of money that lets you live the lifestyle you want?

Will you be able to take a weekend trip whenever you WANT to?

Will you be able to buy a round for your friends without worrying how much it costs?

Will you be living up to your potential?

Or will you wonder what could have been…comparing yourself to your friends…and changing your tune to, “I should have done that…but now it’s too late…”

My goal is to be the angel in your inbox looking out for you — sometimes pushing you even harder than you think you can push yourself.

That’s why I want you to take one, simple action step this weekend.

I’ll start by telling you that I’ve always admired people who could talk to anyone: the checkout lady at the grocery store, a random Fedex guy, a person walking their dog.

Guys, I’m not naturally like that!! I didn’t even know how to talk to my doorman (since I don’t talk about sports, what am I supposed to say?). Truthfully, I was such a nerd that I even bought a book on how to talk to anyone. What! We all need some help.

But over time, I came to learn how to talk to people at cocktail parties…at coffee shops…or random people at the store. Now I use it to banter on national TV, live on-air in front of millions of people, as I did earlier this week.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to cover — the psychological and tactical ways to improve our social skills.

Here’s your first assignment: Start a conversation with 1 person you’ve never met, and leave a comment below reporting on how it went.

This could be at the bar, a coffee shop, the grocery store, wherever. It can be a guy or girl.

If this terrifies you, don’t worry. Here are 5 easy, proven lines you can use to start up conversations with anyone:

1. “What kind of dog is that?”
Easiest conversation on earth to strike up. Pet lovers are so deprived of normal human contact that all they want to do is talk about their pets to anybody who will listen.

2. “I was actually curious about [book in their hand, gadget, whatever they’re working on]. How is it?
Note: Don’t do this with someone’s physics homework.

3. “Is that a good book?”
Btw, if you find someone reading MY book, you have definitely found the man/woman of your dreams.

4. “I think it’s funny watching people before they get their coffee…look how miserable they look.”
This is hilarious because it’s the elephant in the room.

5. “Is it a busy day? It looks pretty [busy/quiet].”
Easy to say to a mailman/waitress/hostess.

Are these canned lines? YES! Attention weirdos: SCRIPTS WORK. First, you use them and get comfortable. Then, you become so confident, you don’t need them any more.

Listen closely: Top performers have their social skills nailed. They don’t sit and do Excel all day and expect the boss to recognize them for their brilliance. They know how to talk to their co-workers…build alliances…and even ENJOY meeting new people.

You don’t have to become a talk-show host to become better at social skills. Even a few days of practice will dramatically improve your skills. (For example, I was pretty good when I went on book tour…and then I went through media training. It took me to another level.)

I can teach you the social skills that I painfully learned — the lessons are included in my Dream Job course (opening soon), and I have actual video teardowns for you next week — but you have to be willing to take action, to test skills/behaviors on yourself.

If you want to take control of your life, land your Dream Job, and get paid what you deserve, I can teach you HOW. But you have to be willing to TAKE ACTION.

It’s OK to bomb on this assignment. In fact, due to some of the dorks who read my site, I’m expecting some hilarious stories. But it is NOT OK to do nothing.

This is your first test.

Let’s separate the whiners from the do-ers.

Start 1 conversation with a stranger and tell me how it went in the comments below.

By the way, I’m continuing to send send special material to people on my newsletter that you will never see here. Join 500,000+ other people on my Insider’s List here — free.

Do you know your earning potential?

Take my earning potential quiz and get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz


  1. avatar

    I dragged my ass to a Github meetup last night where I struck up several conversations with fellow programmers. Although, I can’t say I was always the one to instigate the conversations but finding common ground in the fact that we were all in the same field helped make things a bit easier to find common ground. With one person, we found a common background where we came from. With another, it was talking about his business. I’m pretty awkward at social events when I go alone so when there are already groups of people at tables, it becomes a challenge to find someone to talk to. I guess I just got lucky this time.

  2. avatar

    At a bar I noticed a guy and his girlfriend spending quite a bit of time on a Chromebook. I went over to their table and said, “Hey is that the new Chromebook by Samsung?” I told him that I’d been thinking about buying one, so he showed me a number of features and even let me play around with it for a minute. He was a very nice guy, his girlfriend was nice too, and I got some valuable information about a purchase I’ve been considering.

  3. avatar

    Way to go with the specifics on how to start a conversation. Some people might not have noticed that 4/5 of them are questions. And they are questions about the OTHER PERSON. Quick tip – people love to talk about themselves. Easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question about the other person. Then LISTEN to the response, and ask another question.

  4. avatar

    What I used : “Is that a good book?”
    Where I did this : Bookstore (I’m a writer, and I wanted a familiar place. Scared a bit, I guess, I don’t do tests like these often.)

    The stranger was looking at a copy of Danielle Steele’s 44 Charles Street. I asked her if it was a good book (the question).

    She said “it probably is” and I asked her why, and she said that she had other Steele books. Then I just nodded and the conversation kinda ended there for a moment, until she asked me if I was considering a purchase.

    I used that as the jump-off point again. I said “Maybe, any recommendations?”

    She ended up telling me about her particular likes among Danielle Steele’s work and I just stood there listening to her. Her eyes were lit up like crazy, which goes to show that people love talking about what interests them.

    Long story short, I ended up buying a copy of Steele’s “Star”.

    My conversation-ender was, “Thanks for the suggestions. I’d love to talk to you about this [I held up the book I bought] over coffee. Sound good?”

    Then she gave me her number and that was it, basically.

    All in all it was kinda awkward when the conversation stopped a bit, but I can’t say that the test bombed. And I found out the stranger’s name was Joanne. Plus, I got a reason to go to Starbucks, which is my guilty pleasure.

    So, win-win.

  5. avatar

    Question: Knowing your views on pets, how do you use the first line above without vomiting all over their prize poodle?

    My father talks to anyone, anywhere, and has made startlingly good business contacts on the upper deck of a tour bus in Scotland. I kind of hate talking to people, often wind up in uncomfortable silences during conversations, until reading your stuff.

    I was waiting in line for breakfast at a food truck, and noticed someone else walk up wearing an ID for my company. I walked over and started with “So, you work for ? I noticed your badge, I work there too. Which building do you work in?” Answered a question from him and went back to asking him about what he’s working on, etc. End result, a friendly contact in the Compensation department, which I’d otherwise not know anyone in, and I can go back to him later and ask how this project he was working on turned out. I’m sure he’ll be flattered I found him that interesting to talk with, and if you don’t think knowing someone in the Compensation department of HR is valuable, you’re a fool.

  6. avatar
    Orrin @rebreezer

    But testing things myself takes so much effort!.. I kid, I kid.

    I’ve spent the last few years moving around different cities, so meeting new people is absolutely essential…

    My favourite recent example was a couple of weeks ago when I was at a bar in Montpellier. I struck up a conversation with a guy near me. He was just having a quiet beer by himself after work and was really happy to have a chat.

    While chatting, I mentioned a band I love, Calexico, was touring through town soon and doing a gig at the Rockstore, the big club in town. Funnily enough, it turned out he’s the stage manager there. He arranged free tickets for me and a friend and we got to meet up with the band too. Freaking awesome.

    Not everyone is going to be open to a chat, but so many people are and there are so many awesome opportunities waiting out there.

  7. avatar

    I attended a hispanic chamber of commerce mixer last night. My goal was to add to a professional network I started last month. I knew no one there, but within two hours had introduced myself and my new business to about a dozen people. In a couple of cases, where I heard a person speaking Spanish, I used my decades-ago high school Spanish language skills to start a conversation. That worked pretty well. At the end of the mixer, I ran into one of the presenters, and in the course a 10-minute conversation, we found we had a number of shared experiences. This person has contacts in the area. Guess who is getting an email from me this morning?

  8. avatar

    Getting comfortable talking to people about themselves and asking good questions is the foundation of networking. Interesting people ask interesting questions.

  9. avatar

    Engaged our waiter in conversation last night at Applebee’s – conversation beyond the usual ordertaking. Discovered he is a teacher during the day and works as a waiter at night to pay for his kid’s medical bills (cerebral palsy). Despite the intense work schedule he has, and the fact that he has two other kids, he was very centered and felt very blessed to have a life that he did. I left the conversation feeling grateful and perhaps a little guilty about this gentleman’s poignant situation – a little karmic reminder that I have nothing to worry about in my own life and perhaps should start reaching out more on a regular basis to those around me in everyday life. Not to gain power, not to become more socially savvy, but to become a more humane human. This has been an interesting experiment indeed.

  10. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    WOW. These comments are a lot better than I thought they would be. And in just a few hours, too. GREAT job.

  11. avatar

    I do this in line at stores if someone is wearing a product I’m thinking about buying…I ask them how they like it and if they would purchase it again.

  12. avatar

    I walked by my neighbors house, whom I have never met, and he was out in the yard (we are new in this tiny neighborhood). I waved, walked over and introduced myself. Chatted about our dogs, the weather and I expressed condolences for the horrific murder of his daughter and grandchildren by the husband. I had been avoiding even saying hi because I felt awful for what they had to face right before the holidays, but I accepted your challenge to go outside my comfort level. And I had utmost respect and compassion for his (my neighbors) boundaries in even broaching the subject.

    A note on dog owners though – we love to talk about our dogs, how we rescued them, how they adapt to the family and we generally like other people too. Just mostly those who own dogs! : )

  13. avatar

    Good Morning Ramit,
    This first assignment is easy for me. I am one of those people that can talk to anyone; in fact I love to meet new people and win them over. I am always playing the game of looking people in the eye smiling until they smile. I am the ultimate Wooer 🙂 At lunch yesterday all the outdoor tables were taken. there was one table with 2 men and I walked up and asked if I could sit with them. They looked at each other and agreed. They both worked at the local Scott Trade office and spoke mostly about the office gossip. I just sat and listed for a bit and then asked each of them why got into finical planning. One man said its what his whole family does and the other man said for the money. I asked them if they were happy and they looked at me like I was crazy. So I told them to think about and answer and the next I see them I will ask for the answer. We had a great lunch. Looking forward to the next assignment!

  14. avatar

    Read this right AFTER having a conversation with an employee in the lunchroom at the company I am temping for. (Starting conversations is not a problem for me, anymore).

    I genuinely care about people, and am interested in what they have to say!

  15. avatar

    What a nice comment and experience. You have reminded me to really continue to respect others AND ask about them in unexpected situations. I would bet your waiter appreciated you wanting to hear about his life too.

  16. avatar

    I dropped my car at the local repair shop for an oil change this morning. I asked a new (to me) employee what the coolest car was he’d ever worked on. I learned a lot about muscle cars and about Jim’s ambitions. Not sure how I’ll apply the knowledge, but did learn that the scariest part was psyching myself up to ask the question. Once asked, my jitters dissolved. Amazing!

  17. avatar
    Joe Cassandra

    Every waiter is different and I love hearing about what they do outside of work: some work 2 jobs, some a struggling artist, others working through school. It’s great to hear it.

    I always tip more to the one’s who are willing to have a conversation. Just last night, my wife and I w/ another couple, chatted with the waiter just starting with “What do you recommend?”, and that usually starts a conversation. Also, when we make fun of other restaurants with the waiter there, they usually appreciate that.

    The ongoing joke with the waiter we had last night was “Dear, this isn’t Shoney’s”. They enjoy that, and usually will give you better service (extras on things) , never understood ppl being D-bags to the people who handle their food…

    Whenever I’m in a one-on-one that’s going nowhere, I usually ask what “plans” they have or try and dig out a problem they are having and ask about that. B/c everyone likes to talk about their problems, just usually no one wants to listen….

  18. avatar

    Talking to people has never been an issue for me, but what I do have issues with is talking to someone when I need to network. So I reached out to a few people today and set up meetings. Will report back as to how they went face to face, but even setting them up was a challenge.

  19. avatar

    I struck up a conversation with my next door neighbor while he was hanging out outside to fix his bike. I’m not naturally awkward and I strike up conversations all the time with random people, but he was awkward.

  20. avatar

    I don’t struggle in starting a conversation either, but I often forget or lie to myself that I’m too busy to do so! We had a new chap in the office about two weeks ago with whom I hadn’t initiated, so I decided to give him a kind welcome to the company. We really hit it off, I was able to listen about some of his stresses moving to Columbus. When I dropped the line that I used to live in China and speak Mandarin he was very intrigued and asked that we get lunch soon so he can hear more.

    The result was overwhelmingly positive. Thanks for the kick in the butt to take action!

  21. avatar

    In the locker room at my gym I noticed an older woman putting on a gorgeous necklace. I commented on the beauty of her necklace. She told me that her “nail lady” gave it to her. Turns out the nail lady is from Vietnam and because my conversation partner had been such a good customer, she brought her back the necklace after a trip to visit family.
    Bottom line, we’re both post-workout, wet hair, getting ready for work in a crowded gym locker room and I learned a bunch about customer service. Was a pretty cool experience!

  22. avatar

    I just had to say thank you for showing me that I’m not quite as crazy as my family says I am :o) and that I’m not the only one who tells people to use this exercise. I have been an extreme introvert all my life but decided some years ago that I had to come out of my shell if I was ever going to learn how to deal with people. To start the process I would strike up a simple 1-2 minute conversation with someone around me every time I was standing in line somewhere. Was it hard? Heck yes!!! But the longer I did it the easier it got and the more confident I was. Nowadays unless I tell people I’m an introvert they never even know. I still do this regularly and my family still thinks it’s nuts. On a side note, one of the best unforeseen benefits of doing this has been all the cool information I’ve learned which feeds my insatiable curiosity :o)

  23. avatar

    This one was rather embarrassing to begin with.

    In line for coffee this morning at Starbucks, the guy in front of me reached for the last bottle of water just as I did. I told him to go for it and that I could get one from the machine in my office. He said thanks very much and I commented that they likely ran out as everyone is committed to being healthy for the first couple of weeks of January so the hydration crowd bought out all the water.

    After a chuckle and a couple of comments on the weather (it IS Canada, after all) I hesitated and asked him, “do you know Kelly?” Turns out we used to know each other years ago through a mutual friend that I had lost touch with.

    Anyway, through chatting with him was able to get my friend’s contact info, have already sent off an email to them and the three of us are meeting for lunch next week.

    So, not really a stranger… more of a “born-again stranger” but productive meeting, nonetheless!

  24. avatar

    I striked up a conversation with my regular FedEx delivery man yesterday. I have known him for months but that was the first time I had actually heard his voice in a conversation other than “sign here” or generic salutations. I was actually taken aback by his conversation voice, I had never heard it before and it was quite different from what I expected it to be, he lit up and spoke with passion. I will definitely do this more often, living in NYC means I have 1001 opportunities to do this every day. Intriguing!

  25. avatar

    I am attending a networking lunch with a group called Women Make a Difference. First ever. And I’m scared spitless – I truly hate to meet new people. But if I go to one lunch, then I’ll be able to go to another and then another, slowing growing my network. Today’s lunch may not net me any increase in my freelance work, but if I meet one person whose life I can improve in some small way then it is well worth it. I’ll post again after the lunch with results.

  26. avatar
    Andrew Moretti

    I’m not unsubscribing! I just bought IWTYTBR a few days ago and I’ve almost finished it already!

    Also, I’ve already struck up conversations with strangers this year, most memorably, I just got hired at the Apple Store and I start at the end of the month. Instead of waiting around, I decided to go into the store and start meeting some of my future co-workers ahead of time. There’s over 100 people working in this tiny store, so it’s going to take me long enough to get to know them as it is! It’s really not that hard if you can figure out one thing you have in common (love of Apple products). I actually went beyond this and brought to the attention of a couple employees some display computers that needed software updates, helping make their job easier.

  27. avatar

    In one of those silent moments in the lift I decided to strike up a conversation with someone who worked in my building. I said “this week feels longer than usual!” He laughed saying “totally, I am so looking forward to the weekend”. I asked ‘What did you do for the holidays?”, he said “Spent time with the family in Oxfordshire” and he asked me the same question. The elevator ride felt less awkward and I met someone new! I can do this everyday! Thanks Ramit.

  28. avatar

    I struck up a conversation with a coworker in another department about hard drive encryption. This wasn’t super hard for me because I worked in retail for 10yrs and have long since overcome my natural tendency to be the quiet introvert. I too read books on learning to communicate with people. You’re right in that practice is the most effective way to communicate better.

    As a pet owner, I must dispute your statement about pet owners being deprived of human contact. Of course I’ll talk about my pets if someone asks, but I’ll gladly talk about things not related to pets: photography, technology, home repair, Ramit’s blog, etc. People who have pets love to meet other people who also enjoy pets just as people who love technology enjoy meeting people who also love technology.

  29. avatar
    Nikki B

    I asked a new neighbor something as simple as, ‘how was your day?’ His response was a lot longer then the elevator ride was haha but now there isn’t an awkward silence when we are in the elevator anymore.

  30. avatar

    Great suggesion Ramit! I do this everyday in the elevator when I arrive at work while I’m in the elevator. I could be talking about any random, it’s less about WHAT than just getting started. It could be the weather, my ridiculous cycling outfit, their shoes, what they are holding in their hands – it always leads to a great feeling – a smile, a chuckle, sometimes it leads to interesting conversations and connections in the business.

  31. avatar

    Thanks for this post this morning. I hope the inspiration to get off the sidelines sticks!

    I’m really good about stricking up random conversations. From the coffee shop people to people in the gym. I asked one lady about a headset she was using that was directly attached to an ipod shuffle. I bought one shortly thereafter, and it’s a great conversation starter. I asked a guy about some drops he ingested just before his workout. It turns out they were creatine supplements in a non-shake form. What I’m lousy at is conversion. My sunday gym routine was to take a class and then sit in the cafe and do a little web surfing, which turned into sitting with a group of gentlemen who finished their weekly tennis match at the same time, chatting about whatever. This went on for three months before I managed to properly introduce myself and get their names.

    So I’m good at the initial part, but I it’s time to make something more of it.

  32. avatar

    Easy target: moms with babies. I was waiting for the bus behind a woman who had her cute 1-year-old in one of those front-backpack things. I “broke the ice” with: “I would love to be carried around in one of those things all day.”

  33. avatar

    I enjoy starting conversations with different people on a regular basis because 1) practice makes it easier moving forward 2) sometimes your instant assumption about how it’ll go is blown out of the water 3) it’s fun, especially when you see that you just made *that* person’s day by making a connection … no matter how trivial you think it may be.

  34. avatar
    Jess H.

    This is an easy one for me, but I don’t want to pick and choose my Ramit challenges – that’s just creating a built-in excuse for me to avoid the ones that will actually be hard.

    To the woman I shared an elevator with: “Coming in late on Fridays is great, isn’t it?” When she seemed receptive, I followed up with, “Is this just a Friday thing for you, or do you have a flexible schedule every day?” Turns out she works in the office directly above mine, and she makes her own hours when classes aren’t in session. We talked for about ten minutes about the advantages and challenges of having a flexible schedule.

    I think the rhetorical question starter was counterintuitively a bit risky. She could easily have interpreted it as an insincere offer – just a bit of social noise. I probably wouldn’t use this strategy with anyone I actually wanted to strike up a conversation with, but I’m going to experiment more before I make up my mind.

  35. avatar

    I was walking the dog and a cocker spaniel came running up to me. I chatted with the lady and founded out her dog’s name Bella, she’s six, her niece used to breed cocker spaniels but after twenty years retired from the industry. The day before that, I had a twenty minute (I know it’s long, but sometimes you have to be spontaneous for crying out loud, can’t always sched every damn minute) conversation. Turns out she went down during Katrina to rescue animals and was hospitalized for nervous exhaustion afterwards. Her partner’s a vet and they have nine cats and several dogs and were accused of hoarding (they aren’t). She also talked about how the Toronto Humane Society’s fundamental management issues are mainly political and lots more – she went into serious detail about how their fundraising is fundraising is failing and what they should be doing in their meetings (checking their ego at the door). Afterwards she said our talk was the highlight of her day.

  36. avatar

    I don’t struggle to speak to people that I’m interacting with (like at the checkout in the supermarket) but sometimes it’s not so great being in a public space with nothing to say.

    You know that silence in the lift (or the ‘elevator’ in American) when nobody knows what to say? Today, whereas usually I would just stand in silence with people I don’t know, I said to 5 of my colleagues ‘the inevitable silence in the lift – who is going to speak first?’

    This got a chuckle from them and when I saw two of them later on my floor, we had coffee and agreed to have lunch next week. Score.

    Thanks for the nudge Ramit.

    – Razwana

  37. avatar

    I struck up a conversation with a woman who works on the same floor of the office building as me, but who is in a different department and so I never see her other than in the break room. I’ve never talked to her before. I made a joke about how the microwaves smell like a horrible combination of the smelliest foods from every culture on the planet, and she had a good laugh–before then unleashing upon me a long rant about how microwaves are unhealthy and, more importantly, unholy (yes, she used that word) due to their “manipulating waves in ungodly ways” or something like that. I’m not going to talk to her anymore, though I do think that phrase would make a great name for a heavy metal album.

  38. avatar

    Dear Ramit,
    2012 was the year of lots of conversations with random strangers of whom I had personal, intimate knowledge. Odd? In a sense. After spending 14 years in one career, I followed my passion and went back to school full time to be a nurse. I’m nearly 20 years older than the youngest students, but my age and experience give me lots of added benefits – like being able to start conversations with random strangers. The people I had intimate knowlege of were my hospital patients. People I had never met but whose physical, family, and medical histories were at my finger tips. In my opinion, the true test of talking to a random stranger is when he/she is lying in bed, wearing only a hospital gown and you have to quickly build rapport and make THEM comfortable enough to tell you the truth about how they’re doing. In order to be successful at this, you must know yourself and have full confidence or pretend that you do, in your abilities. If you fail, don’t take it personally. Just try again.

  39. avatar

    I find it pretty easy to chat with people; last night on my way home I chatted with the clerk at the drugstore, the red nosed guy with Buckley’s in line behind me, 2 techie guys in the elevator. It makes for a friendlier world. People are just as nervous to strike up a conversation with me (as I once was) with them. Knowing that makes it easy to break the ice. Thanks for the great exercise, the scripts and I am looking forward to tomorrows exercise. Thanks for the kick in the butt; I am way more comfortable sitting on the sidelines; the hardest part of this exercise was the challege to post our experience.

  40. avatar

    I am what my friends refer to as the social “hook.” They send me out into the bar/restaurant/crowded room scene knowing full well that I could strike up a conversation with a brick wall, and I am the maker of new friends. Concerts, doctors office, it doesn’t matter the locale. I am famous for making friends in elevators and on the sidewalk and very little scares me socially. I have too many amazing friends and stories that I wouldn’t otherwise have if that was not my role in the group. When I got this assignment in my inbox I was delighted because this is something I incorporate in my day to day routine. What I thought might be helpful for others–and what is always in the back of my mind when I approach someone new–is that after you get those first few words out, THEY’RE OUT, and you HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM. So you might feel uncomfortable and you might totally tank, but once the invitation to connect leaves your lips there is no turning back. If you can master getting past the point of no return, which if done with pointed purpose can be as little as “Hi,” (If you’re like me the “Hi,” is usually followed by “I think you’re really handsome…” What can I say, I’m a bold girl.) then the rest will happen naturally, because it has to.

    Since I moved to a new city mid-December, I’ve accumulated a pretty ecclectic group of folks. I rock climb every Sunday at a gym and my lofty goal for the weekend is to get one of the really serious, amazingly good climbers to take me under their wing. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m pretty optimistic.

  41. avatar

    I work in a public library, so I’m starting up conversations with patrons all the time. When I first started working there, it was awkward, since I’d spent so many years working alone in a cubicle, I was very out of practice just walking up to people and talking to them. I now feel much more comfortable saying hello to people. Outside of work, I probably don’t do this as much as I should. I’ll commit myself to doing this once a week this year, in other contexts besides work, just to see what happens.

  42. avatar

    I followed a sales lead from our company website, and connected with a potential customer in Windsor, Ontario – I am based in Boston.

  43. avatar
    Gill bowden

    I LOVE talking to random people. Most people are fabulous and you learn a lot by doing it too. But I made sure I spoke to 3 new people today and they were all lovely

  44. avatar
    Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

    Starting a conversation is quite difficult for me. This is a challenge for me but I will try to use your suggestions as well as the comments posted. Thanks for all your suggestions!

  45. avatar
    Ian Mackay

    It is really helpful that my job forces me to meet strangers all the time, students, external companies, random people. So I am getting good practice in chatting to ‘strangers’

    However after reading this, I went into a shop I’ve never been in before and started chatting to a cashier about a top I liked but wondered if they had it in my size as couldn’t see it. I don’t really have a problem chatting to random people but I do with approaching girls.

    Nothing bad happened as people like to be social and chat, some of us seem to forget that. Being quite and ignoring each other is not the way its meant to be. We as humans should be social and interact with each other and be part of the group. I lost my way for a bit but I am getting much better now. I used to call myself depressed but it all comes down to your habits and what actions you can take. Any behaviour can be changed with a little head strong action. I am fed up just thinking and talking, time for action and I’m ready to go hard and change my life for the better, so I’m in Ramit!

  46. avatar

    I was having a watch repaired and I struck up a random conversation with the salesperson. The watch is somewhat strange looking ( so it was easy to start a conversation about it.

    I think I said something like…”Weird watch, huh?” And then…”I won it as part of a contest on TechCrunch” (true). I told her: “the outer ring shows the hours in analog format; the inner ring shows minutes”. Anyway, it was an easy conversation starter.

  47. avatar

    Yesterday I was at the fruit & vegetable market. This place sells a lot of produce that I’m unfamiliar with, items that are popular in a certain ethnic cuisine, but I have no clue about. When I see someone pick up one of these strange items, I often ask “How do you cook that?” People sometimes stop to discuss whole recipes with me. The key to this for me is that I’m actually very interested in what they have to say. I really want to know what to do with that odd root. Yesterday I saw someone with Malanga. “How do you eat that? Do you cook it?” She wanted to tell me, and tried, but her English was not much, and my Spanish was not much. Some smiling and talking-with-her-hands ensued. I ended as I always do with, “THANK you!” A few minutes later our paths crossed again in the parking lot. She looked up and said, “Good night – God bless you.”

  48. avatar
    Sarah Bohm

    Jeepers, I certainly hope you still kept the 2000 word mega post! I’m sure it was EPIC

    Anywho, this morning, as I was grabbing gas, I also grabbed some coffee inside the gas station. I told the girl at the counter that I loved her eye makeup. Never met her before. She smiled HUGE after I said that 🙂

    See…I AM one of those people who CAN strike up conversation with those I don’t know…simply b/c I love giving compliments. I LOVE that you’ve asked your blog readers to take that first step, if it’s something they’re not used to!

  49. avatar
    Ashley Jones

    I actually try to make this a regular practice. On New Year’s Day, I walked up to a seat at the coffee shop and set my computer bag down. Immediately, a young woman moved her bag over a little bit. I said, “Oh, thank you, but you can leave your bag there.” She said it wasn’t a problem and smiled and I mentioned that the coffee shop had taken some of the outlets out of the walls so that’s why I moved to where she was. She went on to say that she just moved, it was her first full day in Atlanta and that she spent NYEve by herself because she didn’t know anyone or didn’t know where to go. I made a list of all my favorite restaurants, some local hangouts, grocery stores and the necessities. She was extremely grateful and told her she could call me any time. I love being able to help people!

  50. avatar
    Tor Ivan

    This christmas, my uncle and aunt and me were driving home. took a pit stop.
    When I stepped out of the car, an older guy was walking buy. I thought I should say happy christmas. And so I did.

    Oh boy did he have much to say. He told me that he was about to buy some fast food at the stop, but realized that he didnt have his wallet. He then had gotten a call that he left his wallet at a store he was at earlier. some 30 miles away.
    to make this short, he kept rambling about that and that.

    “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what youre gonna get” 🙂

  51. avatar

    I attended a brainstorming event last night in Detroit in efforts to get involved with the community now that I’m a resident here.

    Long story short, I had multiple conversations with complete strangers and all were extremely excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

  52. avatar

    saw a lady looking lost at the bus stop today, so I approached her and asked her if she needed any help. well, I asked in English and she kinda looked at me blankly, so I decided to switch to giving her directions in chinese instead. and that, unsurprisingly, worked (: so yup, managed to talk to a stranger, help a person in need, hone my chinese, and get life advice while at it – all in a day’s work xD

  53. avatar

    I started a conversation with someone I’d never really seen at work. Turns out she’s a hardcore Trekkie fan and really appreciated my asking about her book. While friendly, I ran out of Star Trek knowledge and I had to get back to work, but she made a point to find where I sit at work and I think she’ll be visiting in the future.

  54. avatar

    “Ask yourself this: If you keep doing the same thing, what will life look like 10 years from now?
    Will you be earning the kind of money that lets you live the lifestyle you want?
    Will you be able to take a weekend trip whenever you WANT to?
    Will you be able to buy a round for your friends without worrying how much it costs?
    Will you be living up to your potential?”

    If my answer to these questions is already ‘yes’, and I’m happy with my social skills, should I still unsubscribe?

  55. avatar

    Cab-drivers – the ultimate resource when you are new in town. Its not so much a script, but knowing a few job specific terms – like “gate” (the shift), “medallion” (license to drive). I often start a conversation after pleasantries, with “So how long has your gate been ?” – and then move onto what’s happening in the city, where to go, what to avoid. Beats a guidebook 9 times out of 10.

  56. avatar
    Nigel Chua

    Ramit, talking to someone I don’t know is something that like you, I’ve painfully eased into after years of reading books after books and experimenting what people respond to best (questions such as “Tell me how you got into ____” and “What do you think of ____”).

    Of course, it help lots that dealing with people where you have nothing to lose but everything to gain (perceived, of course) – it comes across as easy to me.

    Personally, I find that talking about “the hard stuff”, such as dealing with confrontations where you know the other party is “somewhat out to get/nail/kill you”, that’s where it gets tough for me. Yes, your negotiation advice as well as briefcase advice is good where people are cool…but I think I get blown away by people who crazy…

  57. avatar
    Nigel Chua

    *i mean by people who are crazy and are not open to talking…

  58. avatar

    Oh, I already do this all the time, and people talk to ME all the time too . . . my sister and mom and I joke about this: people talk to us EVERYWHERE. We think we must have friendly faces, or put off a sympathetic vibe. So, given that your assignment felt “elementary” to me, I decided instead to focus on how I’m USING that skill. Recently I’ve been trying to decide what to be when I grow up . . . mind you, my son is almost 20 and I’ve got a good job, but life is opening up for me again and I want to LIVE it. So I’ve been actively watching for openings and entrances to new pathways. WOW. Just paying attention is great! I’ve also been trying new things, things that SCARE me, like NIA . . . who knew? now I want to be a yoga/NIA teacher on at least one Semester at Sea trip – cool, huh? So I’m talking to all the people I can find who work in this field or know about it, taking their classes, researching my options for education and employment . . . and finding lots of resources right in my path! Thanks for helping us ACTIVELY live our lives, Ramit!

  59. avatar

    Way too many conversation with strangers… I hugged a guy in an airport only to realize he’s not the dear old friend I’ve not seen in ages. “Ok, that was a free hug” – that was my escape line, but we ended up getting a coffee and speaking about our families and kids. Last year someone shouted at me in a shoppin mall in Kuala Lumpur: “hey, dude, that your card? want me to have it to go shopping, la?” “that is a card you cannot use to shop in this country, but most certainly I can buy you a coffee as a sign of appreciation”. he wanted cake, and cake he had.
    and the list can go on.

  60. avatar

    I have to do this all the time. Heck, I did this just last night with some new sales reps that we had come in. Now, not only do I know:

    1. Who some of them worked for in the past.
    2. What sorts of companies they like to work with.
    3. How in tune with the market they are.
    4. Why they are doing what they are.
    5. How long they have been in the industry.
    6. What some of their assigned territories are.

    Not bad for a 10-15 minute conversation. But, you did say to do one this weekend, so I’ll do something in a more social situation.

  61. avatar

    Had a chat with the checkout person at target the other day, after Xmas but before New years, about our New years plans. Which were to stay at home. Nice conversation, albeit brief.

  62. avatar
    Matt E.

    As another former retail worker, I can report that I’m much better at talking to “strangers” than I used to be, but my major social problem persists–I can’t shut off my brain after the fact.

    I was at Starbucks last night and the employees were chatting about how they were morning people and didn’t understand people that could stay up all hours of the night. Now, I happen to be a hardcore dweller of the night, who rarely makes it to bed before 2 or 3 am and I also recently read some article about circadian rhythms and how there is some set of peaks that are synced up for night owls.

    So, as my coffee was being prepared and there was a natural break in their conversation and I mentioned my night owl status and the article. They seemed interested and we briefly discussed this until my coffee was done at which point I left and my mind kicked into overdrive and started over-analyzing the entire event.

    The end result is that I had a perfectly reasonable (and likely forgettable) conversation with people I don’t know and I came away from it thinking about how big a dork they must have thought I was and concluded that they were probably laughing about me after I left. It took several hours before I convinced myself that they were not, but that it really wouldn’t matter either way.

  63. avatar

    I went to a fundraising event last night that included an hour of networking. There were tons of raffle prizes. It was fun to watch which bins people put their tickets in and then start a conversation about that prize/piece of art/poster etc. I also used what could be the lamest joke in the world … “oh, don’t bother with that one, I’m going to win it.” But it got a chuckle and broke the ice. It was also a great way to start a conversation based on shared ground — we both like “X” because we both just put a raffle ticket in for it.

  64. avatar

    I started a conversation with someone I didn’t know at a chapter meeting for our local HR group. I asked what company he was with. It was a little awkward at first but it turns out we had both worked for the same company a few years apart and knew some of the same people there. It also turned out that we have skills that would be useful to the other person (he knows SQL, I know XML). So all around good experiment!!!

  65. avatar

    I start up conversations with random folks every time I’m at work – I work in a brick-and-mortar store for a large computer manufacturer based in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area. Honestly, I’ve learned that I have so much in common with so many people, it’s almost eerie! This person grew up 10 miles from where I did (and I work 1500 miles from where I grew up), that person is an airplane pilot (I’m private SEL rated), another is in the military (I was in USCG for 8 years), another visits Alaska every year to hunt (I lived in Alaska for almost two years). Just have to find the common interest and you’ll be talking all day.

    Despite what “people” say, religion and politics are not to be avoided; just don’t evangelize. Discuss and, if needed, agree to disagree. I’m pretty far-right; many folks who work with me in the store are pretty far-left. But we still get along – because we’ve agreed to discuss rather than try to persuade. And the random strangers are all over the map!

  66. avatar

    Well, I haven’t done this at Ramit’s request, but – I did attend three (!) networking events this week where I certainly met people that I hadn’t met before. Also, I work as a photojournalist, so I am constantly having to talk to strangers. I’ve had this job since last June. At the beginning, it felt soooooooooooooooooooo uncomfortable to talk to strangers, ask for their names/towns etc. for captions. Now, I’m much less uncomfortable. I’m not perfect at it, but I’ve gotten so much better and it doesn’t wig me out anymore. I also got the job by talking to a random person on the street that had two DSLR cameras on her – someone who clearly (to me) was on the job – she turned out to be a photo editor and got me the job.

  67. avatar

    I actually did this yesterday by chance, without even reading this blog post first, but I think it counts because I was consciously thinking about how I want to practice social skills and starting random conversations with strangers.

    I hate being in places like the hair salon, grocery store, etc and having that awkward silence. So when I went to the store and got a sample of tea, I actually made conversation with the lady giving out the samples. First the usual, the weather, but then we started talking about Northern California vs. Southern California, and I realized it wasn’t that hard.

    Also, I kind of already do this in my day to day life. I walk around the office building a lot when I get bored or need some air, and I find just by pasing by people and smiling, a lot of people will say “hi.” I’ve made friends with people in different offices, the Fedex guy, the UPS guy, the OnTrac guy (in Spanish – to practice my social skills in spanish too), and even people in different buildings as I go on my daily walk around the block. Conversations can be simple but build rapport, we don’t have to discuss the meaning of life.

  68. avatar

    Started a conversation yesterday with a woman who works in my building and we ended up talking on the metro until her stop. Talked about her just moving to dc, and various other things. Was very smooth. Nothing would have happened though if I hadn’t made a comment to her in the elevator.

  69. avatar
    Nathan Strange

    In my job, I talk to random strangers all day long and try to help them through some of the most difficult times of their lives. I’ve learned to become adept at getting folks to open up and feel comfortable around me.

    As has already been mentioned, questions are the best tool for the job. Ask about anything…a book, an article of clothing, a hairstyle…take notice of something the other person is noticing…whatever. FIND something to ask about.

    My favorite part about this technique has also already been mentioned: the way folks light up when they believe that you are truly interested in something that they are interested in. That their opinion matters. That you took notice in them. It makes my day!

  70. avatar

    After reading your email, I went out of the office to get a milk tea to go (milk teas are kind of a thing here in the Philippines) from the little shop on the first floor of our building. The tea takes about two minutes to make, and I was the only customer inside. With your task in mind, I asked the cashier if they (all four employees who were there) are students. She answered yes, and that their employer only takes in part-timers. I asked her where she’s studying. She told me which university then proceeded to ask the guys who were making my tea which school they’re from too. One of them studies in my alma mater’s rival university, so I joked that the reason he’s had to work part time is because he chose the wrong school. I regretted that almost immediately but it’s fortunate that he took it in good humor. I left the place with a short note magic marked on my milk tea cup.

  71. avatar

    I am quite comfortable with engaging a conversation with strangers. Especially when it does not really imply any real involvement. Small talk is easy. But this week, I tried something totally new to me… So I learned about this assignment after I’ve been contacting several former students of a course I am considering to take. These people I have never met before opened up to me on the phone about their experience, wishes and hopes for their career… I was really surprised to see how people love to share their experiences ! A few of them actually ended the conversation by inviting me for coffee.

  72. avatar
    Scott Wilson

    Everyone loves to be complimented on their clothing, accessories or appearance, so if I have nothing better to open with, I ask, “Do you get a lot of compliments on ?” People can’t help but smile even if the answer is no.

  73. avatar
    Jeffrey Rosan

    Well, I kind of cheated on this one in the sense that I struck up conversations with two strangers at Staples yesterday, while buying supplies for the upcoming tax season. We discussed alternating theories at what gets you audited and in so doing I may have grabbed two more clients. We will see about that because inevitably my biggest problem is talking too much! (This is what happens when you are an extroverted Jew, have ADD and are off the meds.) Back to it though, these conversations with random folks throughout my life HAVE lead to more business connections, and inevitably what modest success I have had.

  74. avatar

    What if this is your nature and you generally do this every day? Got something a bit more challenging for me?

  75. avatar

    A little while ago I introduced myself to a guy who works in the same industry I’m working in. I just started in this area, and he has been successful at it for years. I asked him to lunch, and we are going to lunch today. This was way outside of my comfort zone. Although I think this counts, I’ll still accept your challenge and start a conversation with someone I don’t know.

  76. avatar

    I’ve been putting this one into practise over the past year. I have no problem in a work/networking environment (as you can talk ‘shop’), but on a social level I feel awkward if I’m by myself. Although I’d like to think of myself as pretty amicable, no one really speaks with each other in London and getting over that shyness sometimes is a challenge (especially if you like the look of whom your speaking to)

    Testing (aka Momentary Failures) – Looks of disapproval on the tube can make you die a tiny bit inside, people being weirded out (my mohawk throws people off I guess), strange responses, squirms, blank stares, people ignoring me & rejection. Once you get used to it, its all a laugh actually.
    I’ve learnt
    A) when moments are conducive to approach or chat to someone,
    B) go in there friendly and calmly unless your at a crazy party and
    C) that people have their own issues. i.e. I went up to a girl reading a book called ‘How to make friends’ and introduced myself and asked ‘Hows that book? Did you find anything interesting in it?’ she said nothing, stared at me and got off at the next stop. You clearly can’t win them all, but maybe I’ve shown her something she may use in future?

    Winning – I now tally up a ‘hello’ count to other fellow runners when on my run I’ve reached 8 and got a ‘high-5’ one day. I want to hit 10 when the weather gets better. I get familiar people saying hello to me in the morning on my way to work (great way to start the day). Cute guys texting me back. People are awesome and I am for doing this.

  77. avatar

    I actually don’t really have a problem striking up a conversation with strangers at anytime. I have been told that I don’t know a stranger. Last evening was the last time I had a conversation with some one I didn’t know. The fellow that helped me with my groceries looked like and interesting guy, so I asked him if he was familiar the area? I work quite a ways from where I live and shop near work on my way home. He was full of alot of information that I was unaware of regarding the immediate neighborhood. I learned some things I didn’t know and I think he felt important because he could teach me something

  78. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    I have about 10 billion tested scripts (email and conversational) for natural networking in the Dream Job course, opening late January. Stay tuned to my email list.

  79. avatar

    I was in the break room at work and saw someone getting coffee. I had never spoken to this person though I’ve seen them in the hall fairly often. I asked “how’s that coffee workin’ out for you?” knowing that the coffee is total crap and everyone hates it. They groaned and mentioned how much it sucked but it was free so what can you do? Next thing you know we’re talking about how HR often does weird things (like order the world’s worst coffee) that are meant to make people more comfortable at work but just end up annoying everyone.

    There is so much common ground between coworkers even if you have totally different job roles. It was great to talk to someone new.

  80. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    We have one of those. We call her “The Nuclear Weapon,” as in we deploy her when all else has failed.

  81. avatar
    Rakesh Patel

    I lost my mojo so decided to travel to London on my own without my girlfriend. I went to a busy restaurant in Chinatown at peak time on my own and asked for a table for one. The scariest thing I’ve ever done. I sat down and got talking to the table next to me. “Hey guys. That looks good, what is it you’re eating?” The rest is history. The next day I talked and smiled to everyone I came into contact with.

  82. avatar
    Ian Mackay

    Hi Cherleen,

    I can truly sympathise with you. I used to be terrified to speak to random people. However, I learnt using momentum.

    I would find small situations where you could easily ask a quick question and it wouldn’t matter. For example, I would ask the bus driver if the bus stopped at the stop I wanted when buying my ticket even though I knew it did already. This way I got used to feeling pressure talking to him, it was his job to answer and I ‘held up’ the queue for a few seconds and people could hear. This made me feel good, and with that little bit of confidence I looked for the next opportunity, that makes you feel even better when you do it again and then more confidence when you do it again and you keep challenging yourself.

    A great place to do it is in a shop or when buying groceries. Cashiers like to talk as they are normally sitting behind a till all day (been there myself) and it can get really boring. So they look for chances to talk. Even asking ‘how’s it going’ and letting them talk is enough. Then the next time you can comment on what they say or ask about their day and build from there.

    Next time your are in a pub, try a comment like ‘oh, it’s busy (or quiet) in here’ and let the barman comment back. You don’t need to chat a long time even just till you get your drinks or you can do as I do now and normally chat (unless really busy) or I crack a few jokes.

    The thing is it will be really scary but it can be worked through. Start small and do baby steps. Use the confidence you get from each time you even say hi to someone as momentum to do it again and keep pushing your boundries and comfort zone.

    You’ll be a social butterfly before you know it!

  83. avatar

    I met another mother in the park while walking with the kids and I started the conversation by, “thank God it’s a better whether today!” And then we got into a nice conversation about the kids and other things in the neighborhood .

  84. avatar
    Emily Calle

    I don’t have any problem talking to strangers . . . in English. But since moving to Austria (where I don’t speak the language and where cultural social constructs are different and discourage interaction with strangers) it’s pretty hard to make a connection with new people. So, I figured this was a good thing to try . . . and I did it in German (which I barely speak).

    I asked my mailman, “Wie gehts?” (how’s it going? — and the casual/informal version, which was probably gauche) when he brought the mail. He gave me kind of a bemused smile (this really isn’t done here) and said, “Gut! Und dir?” (pretty cool because he used the casual/informal, too — I’ve seen this guy almost daily for nearly 2 years, but only had one conversation with him before beyond “good morning, sign here, thank you”). We exchanged pleasantries, said goodbye, but I got a genuine smile. Pretty cool! (Sehr gut!)

  85. avatar
    renee shatanoff

    When you are standing in a grocery line and someone behind you in line has less than three items, say “I see you only have a few items. Please go ahead of me.” It’s easy, people are so appreciative, it feels good, and everyone leaves with a smile.

  86. avatar

    It “worked.”
    Walked into a usually hectic coffee shop at 7am.
    “Pretty quiet in here? Seems pretty quiet.”
    “Yep.” But then… A little chatting about my coffee mug, the song playing, and an extra punch on my coffee card to fill it up. The extra stamp is little, though I doubt that would’ve happened if I’d dead panned the staff when I walked in. And I’m starting the day with more confidence already.

  87. avatar
    Gordon Rennie

    Good post. I have been for the last twelve or so years been quite confident and have no qualms in striking up conversations in person with people from all walks of life. I find these moments and negoitiating enjoyable and recently earned a 56.6% raise in my job by using similar tactics that Ramit talks about in his various posts. Having said that when it comes to my dream job pursuit and contacting people of note in large companies I struggle with introductory emails. So I bit the bullet, I made a list of the ten jobs that I would class as dream jobs for me, started with Accounting and highlighted the top ten companies I would like to work for in Scotland and found the head of Audit and Assurance for the number one company on Linkedin and sent him an email essentially asking to buy him a coffee to discuss what he needs from his team and how he started. I also stated that I wouldn’t be propositioning him for employment. I definately need practise with this and perhaps aimed too high for the first email but as you always say TEST IT.

    I’ll fingers crossed have something positive to report but in the meantime i am going to practise on Senior Accountants at smaller firms and then try and work my way into my top ten.

    Loving the blog and cheers.

  88. avatar

    I’m very shy when it comes to talking to strangers even at reunions where I don’t know most of the people. So yesterday I was walking my dog and there was this couple, they had a very weird looking dog so I had to ask what kind of dog was it (it happened to be a mix of who knows how many breeds).
    We talked for more than 2 hours and at the end we exchanged emails. It was interesting because now we might be working together in a project.

  89. avatar
    Geoff Whitmore

    Just wanted to let you know that I do put your posts into action! It was your blog, and a few others that motivated me to leave my former full time job of over a decade to go full-force with my current one as a blogger. Your ideas about credit cards motivated me, and your thoughts/tips on starting a business STILL motivate me.

    Thank you for the incredible information you continue to put out there!! It is implemented by some of us, and that’s what matters!

  90. avatar

    Wow, weird timing. I’ve been doing random approaches the past few days to start getting rid of my anxiety of meeting new people. Yesterday I approached 4 people, the first of which was a cute girl on the bus. I noticed she was a student at the university I go to, so we chatted about that for a bit. We exchanged names, but it kinda died off. I’m trying a few small talk openers I thought up in the next few days so this doesn’t happen.

    My last approach was another cute girl at my Krav Maga class. We only exchanged first names, but it was notable because we were practicing a choke defense technique when you’re on the floor on your back, so I ended up kneeling over her stomach pretending to choke her while she was laying down and breaking my grip. After that, normal approaches will probably feel boring in comparison.

  91. avatar

    Ever since a kid I’ve been extremely shy.
    However the last several years I’ve taught myself to speak and get heard. One of my methods is using my bad habit, namely talking out loud.
    Just today I was looking for a hardcopy planner (I’m old school in this) and by commenting out loud regarding several possibilities I got talking to a newly mother who was also looking for a planner with monthly and weekly schedules. We both checked all pros and cons regarding the different possibilities and we bought the same and were pleasantly surprised a the cash register because we got a 70% discount.:)

  92. avatar

    I used to suck at conversation. Then I bought a few books, and now I’m getting much better. But most important is that I get lots of real-world practice through my music blog. I talk to lots of independent bands about their music, or whatever else. There’s an upcoming (free) concert on Monday, so I will be talking to that band too. The first few times I did this, I was all stuttering and anxiety, but these days talking to bands is the status quo. But maybe this time I’ll try striking up a conversation with somebody in the audience (“how did you find out about the band?”), which is a little further outside the norm for me.

    Incidentally, if you’re going to be in the Washington DC area on Monday and want something fun to do in the evening, hop over to my website to find out more.

  93. avatar

    Excellent examples of conversation starters! I, however, have never had a problem striking up a conversation with just about anyone. What I’ve noticed is that I ask one question (Nice day, isn’t it?) and the other person then proceeds to tell me his/her entire life story. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Most of the time, I don’t mind it; it helps me make a connection to the person and sometimes it gets me more than what I ask for (extra whiskey in my Manhattan, for example). But I gotta tell ya, I have more “friends” than a person could ever need!

  94. avatar

    Do work conversations count? I don’t want to wait til tonight and then forget to post…

    I work in Sales qualifying leads, so I’m pretty comfortable starting at least shallow conversations with strangers. This morning I’ve called two people who had filled out contact forms on the company website, to get more details about their applications and which configurations of our product can serve them best before putting them in touch with a product specialist. We didn’t really talk about anything beyond that, but I always go for a nice conversational tone.

    I’m planning to go out to Moe’s for dinner tonight, so I’ll ask the server and/or cashier how their night is going too. 🙂

    I was in the hospital recently, and had conversations with most of my nurses and techs and phlebotomists. Asking about their kids (or if they had kids or pets) was always a great ice-breaker.

  95. avatar

    Dear Ramith,

    I read and appreciate all you offer. Some of it I don’t use directly, but your voice keeps me on track – you remind me to ask myself everyday – Am I focused? Daring? Organized? Clear? I know I can count on learning something new each time I go back to listen to Earn1K material.
    I’ve been starting new conversations with fellow parents each week and it’s great. I enjoy hearing their stories, and I am gaining more ease and confidence in sharing with people who I am and what I’m about.
    Your work continues to inspire and motivate me.

  96. avatar

    Wow! I started reading your post, thinking I was the loser you wanted to dump from your e-mail list. Turns out I’d just done this assignment twice. I’m an introvert by nature, doing temp work in an agency’s facility where I know most of the people and don’t get out a lot as my mom is in a nursing home and I’m busy taking care of her stuff. Nevertheless, I was in the parking ramp elevator with a Scandinavian woman, who was looking at a Sacagawea dollar, not understanding who was depicted. I went on a spontaneous discussion of coins and history, telling her that S was a guide for Lewis & Clark, explaining that they surveyed the Louisiana purchase during the Jefferson Administration and that in some places, their survey still describes the land. Then, in the kitchen, a woman on another project put her food in the fridge and had a container of hard boiled egges. I asked about peeling them since every time I make hard boiled eggs I have trouble peeling them. She told me how she peels them and about the cleanse she was on and what sort of snacks she brings.

    So today I’m not hitting the unsubscribe button.

  97. avatar

    Hey, this actually made me feel really good, because I am a total introvert, yet I use most of your conversational cues regularly! I love asking clerks if things have been busy (answer: they are relieved to be asked, whether or not the answer is yes – makes them feel less like automatons). Even saying, “Wow, your dog is beautiful. What kind is it?” gets a puff of pride and a Thank You and everyone goes on with their day feeling awesome.

    People, if I can do it, you can!

  98. avatar

    Talked with someone in the queue while buying coffee.. Chatted and asked him for his favourite

  99. avatar

    I went out to dinner with my wife last night and we were with some of her coworkers. They too brought along friends or significant others. I started a conversation with lady there that didn’t seem to know anyone else. So we start talking and she asks me what I do. I respond that I am a research assistant and working on my PhD in Biomechanics, more specifically, ACL research. She stops me mid sentence and tells me she works at a local hospital in charge of continuing education for the physicians. We talk about all the common folks we know between the institution I work at and her hospital that she has a large role in. –So what did I take from this? — I have another powerful person in my network that can be a resource for more information when it comes time to look for a job, find physicians who are interested in further research and someone I can bounce potential ideas off if I want to migrate into the hospital setting with my research.

  100. avatar

    I asked a sales clerk whether the shop had been busy this week — the answer was no, and then we mused on the post-holiday doldrums for a while. 😉

    Thanks for the nudge!

  101. avatar

    I do not have a problem starting up conversations with strangers, for example on line at the grocery store, DEFINITELY on line at shops, with UPS and FedEx folks — yet at the same time when I am, say, on a plane flight I usually just want to stare out the window and not make chitchat. (The difference between a few minutes of conversation that might or might not lead somewhere, and a potential hour to 5 hours of excruciating hell, quite likely to involve the bad breath and insipid ramblings of a moron.) Well, for some reason I decided to test that on my last flight — and had the most hilarious hour and a half I could have wished for. And yes, I mostly listened… Seriously, I got tears in my eyes from laughing. So this week, while I am not flying anywhere, I am going to be more mindful about starting conversations. I am going to challenge myself by making it 5 people versus one, since I like talking to strangers, especially ones who give me candy. I am paradoxically shy, so it will be interesting to seek out the experience vs. just “handle” what drops in my lap.

  102. avatar

    Asked a mom at my daughter’s school about her new baby. How old, name, etc, and what a beautiful child. She seemed offended, but maybe she was just in a rush to get away. Marginal success.

  103. avatar

    You would pick the one thing that terrifies be above all others wouldn’t you? Well I don’t want to unsubscribe so I’ll check back in on Monday with the results. Here goes nothing.

  104. avatar

    For once, I am one step ahead. I don’t have a problem with smalltalk — in fact, I enjoy it. I work in a building with many other technical people who would have issues with this assignment. I love it.

    For mine, I noticed that we have a new front-desk security guard in the new year. I was on first-name terms with the previous (now retired) guard. I took the time to meet this new person and introduce myself. It was a bit awkward as the younger guard was used to silent processing of badges and allowing access — I think I caught him off guard (no pun intended).

    Now, when I walk in, there is someone who can call me by name. It is incredible how motivating it can be on those rough mornings to just have someone briefly with you a good day. Or when I need to check in guests to already know the person in charge of the process.

  105. avatar

    approached my idol photographer at store….and was very surprised he found time to talk with me for 20 min. Will follow up with assisting him durring this year….yaaa i did it 🙂

  106. avatar

    Mine was in the bathroom at Walmart lol! The water to was my hands was freezing and there was an older lady next to me trying to wash her hands. It was more of an accidental conversation so I do not know the exact words I used, but it went into a couple minutes of conversation about the cold water to the cold weather.
    She was a very nice lady and smiled a lot. Something I can learn from.

  107. avatar
    Tanya Malott

    I talk to strangers every day without any problems. Walking the dog, getting coffee, at Whole Foods (with anyone), on airplanes, in airports, in taxis…you name it. People say I’m really good at it, and I know that is true. What I can’t do is speak to an audience, in public, or in front of a group without heart palpitations. How do you deal with THAT?

  108. avatar
    Vinita Zutshi

    Hi Ramit,

    I was smiling as I read your post. As it happens, I’m the person who can write the book “How to Talk to Anyone”, and I do. In fact, I’ve done so all my life! 🙂

    Looking forward to the next action step!

  109. avatar

    I asked the mailman what it was like to drive on the right side of the truck. I also asked him if he liked to listen to music or books on tape or talk radio while he’s doing his route. Apparently my mailman is a classic rock mailman.

  110. avatar

    Hey Ramit-
    First, I LOVE that photo you have shown here. Awesome toga! Was it Halloween or?

    Second, I am very reserved to the point of being mistaken for an unfriendly or unappy individual. Many close friends have said they would have never known how kind/intelligent/knowledgeable/awesome I really am if not for projects we had worked on or seen for themselves how I advocate for the people around me.
    In March I moved to a new neighborhood and saw a few people move in around me. The couple to my left seemed super nice & so when out watering the laugh we would talk about lawn care or exchange pleasantries. When I had my housewarming in August, I invited them over to dinner & when they showed up they gushed to me about how happy they were for me & how grateful they were for the invitation. Talking with them reminded me of 1-how bad my Spanish has gottten and 2-that we are not islands unto ourselves & human contact/conversations are vital to us all.
    Next up, the lady across the street who really seems like a witch! Maybe she’s just me, a little younger.

  111. avatar

    I don’t know if this counts as a conversation, but . . .

    I comforted a young woman who I saw slip off the curb and hit her head at Union Square (NY) this morning, and waited with her until the police arrived.

  112. avatar

    I’m pretty good at talking to people, both in a work and social environment. I talk to people in lifts, on trains, in garages, everywhere. So I don’t think I need this assignment specifically, but I recognise it’s value and will continue to practice it.

    But you asked for examples so the last time would be asking the checkout girl how long her day had been and was she looking forward to going home. It was quite late. She smiled, told me she’d been working for so many hours, was really tired etc.

    Not quite a cold approach but another example when I recently asked a waiter what he recommended. He wasn’t sure so we ended up chatting about how he was new at the job, had just moved here, had a small son. We talked about kids, them growing up. 10 minutes later I still hadn’t ordered.

  113. avatar

    Great reminder of the power of social skills needed to excel in life. I did this exercise but I used a different approach (and often do). I like to find similarities between myself and others so I’ll often use scripts depending on what they’re wearing, or where we are (the gym) “I really like your running shoes. How many miles do you run a week?”. I quickly make connections and more often than not, I’ll run into them again where we can pick up the conversation where we left off.

    Thanks for the reminder – keep it coming!

  114. avatar

    New guy at work. I asked:
    “Hey, has anyone shown you how to do this yet?”
    He had lots of questions, and finally left me, smiling, because I had the answers to his questions. I can guarantee I’ll be the first person to whom he puts questions from now on, because it always happens that way when I help someone who just needs someone to show them what to do, from the big-wigs on down to the mail room clerk. I’m an introvert, but when it comes to “teaching”, I can speak easily.
    And by the way, I can’t process my email every day, so no fussing if I don’t comment on the day the challenge came! I may be doing it a day or two behind everyone else, but I’ll do it.

  115. avatar

    Thanks for the assignment. While paying for some clothes for my daughter this morning I said to the cashier ‘wow it’s warm in here, it could almost put me to sleep.’ She had been looking sleepy but perked up and laughed. It looked like she was thrilled that someone would even talk to her. Then I said I wondered if they did it on purpose to make shoppers buy more and we ended up having a very interesting chat about some changes that the store had made recently, colours, lighting, layout. She said that their average purchase has gone up so she was sure the heating was done deliberately too.

    I used to never talk to strangers but it’s something that I made myself do starting a few years back. I find that people want to talk to you, they just don’t know where to start, so I’ve found that any question that asks them about themselves lets them talk. Now I can start a conversation with anyone.

  116. avatar

    I was at a booksigning for a favorite author of mine last night, and got into a fairly long discussion with the strangers around me, beginning with the book, then commiserating that the series is done, then sympathy for the guy who was going to miss the signing because he had to work.

    Granted, at a book signing for an author I (we) like means that we automatically have SOMETHING to talk about, but I see that as a starting point rather than a ‘cheat’

    No long term contacts, but some nice banter.

  117. avatar
    Ronald Fox

    I’ve decided to turn the ship on negative speech. The first opportunity presented itself in a conversation over the topic of the film and television industry. The gentleman I was speaking with was clearly irritated by the nepotism rampant (and not isolated to one country – he’s in the UK and I’m stateside) within the business.
    As we spoke I suggested he continue to focus on the ideas and creative aspects. No matter where you go, it seems you’re always going to encounter people who “fell into something” perhaps because Dad is a director, or mom is a producer, or an uncle is the DP.
    Through the course of our exchange, where I suggested he merely focus on the things he has control over, he began to bounce ideas for projects off me. We’re looking into concepts to determine which might play.
    I learned from my brother, whom I lost in July of last year, that if things don’t matter in five years, they shouldn’t matter in five minutes. It does us little good to get wrapped up over things we have no control over.

  118. avatar

    I went to Prague for a New Year for a couple of days with my friends, and first night there at the hostel I sat in the hall for like fifteen minutes browsing when I noticed a Dutch couple who were carrying playing cards obviously looking for a table – so I offered them seats at my table, they accepted, later on the whole bunch of Dutch guys and girls arrived and I also brought my friends, who brought Serbian Rakija lol… Dutch guys intended to play some card game that involved drinking, as you can imagine this turned out to be a very cheerful experience… It ended up with Dutch guys being so impressed with Serbian culture and open-mindedness that they wanted to spend the remaining days at Prague hanging out with us, I even taught them some Serbian words and phrases in cyrillic… quite an experience

  119. avatar

    I met someone (a total stranger) in the path station with her kid. When the kid is nearby and looked at me, I asked the kid’s mother ” Cute kid.. How old is he?”. That started our conversation and she explained me how wonderful the kid is, how much he plays and how less he sleeps. etc. It was great.

  120. avatar

    I went to a local meetup at a bar for trivia night and only knew one person. I not only met people from the group and the bar but found out about some job opportunities. I had stopped going out to save $$ and my job search had stalled. Now I’ve applied to 2 positions with referrals from employees.
    When you meet people they ask you “what do you do?”, when you say you are looking they say “what kind of jobs?”(banking/finance) when you tell them they will tell you about openings that they know about that are like that(one accounting position and position at a brokerage firm). I think last nights beer and trivia turned into networking by mistake. Although technically I did this last night before this post I did meet several people by being outgoing and I did use some scripts/stories (tried to break into IT but want back into finance/banking). Also, our group won the trivia contest!

  121. avatar

    I told a woman I saw on vacation that I loved her black dress and that the cut was perfect on her. She was flattered and starting blushing – it was clear that she hadn’t been complimented in a really long time! It made me feel good to bring a smile to someone else’s face.

  122. avatar
    Ellen O'Connor

    I retired early and in the last year went from seeking a policy job in government (continuing my career) to studying on-line in health care data. Brand new direction, so very challenging. I’ve rebuilt my confidence, my engagement with new ideas and I feel great. I look forward to a job in another 6 mos. that will be interesting to me for the years ahead because I want to work.

  123. avatar
    Karol Gajda

    An interesting, somewhat old example that I indirectly owe to you, Ramit.

    You tweeted about some dudes called Simple Pickup about 2 years ago and I subscribed to their youtube vids. Last year I was pissed I sucked with girls and, since I was going to be in the US for a couple months, I signed up for their bootcamp in Hollywood. Long story short, everything changed. When I got home I began playing a game I dubbed “Rejection Theatre” where I would talk to every pretty girl I came across, even if I had to run after her and even if she was with friends (guys or girls). (Fun side note: got rejected by “actress” Lauren Conrad.) Today: been dating a great girl (who I almost talked myself out of approaching) for 6 months.

    Biggest take away: pretty girls are very nice, good conversationalists, and they appreciate bold dudes. (And the less pretty girls were usually more often rude or boring.)

    Anyway, thanks for mentioning those dudes way back when. I love this series about social psychology.

  124. avatar


  125. avatar

    Oh gosh, I am definitely someone who doesn’t talk to new people easily. I get anxious about it and make it a much bigger deal than it is. It just doesn’t come naturally!

    Yesterday, I had a meeting with an admissions counselor at the grad school I’m applying to. Not quite a stranger, but still nerve-wracking! We ended up getting along great. We talked about the program, but also about our families, travel, the city the school is in, and so on. I felt like we clicked really well and the conversation was easy.

    I also talked to a cashier. Found out he was moving out of state to travel with his band. Neat!

  126. avatar

    Before I left the workforce to stay home with my kids, I was not big on interacting with random strangers. I got enough social contact at work to keep those skills fluid. When you start spending all day with nonverbal humans, you learn to appreciate adult conversation from whatever adult you may meet because you’re desperate to communicate with ANYONE. I’ll see your 5 scripts and add a sixth: talk to a mom with young kids in tow, about something other than her kids. “What do you think of this weather?” is always a good place to start. She’ll probably talk your ear off.

  127. avatar

    Ok, thank God I grew up watching my grandfather talk to strangers because I incurred brain damage at 11 in the exact area of the brain that processes social cues and measures appropriate responses. I had to relearn, as an adult, by studying cues and facial features, how to start talking to people. I had great memories of my grandfather to employ. So, I’m clear people can learn to talk to even a stone wall about its subtle variations of crystalline structure.
    My question is how do I move beyond the superficial without seeming nosy? I don’t buy into the popular idea that people love talking about themselves.

  128. avatar

    Hi Ramit,

    I live in Boston and happen to be very good at striking up conversations with strangers. In the last two weeks I have asked people what kind of dogs they were walking, I struck up a conversation with a salesgirl at one of our local department stores. People love to talk about themselves and I am a very good listener. I love your book!

  129. avatar

    Gulp…I made a phone call I have been putting off forever. A simple call to make an appointment with a new hair stylist, a French one, that I’ve researched and had on my to do list forever. After reading your post, I thought this is like having a conversation with a stranger and is scary because making the appointment at this particular salon will thrust me into having several conversations with people I’ve never met at a place I’ve never been… A much more elegant and international place but where the aesthetics match my desires.
    So I shifted myself to have a conversation with whoever answered the phone and as I suspected, she was lovely and after the initial, hi I’m a new client and I have heard so much about Julian and your salon, I would like to make an appointment if I may…she was right there with the welcome and the questions..and we talked about the aesthetics and what I was looking for and she asked how I found them, which allowed me to tell her I had researched him, that I was actually looking for a match and was very excited about the appointment next Tuesday.
    Lovely call, I’m still shaking a bit, so excited. It’s not inexpensive and now I am beside myself with joy that I did it. This has been part of my reluctance to cold call on new clients for my art work…the looking for matches with ideal clients..or to begin to build new relationships with prospective ideal clients….doing the research, reaching out and having a conversation…although I’m the client here…our clients overlap.
    So grateful for the push….thank you..

  130. avatar
    Mel Ryan

    Ramit! Have you been following me? I’ve spent the last month practicing being more social!

    I actually have severe social anxiety disorder, with major panic attacks. I’m on new medication now, but I’ve been so withdrawn for years now that my social skills really suck. Since I just started a new job, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to practice so I can build a better network. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t just be a wallflower all your life and suddenly wake up one day knowing how to get people gabbing. You have to get yourself out there!

    Scripts are awesome, but I’ve found it’s better to niche it down to the situation at hand. It makes people much more eager to talk to you. Generic one-liners like, “Boy, how about this rain?” usually just spawn an automated line- or worse, a nod followed by awkward silence.

    Today, for example, I came home to find boxes of donated bread and sweets in our apartment building’s lobby. People were frantically sifting through this stuff, trying to get their paws on a treat or two. I got on the elevator with a woman who was holding a couple containers of cupcakes. I know there’s this unspoken rule about just pretending no one is there and staring at the elevator door, but instead I made myself start a conversation.

    “It was like a stampede down there, huh?”

    I expected her to just mutter, “Yeah…” and avert all eye contact, but instead this woman’s eyes lit up and I got to hear her story about how she rushed to grab some stuff for the friend she was going to visit. In a 30 second elevator ride we had talked about the other tenants in the building, about sweets, about the weather, and she left the elevator smiling. It felt great! I can’t wait to do it again and again.

  131. avatar

    Another environment to try these is at the gym. Most people are there for similar reasons, so common ground is already shared. It’s surprising that most people are actually quite friendly and willing to spot you, or to let you work in your sets when they’re using a piece of equipment.

    Lately I’ve been trying to develop greater flexibility in speaking to random people. I commiserated with the UPS delivery person about their busy schedule. I try to greet checkout persons in a more friendly way. I ask people about the exercises they do at the gym, if I’m curious. It takes effort, but it’s a skill worth investing in.

  132. avatar
    N M

    Started conversation with my neighbor, asked if I can help her with huge stroller and then asked if she carries it up and down every day (we live in a walk-up). We both agreed that it’s a great workout. It went quite nice, I still felt a bit awkward, though.

  133. avatar
    Chris Horner

    Noticed a nice watch on a guy next to me in line. Told him it looked cool and asked him what kind. He smiled took it off and handed it to me. With the weight it was a solid 18k gold five figure watch. We chatted about watches for a few minutes. At the end we exchanged business cards. New contact. Boom. No one died.

  134. avatar

    I used to be terrified of this, but I’ve gotten much better in the last couple of years, especially thanks to my boyfriend who models this well. I started undergraduate classes at UCD post bach this week and approached successful-appearing strangers in both of them to make studying friends. I started by introducing myself and asking if they’d had the professor before and boom! conversation happened.

  135. avatar

    A note on talking to people who are traumatised by horrific events – just mention it.

    I was talking to a lady the other day whose husband fixed a bomb under her car and she was chatting for ages. Seems she knows a lot about humvees and why she would never buy any other car.

    Her dog looked like a rat so avoided bringing pets into the conversation – note to self – learn how to spell Chihuahua.

    She showed me how she fixed a mirror to the bottom of a mop handle so she could check the underside of any car in the future before getting into it.

    Thanks for the tip.

  136. avatar

    Cathy0 nailed this: they are questions and they’re about the other person. You can always talk about yourself later, but starting off with an interest in them is what make them feel good about you :). Plus, you can always gather information on how people think, even if it’s a 5 second chat with the mailman.

    Since I got the “talking to strangers” part covered, I thought I could change up the challenge a little bit: I tend not to take conversations to a deeper level with people I already know (boss, colleagues, bf, friends) and are important to me. I’ll do that instead and report later…

  137. avatar

    I seldom have problems starting little nothing conversations with strangers. For example, since I grocery shop late at night (the lines are so much shorter) I normally start off with questions about whether the checker is off soon. Said conversations seldom go anywhere, but it makes you pleasant to be around, so whatever.

    One thing I have been working on is eye contact. And this is because of what my sister is teaching my nephew. He’s 2. She reminds him to make eye contact with people when he says thank you or asks for stuff (“Eyeballs Cameron!”).

  138. avatar
    Karen Julia

    I overheard a conversation at gym class between two other girls (about a class elsewhere I had been considering) & kinda interrupted them to ask them about an aspect of what they were talking about. I learned something new & she seemed enthusiastic about discussing the other class. (Which was rubbish apparently, so doing this saved me money)

  139. avatar

    I saw a girl on the street with killer leather pants.




    She said: Me too but I like that!

    These interactions are very easy for me. The interactions I have trouble with are meeting people that I feel have an advantage over me or could give me more work.

    Or if I have to talk about myself, I get tongue tied and awkward and sweaty.

  140. avatar

    We lost our home and everything in it to Hurricane Sandy so I’m now in an apartment in a new neighborhood without a car (also gone in the flood) and completely isolated. So as a first step I went across the street to the library and took out a card. There was a display of quilts on the walls by the reference desk and I walked over to look at them. Another woman was standing there and I said, “These are just lovely, aren’t they?” She said yes, and started talking about her own quilts and quilting. I mentioned that I also quilt. 40 minutes later I had a new acquaintance and had joined a charity quilting group. Now I have twelve new acquaintances and I’m sure that will grow to a larger circle.

  141. avatar

    Today I went to a book launch of a chief justice. After the program, I went out to the buffet table and fell in line. The people in front of me were talking. When I got my food, I tried to look for a place to eat, then I asked them if I could join them in their cocktail table. They were kind and made space for me. I said that I was a student there. They worked for a government agency. The lawyer to my left introduced herself and said that the book was expenive. We ate our food. She later asked me if I knew a law student who became an intern in her former NGO. I said yes because that student was the head of ourorganization. It was a small world. Then they talked about their work. Before I left, I told them it was nice to meet them.

  142. avatar

    I was waiting for some paperwork to be completed and I complimented her on her top which lead into a moment of conversation and getting my paper work finished a bit quicker.
    Getting a conversation can be easy, it knowing when to leave the conversation or room can sometimes be awkward. When do you know when to go and not over welcome you stay either at work or in networking?

  143. avatar
    Curtis Stewart

    Was at the post office this morning and a guy had his dog with him. Mine was in the truck giving it billy hell. His little dog was about the size of mine and we had a nice chat about big guys with little dogs. I ride a Ural side hack rig. They have a term for strangers coming up to you and start talking about the rig; UDF or Ural Delay Factor. If you have issues with strangers coming up to talk, better not get one of these rides.
    I was taught cold call selling by my mom selling greeting cards and cutting grass. To me talking to strangers is easy as is public speaking. But I understand a lot of people have issues with it. But it is a skill like everything else.And the better you get at both, the better your bottom line is.

  144. avatar

    I do this all the time. Just yesterday, I struck up a conversation with the check-out girl at a home depot. One test that has worked for me to get better service is by simply calling the service person (waitress, cashier, teller, customer service rep on the phone, etc) by their name. I usually glance at their name tag and start the conversation with their name. If there isn’t a name tag, eg the bartender at a bar, I ask them for their name. I have noticed a HUGE difference in the service I have received since before I started this.
    Warm regards,

  145. avatar

    That is adorable and is gonna make a big difference on how much people like him later.

  146. avatar

    Though I am naturally shy, my love and curiosity for people always makes me talk to strangers. On Monday, one of the new ushers at work walked in, a strikingly tall (for South European standards anyway) lady in her late 50s. My colleague assumed she couldn´t possibly be taller than 6 ft., so I decided to prove her wrong. However, as soon as the usher lady and I were on our own, a made a friendly comment on her height, inquiring how tall she was. (She´s a lot taller than my colleague assumed). She answered that she sometimes had difficulties finding trousers because of her height, that she used to be a few inches taller, etc. Shows you that you can get a bit personal with strangers as long as it´s not creepy/rude.

  147. avatar

    I think I just look like an approachable person, because strangers start conversations with me ALL THE TIME. Also, I start conversations with strangers from time to time, myself. I think it’s because I make eye contact with them.

    Anyway, my experience was very pleasant. I didn’t use one of the aforementioned canned line. I just told a woman I liked her blouse. She was very nice.

  148. avatar

    I asked a fellow dog-walker if my dog could say hi to his dog. And then while the dogs were doing their thing, we talked about each other’s dogs, how the weather was getting better and about the apartment complex in general. Short and sweet.

  149. avatar

    I frequent this Yoga studio and normally I am either in a rush to go in the class or too relaxed afterwards to make an effort to talk to people. In today’s morning class, despite being 7.30am I made an effort to talk to a fellow yogi. I initiated the conversation by commenting how good the class was. Then we got talking about the quality of classes and how it has improved our health. It was a brief conversation, but it was my first step to talk to someone new. Next time I’ll attempt to have a longer one. Biggest take away; I found it so much easier today to talk to my colleagues when I got to work (introduce myself to some new hires and chat more to the old ones). I loved it.

  150. avatar

    Instead of waiting for others to introduce me at a social event, I introduced myself to one person, stumbled through it, but made a connection.

  151. avatar
    Jennifer J

    I live in a rural, economically poor, natural resource rich, educationally low, ex-logging community – There is always something to talk about.

    I love watching the response… people are either shocked that you (a stranger) are striking up a conversation or are delighted and launch right in to telling you about their life, opinion, plans, etc…

    “Networking” events in this community are interesting as people wear so many varied hats – the school principal may own a cattle ranch and ship hay to So Cal, the welder at the fab shop may also own 3 restaurants in town, the receptionist at the auto parts store also owns prime, undeveloped real estate right off main st. You’ve got to have your social skills nailed down to be able to communicate effectively here (and I suspect just about anywhere).

  152. avatar

    Since I work as a secretary, it’s pretty much a given that I will talk to strangers each day, either on the phone or in person at the office. Today I was fortunate in that we were hosting a conference, so there were plenty of strangers for me to meet. The conversation I had was with one of our conference-goers, who had gotten lost in the hallway while looking for the exit. I chatted with her briefly as I guided her to the front door. Didn’t learn a lot about her, but she’s a college professor in my hometown.

    Honestly, I rarely balk when talking to strangers one-on-one. My social anxieties stem more from being in large groups of people who I don’t know, or going to a party where I only know the host/hostess. I get much more self concious in groups.

  153. avatar

    So last night I head over to an industry event, and I’m thinking “If I am applying what I learned in Dream Job… I need natural networking to pivot into my next career.” So I see a guy with a unique lapel pin on it. I start the conversation by saying, “Excuse me, what does your pin represent?” Seems innocuous enough. It turns out he served previously in the military, and asking him more about where that led him, he shared that he rose up to become the CTO at one of America’s largest contracting firms. From asking about the pin, so sharing my thoughts on our economy and what I do currently, he offers me a job working for his company.

    Fast forward two hours, as I return to the bar near my place. I decide to walk in, still in a suit, completely out of place, but comfortable because I know the bouncer and want to say hello. A Korean girl walks up and *she* asks me about my lapel pin. (I’m thinking, hmm, this is familiar…) She recognizes the Marine Corps flag, and says her dad is a prior Marine. So, of course, I offer her a job. 😉 Now Ramit, I’m not sure about the military psychology here on that end, but after waking up next to her this morning, I’m thinking that your experiment was a giant success.

  154. avatar
    Cat Braithwaite

    Thankfully, I have NO problem being social in the world. I can talk to anyone any where about anything…occasionally stumbling into TMI territory. But, what I find to be the most important thing is perfectly demonstrated in your “scripts”. BE INTERESTED. Whether you truly are or not, people like to talk to people who are interested in what they’re doing or who they are.
    In my retail position, I approach customers by asking them if they’re having a good time, before asking if I can help them find something. This breaks the ice, usually elicits a chuckle and opens the door to a nice conversation where I can usually end up selling them something, whether it be an item in the store or my book online.
    “Are you having fun yet?” They’ll let you know!

  155. avatar

    I asked a stranger (friend of a friend) about her nail polish. She was yoinger than me and very shy, but we started talking makeup. This turned into a 16-hour day. I learned her parents had thrown her out of her house and she had nowhere to go (she’s a teenager), and she hasn’t eaten in a week. I bought her breakfast, took her to the doctor, and got her to a safe house. She told me later that when I stopped to talk to her, she had been deciding the beat way to kill herself. She’s now staying someplace safe and texted me this morning to say that after the pep talk I have her during the day we spent together, she’s made an appointment to get her driving permit and has enrolled herself in school. My takeaway this week has been: if you talk to someone, you might learn something cool or make a good contact, sure, but you might actually be saving a life.

  156. avatar
    Johnny Mean

    Since my arrival in Bangkok last September I do this multiple times on the daily. I have found traveling to be a great time to experiment in social skills, overcome language and culture barriers, discover valuable information from fellow travelers and locals, while sharing experiences.

    The results have expanded my social and professional network in this way
    Some have become FB acquaintances and some temporary traveling companions.

    Ice breaking is an invaluable skill and key to successful negotiations I have had.

    Kurt Mortensen’s Law of Connectivity (Maximum Influence) has been a great resource.

    Ramit: I love where you are going with the IWTYTBR this year! Live it, or Leave it!

  157. avatar

    “Whenever I’m in a one-on-one that’s going nowhere, I usually ask what “plans” they have or try and dig out a problem they are having and ask about that. B/c everyone likes to talk about their problems, just usually no one wants to listen….”
    This is GOLD, Joe, thanks for sharing.

  158. avatar

    I thought this was going to be easy, as I grew up in a small town where I learned to strike a conversation with anybody (even though I’m an introvert) and I just moved to a new small town. It wasn’t. Probably because I knew I had to do it, instead of just doing it on my own as it comes naturally. I had to go to 3 places, so I figured I’d attempt a trio of stranger conversation.

    First store: The cashier just wanted to move customers through. Not even eye contact. Not a single opening where I could strike a short conversation. Failed attempt.

    Second store: I asked if they had X product in bulk. They did not. I also asked about another product, which they did not have, but they would order. I started telling her I just moved here, and I had stocked up on certain things because I thought I could not find it here, and I was glad to see she had almost everything (it’s a health food store, yes, Ramit, I’m one of those). We talked about how challenging moving is. She moved to this town after living in Montréal for 20 years. Then I asked about special ordering and being called in when they had spirulina in bulk. Sure, it was a conversation with a stranger, but it felt so forced an unnatural as opposed to when I just start chatting with a random stranger.

    Third store: As I finished my purchase, I asked the cashier how to become a member of the coop, because I was a member in my other town. (I actually had asked another cashier 2 weeks prior, but had not actually done anything about it). The cashier actually had more info, like the price of membership and so on. So to the office I go. After I finish the membership application, I start asking about her daughters, who are currently studying in the town I used to live. She had mentioned something about hoping her daughters would want to return to this area after their studies, so I told her about my experiences in many other towns, then about her daughters. This time, it felt a lot more natural. The application process gave me time to give her info about me, but also sneak in questions about the new town. It was a lot of fun.

    This experiment came at the perfect time for me. It got me to break the ice in this new town. Especially with the last interaction, the real exchange showed opportunities to establish a social circle here or a community involvment. It’s a small town (around 4,000 people), whenever there’s a newcomer, the word spreads around. Your experiment gave me an opportunity to give a good (or at least decent) impression. It also gave me confidence about meeting new friends, going out and so on.

    Thanks Ramit!
    PS – I hope that 2,000 word megapost is saved somewhere and we will have the chance to read it soon.

  159. avatar

    Hello Ramit,
    I actually did this three times yesterday – your emails have been inspiring me to get out of my comfort zone (I have always thought of myself as socially inadequate).
    First, I went to a meeting with the Assistant Dean of Nursing at my university (I had spoken briefly on the phone last week). Although she didn’t have much information to give me that I didn’t already know, she took my contact information and told me she would be glad to forward anything that came along. About six hours later, she emailed me with a lead. * POSITIVE *
    Second, since I was already on the university campus, I decided to walk over to the career center (been there several times). As a walk-in, I didn’t expect much more information than I had previously received. After a short wait, I was greeted with a consultant I had not spoken to before. He gave me one idea I was unaware of previously, but that was not the best part (at least to me). After speaking with him for about 15 minutes about job searches and networking, I asked him if he had any tips of interviewing skills. He boosted my confidence when he told me that I shouldn’t have a problem getting a job, if I could just get an interview. * POSITIVE*
    Last, as I was running errands, and I decided, at the last minute, to stop at a mattress store (I have thought about getting one for several years now). I struck up a conversation with the salesperson (the place was dead) and found out he used to be a nursing student – we talked for quite a while, mostly about him. I briefly told him about my situation as a new nurse, trying to find an intern position (a lot harder than you think), and he asked me to give him my contact info. Not only did he email me a couple of hours later with a lead; he gave me every discount he could and saved me $2500 on my new bed. * POSITIVE *
    I guess I am not as inadequate as I though – I just hope these leads will get me a job. Thanks for making me share!

  160. avatar

    I actually just did this yesterday, before I saw Ramit’s new post. I ran into a local convenience store to grab a soda (ya, a habit I am trying to kick, and am doing so by charting my progress so I can physically see the results I am getting) and there were two people in there who bought over $100 worth of lottery tickets. I said to the woman who checked me out “Do they actually think they are going to be “the one” who wins all that money?” “Why don’t they go do something more constructive rather than sitting around staring at the TV with their lottery tickets in hand hoping this will be it?” And then I realized two things. 1. I sounded like Ramit, which was awesome. 2. It lead the clerk and I into a much longer, more in-depth conversation about life, work and money.

  161. avatar
    Saul Medina

    Recently I have been trying to speak with other people from my job at all position levels. Just in the past month I have spent time speaking with supervisors, managers, and even the general manager. I have even found myself making proposals to various managers and even potential clients. I’ve gain a lot of confidence in doing this. In asking other supervisors or co-workers what there task is and have even offered my help if they need any and one of them has contacted me for help and they approved of the work that I

  162. avatar

    I’m reading a book right now called To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink (great book!). He mentioned that Jim Collins favorite opening line is “Where are you from?”. So I used that one with another student in a class I’m attending. It lead to a natural, comfortable conversation. In the book, the author contrasts that with his previous favorite, “What do you do for a living?” and explains why Jim Collins preferred line is indeed the better one to go with.

  163. avatar

    I was waiting at the bus station in Hong Kong and I noticed an elderly worker who was sweeping the sidewalk. I went up to her and asked her for directions, but since I wasnt in any kind of hurry we ended up striking a great conversation ranging from what bothers her most about her job, her sense of pride in the city, and how she is doing what she is doing to provide for her children. I taught her how to use my iPad (she wanted to buy one for her daughter as a birthday gift) and I gave her my number to call me anytime she needs anything. This was such a small and simple gesture, and not only did it help give me the confidence to be sociable with others, little does she know she absolutely humbled me and brought me and my busy life back into perspective.

  164. avatar

    My problem is it’s hard for me to “pretend.” I’ve always heard the advice to smile at people to get them to like you, but my smile must be horrid because people stare at me like I’m psycho. It’s hard for me to pretend to smile or talk to people I don’t want to talk to. Like 90% of the time, if I do try and talk they stare at me with this weird awkward silence, and the conversation peters out into a spiral of death and destruction. I would make a great desert hermit. People are mean. People irritate me, and I just want to punch them in the face.

  165. avatar
    Anna B

    I am one of those weirdos who starts conversations in elevators, in line, in awkward situations. I have a 75% failure rate, but I don’t really care! It’s their problem. The 25% who engage seem genuinely relieved/surprised that someone is talking to them.

    Since I do this without an agenda, I haven’t really ended up making solid contacts but I do feel more connected to the populations around me and it helps me remember that there are a lot of interesting, funny, solid people out there.

    In the reverse, I design jewelry and I have a few large, signature pieces that I wear out when I want to engage. The compliments from others will almost always lead to a future sale. Always carry business cards!

  166. avatar

    Being the “chief procurement officer” of my family, I always make time for whoever is checking me out at the grocery store, the convenience store, waiters at restaurants…my usual first line is “have you been busy today?” And the conversation is off…the response always is congenial and those folks actually are grateful for a friendly customer instead of someone who is “a problem”. If it happens to be someone who is an employer or employee of another industry, an interested “What have you been working on lately” gets them to talk about their most favorite subject at the moment. Perhaps it is my counseling background, but I never have a problem striking up a conversation with a stranger if I want to…

  167. avatar
    Jacqui Gonzales

    I will admit, talking to people isn’t hard for me, so having a quick conversation with Cathy, the checker at Target this morning, was simple and painless. We discussed sleep patterns.

    But I realize the point is to step out of your comfort zone, so I made a decision that starting today, I am doing a 29 day challenge to go slow carb and see how much weight I can drop before my 30th birthday. My goal is 29 lbs in those 29 days, putting me under 200 for my birthday.

  168. avatar

    I was standing in line for a comedy show and struck up a covno with the cute girl next to me. “hi, is this the line for the comedy show?” Yes, the doors are not open yet”. We chatte back an forth for a few minuets. I complimented her on her shirt “I like your shirt, the key pattern is something I’ve never seen before”. “thank you, it’s from old navy believe it or not”. When we entered she invited me to sit with he and her friends. All in all it was pretty good success. This stuff works you just need to practice, a lot!

  169. avatar
    Saul Medina

    …. I accidently pressed the publish button. Well what i was going to write was that my co-worker approved the task i completed for them. But still I want to take on this challenge outside of my job and try to speak to a random stranger that does not work in the same company I do this way i can try to start a converaation that does not have to do with my work. I will let you all know how it goes.

  170. avatar
    Sandra Hirsch

    My kids have always told me that I’ll talk to anyone which is probably true. I find it easier to talk to strangers than it is to talk to those closer to me which is not good either. I talk to hundreds of people sometimes a day in my job (face to face) and have no problems instigating the conversations. I also need my alone time and down time to recharge. I’m trying to become more inner focused vs outer focused because that is how I have always been and it hasn’t gotten me very far. I need to learn how to utilize these skills to open up new opportunities. I’ve always admired those who are able to internalize more and keep quiet.

  171. avatar

    I went to the Verizon store to pick up a replacement charger for my fiancee’s phone, and I spoke to an off-duty, middle aged, black security guard who homeschools his children. For perspective, I am a white, 20 year old game designer. There are a lot of hurdles here. I told him that I design games and that they can be used in all sorts of different applications.
    I told him that I thought that games might even hold the key to skyrocketing his kids’ motivation and information retention from within his homeschooling framework, citing friends of mine who are homeschooled and were given the same kinds of principles to work from.
    The conversation ended with him giving me his name and number, and us exchanging emails, and we’ll be hashing out a quick business proposition. I like talking to strangers.

  172. avatar

    I’m not unsubscribing! I just recently found your site a few weeks ago and have learned so much and am already applying things to my life, like setting small goals and be specific about when to accomplish them. The next step is reading your book. I don’t usually post or comment on my results but this post/email has inspired me to get more involved. Thanks for all you do and how helpful you are!

  173. avatar

    For some reason this morning I had the elevator all to myself until the 20th floor. A striking younger woman got on and I simply said good morning to break the ice. She responded and I complimented her freshly polished nails of bright white. We had a great conversation for several floors and parted ways. If I see her again, we can at least acknowledge each other as acquaintances instead of strangers.

    I will definitely be talking to more people using minor conversation starters (scripts) because this is much too easy!

  174. avatar

    Valuable exercise Ramit! I was lucky enough to have a Grandma that taught me this skill in childhood. We traveled Europe in the summer and she befriended everyone.

    What she did was as simple as saying, “Hello. What made you decide to come here today? Or she would ask for directions/ recommendations (restaurants, shows, etc). She would complement clothes. Her favorite was blatant eavesdropping, apologizing for it and interjecting her own comments. No matter what tactic she used, they all worked b/c people love to talk.

    I copied her as a child. I dropped a pencil purposely by another student’s desk so I could ask for it back, thank them & strike a conversation. Shamelessly using any excuse to talk proved easy. Because of it, I can comfortably public speak. Thank you Grandma!

  175. avatar

    Men who consider me pretty usually describe me as highly intelligent and a great conversationalist. Men who don’t consider me pretty think of me as rude or boring. You might consider that these women were responding to your attitude (I’m sure to be rude if I can tell a guy would prefer to be speaking to someone else, and isn’t paying attention to me). At any rate, it’s great that you found a relationship.

  176. avatar

    did number one yesterday on the bus to a stranger holding a dog. turns out to be this crazy mix but it looked like a chihuahua! it got everyone around me talking and I got off knowing I did my job.

  177. avatar

    Thank you for bringing wisdom and inspiring action to our 2013!

    This is always a good exercise. I am good at it sometimes, but not in the situations in which I’m really shy (striking up conversation with men, networking when it matters, etc.) I plan to do this exercise one or two more times today, but I started simple with complimenting the girl in front of me in line on her socks. Simple, but these are the kind of interactions that make you feel good because compliments bring smiles to other people’s faces. That always makes me happy and more confident.

  178. avatar
    Mike Alcazaren

    Spoke with the attendant at the laundromat today, she was super friendly I’m sure I brightened her day.

    Had the day off today, and was reading your book (my Christmas present to myself) and ended up putting it down 35 pages into it, and actually getting into action. I was able to raise my credit limit, increase my credit score to get a better rate on my car loan. (saves me $1500) It also helped to keep track of conversations on a spreadsheet for future reference.

    Hopefully the next 35 pages get me into as much action as this first did.

  179. avatar

    I feel kind of smug, because as someone with lifelong social anxiety issues, this is actually a project that I undertook last year. It was really hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

    Learning how to do this has had a huge ongoing impact on my day-to-day life. Once you can strike up these little conversations with ease, you find that they actually give you a little boost. That will sound weird to my fellow introverts, I know, but it’s true.

  180. avatar

    I’m a rather outgoing person by nature, so I don’t normally have issues talking to strangers.

    However this morning when I got into the office I made a point to swing by one of the SR team members desk and introduce myself. We’ve never officially met before and this was a nice ice breaking.

  181. avatar

    I do not usually have a problem talking to strangers, but I will try to do so tomorrow when I arrive to the UK.
    People there are not so friendly and make it hard to start a conversation with them.

  182. avatar
    Clare Maney

    I was at a bar last night for a friend’s birthday, and I knew going into it that I had not met most of her other friends. I was admittedly very nervous walking into the situation alone, and afraid that she may be one of the only people talking to me the entire night. I sucked it up pretty quickly, however, and started my first conversation with another guy at the table about how I never know what to order when I get myself a drink (or if someone asks me). We proceeded to have a very in-depth conversation about the proper etiquette of ordering drinks and the best staple drinks to order. We even pulled out our iPhones (I know, I know) and read a few articles about the breakdown of drink orders and why you say things in the order that you do. We both learned a lot more than we had known about bar etiquette and had a great conversation; built great rapport. Other people got involved too. This stepping stone then gave me the confidence to talk to not only others in our group but strangers throughout the entire bar! I started a lot of my conversations with compliments to other people, or by them asking what I was drinking (because I had actually ordered a legitimate drink). By the end of the night I think I had talked to half the folks there.

  183. avatar
    Donna M

    I was walking my dog and started a conversation with a senior citizen on his walk. Seniors are great people to have conversations with. They are not in a hurry and are happy for the attention. We ended up talking for awhile.
    The weather is always an easy conversation starter. I live by a river and we have been seeing eagles lately. It is exciting to see and also a good conversation starter.

  184. avatar
    Ryan Gooler

    This is something I do a lot, actually. Especially on public transit. Pretty easy to find someone to talk to on a commute-crowded train.

    Last random person I talked to (wednesday) started with a joke along the lines of “Y’know, when the conductor announces that they’re closing the door, someone with a nerf bat should run down the length of the train, and give a good few whacks to anyone blocking the doors.”

    Got a great laugh, learned this random person had an awesome Scottish accent, and we spent the next fifteen minutes joking back and forth.

    And, for the hardcore version: Whenever you walk past someone scary looking. The type that’s probably in a gang, or looks like they just got out of jail or whatever, go up to them and ask for restaurant recommendations. I’ve met very interesting people this way, and have found some great places to eat, too.

  185. avatar

    I attended an industry forum yesterday with a goal of meeting 3 new people. Met 5 and 2 have already reached out to me. Discussions started a bit slow but once we found a common ground, besides the obvious industry connection, it worked.

  186. avatar
    Tess Graham

    I decided to ask the produce manager of my grocery store how to choose the best avocados and whether they sell more organic or regular. I buy avocados every week and I hate when the organic ones have a lot of rotten spots in them because they cost so much more. He told me not to be afraid of the green ones that haven’t turned to black yet and said that for his money, he’d just buy the regular as they’re more reliably edible. He also gave me 10 less ripe avocados that he picked for me and marked them “no charge” since I told him I’d had to throw about one per week in the compost heap over the last few months.

  187. avatar

    I had been trying to do this before I read this post, so I kind of implemented it yesterday.Just sat down at a Starbucks, and smiled at the girl across from me because she had been looking at me.She smiled back and we struck up a conversation.Only thing is, she didn’t say anything to me when she left.

  188. avatar

    So I thought I would be really good at this because I love talking to people, but this came as a challenge to me. This morning, while on the T in Boston, I saw a woman wearing these boots that I have been DYING to purchase. So I figured here goes nothing and gushed about how I loved her boots and where I could get them. I felt kind of childish based on the look on her face but after a few seconds of shock that someone was talking on the T, she told me that she got them half off on sale at Bloomingdales and advised me on another local boutique where I could find them! We ended up chatting more about Frye boots before I had to get off but it was a great experience and now I know where to grab those boots!

  189. avatar

    Perhaps it’s because I was raised in the Midwest, where everyone talks to strangers; perhaps it’s because I have deep roots in the South, where Charm is an ACLU Division 1 sport; but in either case, I find that striking up a very rewarding, nonthreatening conversation with a stranger is easy.

    Here’s the thing to remember about starting a conversation with anybody, not just with strangers: it’s not about you. If you can forget about how -you- feel, what other people are going to think about -you-, what -your- issues are, whether other people are going to reject -you- and focus on the other person, it’s so much more pleasant.

    So don’t approach this assignment as an exercise that you’re doing for your own benefit and growth, though in time it should indeed have a positive effect on your own self-confidence and social ease. Think about what would please, engage, interest, cheer, or help the person to whom you’re going to speak. Can you give them a compliment? Commiserate? Make a mild joke? Quite often people are grateful for a little honest eye-contact from another human being, especially if that human seems warm, is not weird, and is not obviously asking for anything.

    Admittedly, this is a lot easier outside of NYC. It’s also easier if you’re female. As a woman, I find that women are delighted if, apropos of nothing, I spontaneously remark, “What a fantastic scarf!” or if, walking past them, I murmur, “Perfect shoes.” Spread some kindness. Men will not assume a woman is trying to pick them up if she is not in their age group.

    And no matter who you are and where you are–yes, dogs are the greatest ice-breakers, assuming always that you’re really interested in the other person’s dog.

  190. avatar

    I usually start my conversations with storekeepers with one of these two lines – a) Do you get good business?, b) Do you own the place or rent it?
    These two questions are enough to get me subsequent details like how much rent or property value is in that particular area, type of customers they get, the peak and off periods, the seasonal variations, their investment, values, problems, competition and other such information.
    However, it is usually after I have been their customer for the first time or after appreciating their wares or services even if didn’t buy anything from them. Very rarely have people been loathe to part with such information.
    In fact, I am posting this after having done the same 2 hours ago. You just have to be what they are, a businessman, a student, a professional, a reader, a parent, a literateur, a connoseiur, a fan, a teacher, a citizen, a carer, a nurturer, etc.
    Finally what matters is that they see you on their side, not on the opposite side.

  191. avatar
    Jerry Getz

    Dear Ramit,

    This issue has NEVER been my problem. I do this ALL THE TIME because I have understood from a very young age the importance of this. I have accomplished countless things this way in my life. So I was feeling a little cocky, and like this particular thing did not apply to me. I have PLENTY of other issues that need to change, just not this one, right? Well, I thought about it some more and came to a realization. One can ALWAYS do better, learn something, be more effective.
    So, I decided to approach at least one person that I was a bit AFRAID of, intimidated by, and one person who I had been dealing with in a less that optimal way.
    ONE – A powerful surgeon who happened to disagree with the efficacy of one of my services, and was working subtly behind the scenes to get others to drop this service. When I ran across him one day, I introduced myself, and we had a short but pleasant conversation. Ice broken. He didn’t bite my head off! Now the ground is much better set for subsequent conversations outlining my point of view, backed by scientific evidence etc. I may not convince him, but at the very least now he knows who I am, has an inkling as to my expertise, and hopefully will see me as less an adversary.
    TWO – The Nurse Manager of our section has been on somewhat of a rampage, agitated, intransigent, sometimes actually somewhat cruel, checking into each department for rule compliance, telling people where to go, what to do, etc. Often making ridiculous, unreasonable demands. This was AWFUL. All of my staff, along with the rest of the people that work in my area, were combative, argumentative, talked about her in far less than glowing terms to say the least. Not only did I never want to speak to her, I avoided her at every opportunity. This was a horrible situation for everyone involved. SO, having taken in the mass of information I’ve gotten from you, obviously having actually integrating SOME of it (HAHA), I took a step back, took a deep breath, and went to see her. To LISTEN. To try to get HER perspective overall. I was not particularly happy, but went to see her anyway. And it was amazing. In about five minutes of general conversation I could see very clearly that she was overwhelmed by the gargantuan tasks her supervisors expected her to take care of, and the kind of emotional toll it had taken on HER. She was actually getting worse than she was giving. Hence her treatment of everyone else. The next 10 minutes of our conversation, I totally changed my previous tack with her, became her ALLY, and tried to find ways that I could take care of my departmental behavior, that I could be responsible for, so that she could just basically just cross us off the list. I still was able to push for what we needed against her uninformed and unrealistic demands, but now instead of butting heads, in her mind at least, we were putting our heads together to find the solution.


    Thanks for the push.

  192. avatar

    I was at at a small event for 3-4 year old kids and their parents to watch a family Christmas movie to practice for real movie theaters. It had talking dogs in it. I told the mother next to me that they must have gone through alot of peanut better to film that movie. the woman could barely watch that show after that. every time a dog talked she couldn’t stop laughing.

  193. avatar

    I struck up a conversation with one of the janitors while I was getting water in the office kitchen this morning. Normally it’s cliche to talk about the weather, but the fact that it’s going to be over 60 degrees tomorrow, in the midwest, in January, was definitely a good conversation starter today!

  194. avatar

    Started conversation with an old man walking down the street. Went for the classic British go-to subject, the weather! “Hi, it’s freezing today isn’t it, wish I had a coat like yours!”
    I learnt that he is 92yrs old, and “I tell you, once you hit 90 you can forget it, that’s when everything starts to go. I’ve had enough now me son, sooner I’m up there the better” . Made my day!

  195. avatar

    Started a conversation with a woman at the resort I work at about how slow the buses are. We chatted til it came and resulted in some laughs and it was nice. Trick is to actually listen, and questions follow naturally. A lot of people can’t just listen. What’s next for homework? 🙂

  196. avatar
    Ross O'Lochlainn

    Let’s not lose focus… you also got the lady’s number 😉

  197. avatar

    Today I had an interview with a particular private college to discuss scholarship options. I have a twin and a little sister, and my parents can only afford to send one. Fortunately, I’m in the top 2% at my school of over 2,000 and I am a pretty good track athlete and gymnast. I have very poor speaking skills in new situations, as this was. I was wondering if you could post some more skills on improving social skills in general. I have improved dramatically in particular situations, but many I still struggle with. (Btw I have negotiate it! Love it! Thank you for your time!

    -alyson c.

  198. avatar
    Karen St

    Absolutely agree with CathyO! The easiest thing is to get people talking about themselves. At the end of the conversation, no matter how long or short, you walk away from it leaving the other person feeling that you were interested in them. As a result they feel positive about YOU – a great result in any circumstance, but even better if you are in networking-mode.

    I don’t have any trouble striking up conversations with strangers (quite the opposite, in fact!), but in the last year I made it my motto to “not just think it, but say it.” This is specific to compliments only, of course! There is no motive to develop a conversation, but instead of thinking, for example, “those are great shoes” or “nice tie,” I’ll say it to the person. I live in Vancouver (but am an Eastern Ontario transplant) and this is a reserved city. It’s amazing to see the reaction of people when I voice a compliment out loud. It makes me feel great to see their surprised yet pleased reaction, and I know I’ve – hopefully – made someone’s day. “Say it, don’t just think it.”

  199. avatar

    I once got hit on while reading I Will Teach You to Be Rich on the subway in New York. I was an easy target since I was reading a neon yellow book. He asked what it was about, and I said “personal finance,” and then he stared at me with nothing else to say. I was really enjoying the book. I love Ramit, I read his blog. I’m constantly trying to get my friends to set up automatic deposits in their savings accounts. All he needed to ask was why I liked the book, listen, ask follow up questions, and then before I got to my stop say “That was fascinating, can we get coffee sometime so I can listen to more to all the brilliant things you have to say? What’s your number?”

  200. avatar

    I have absolutely no problem talking to strange/foreign/new/unknown people.
    Rather I consider more challenging NOT talking to everybody around, who seems interesting to me at the moment, because sometimes me talking to strangers is considered offensive and inappropriate.

  201. avatar

    I asked a man who was doing nerve conduction tests on my arm if he enjoyed his work, expecting him to say yes and talk about what he does. His answer was no not really. This made me laugh and ask why he did it then. This developed into a conversation about it just being a job and what we each would like to do if we could have any ‘job’.
    My work as a nurse means that I am introducing myself to new people all day long and having to develop rapport and trust quickly.
    This man was different to many because he paused, thought, then answered honestly and thoughtfully. My question had made him think and we had a lovely honest dialogue.

  202. avatar

    hmm,I’ve actually used two of the lines you brought up to start conversations,and to get an overall picture about what was going on in a particular area at the time.
    I use a mixture of 2 and 3 a lot,with very mixed results.Some people go into detail and explain the whole book,and tend to be fond of using comparisons to back up why they love it.Others just give short answers,don’t seem to be fond of me asking for further details(often telling me to ‘get a copy and read it myself’)and tend to move away from me or leave.Much prefer people that like to share and expand on what they love and know,as opposed to people that are just jerks with conversation,but there’s only so many ways to weed through people.

    The last question is also one that brings mixed results,but I’ve yet to run into someone that’s a total jerk to me asking.Heard how it’s the time of the year for the place/the business taking orders to stay busy,also have heard how something unexpected happened that made things much busier than usual tending to everyone.

    Did what was first brought up last night at a restaurant that was busy,but in the middle of doing some reorganizing.Have done the second thing several times the past few months,but haven’t been out much recently.

  203. avatar
    Sean Donahue

    I’m a radio personality and this what makes the difference between a good personality and a great one.

    Sometimes broadcasting from a remote you are forced to talk to people who know everything about you, but you don’t know anything about them.

    If you just say hi and start a conversation, you become “their favorite DJ” because you cared.

  204. avatar

    This wasn’t a hard one for me as I’m fairly social, however, I’m looking forward to our next challenge.

  205. avatar

    I did this just the other night. Worked late and went to a new restaurant to order take-out to bring home. I was by myself. I decided rather than call in an order, to go there, look at the menu, have a glass of wine and wait for my order. While sitting at the bar, the gentleman next to me was having a conversation with the bartender. I noticed my tendency to check my emails on my phone, text my friends and decided I wasn’t going to be the solo person at the bar burying my face in the phone and missing out on possibly making lucrative connections.

    So when the gentleman and bartender were talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame picks (or not, in this case), I was hesitant to say anything because I don’t really follow sports, but noticed a few of my fanatic friends commenting on Facebook about it. I decided to just open up and say “I saw a lot of debate today on Facebook about Sosa and Piazza and the ‘juice'”. Well the two guys at the bar immediately were like “oh yeah?!” and I talked a little bit about what I heard and then my own favorite players from when I paid attention to baseball, then the conversation went from sport to sport and I ended up making a connection with the manager (bartender) of the restaurant, and meeting a regular at the restaurant. It was a nice conversation and I know I will likely see them both again in the near future.
    We miss out of a lot of potential connections when we are not enjoying the moment and looking at our phones for entertainment.

  206. avatar

    I do this often. I am just one of those people. I have been known to talk to strangers my whole life. Its not starting conversations with anyone – it’s starting them with the right people and then staying engaged or keeping them engaged has been the issue.

  207. avatar

    So I’m not exactly an extroverted person…I like to read and play video games and hang out at home. That being said I work Customer Service at Walmart. Every person that comes into my line I have a unique conversation with, mainly so they think “Oh what a nice young lady” and don’t start yelling if I have to tell them no for whatever it is they are trying to return.
    Just last night I had a woman returning a product and I amazingly knew all about it. We talked for 5 minutes about grandkids and the product and she left smiling and said thank you a ton of times. I don’t especially like talking with strangers, but it’s essential when dealing with mass public to be able to talk with anyone, and even better if they leave the conversation feeling good.

  208. avatar

    I had to go to the UPS store, where I ended up standing in line for nearly half an hour. There was one worker to take care of everyone, and no matter how fast he went, the line kept getting longer. When it was my turn, I struck up a conversation with him by saying “Busy day today, huh?” and smiling. This was enough to get him talking uninterrupted for the next 3 minutes. He told me how hard it was to run the place by himself, and how unprofessional he felt it was for UPS to understaff the store and make people stand in line. At the end, I said to him “Well, I think everyone here sees how hard you’re working and that you’re going as fast as you can.” Turns out, he really just wanted someone to talk to and appreciate his efforts. I guess that’s probably true for most of us.

  209. avatar

    This gave me a kick in the butt to be sociable this AM at the office! (I often find myself lost in my own thoughts around the office rather than interacting much with other people, for example.) So, in the breakroom, I struck up a conversation with an employee I didn’t know and asked whether she was attending the company holiday party tonight.

    It went OK and we had a brief chat, but next time I’ll try one of the examples you gave (asking a person holding a book, walking their dog, etc.) about that item and see if that works better.

  210. avatar

    I recently volunteered to work at the SPCA section of Petco. I spoke to every person who stopped in to look at the cats who were there for adoption. I’m very much an introvert, but this was easy.

    One, it’s very easy to talk about mutual interests.

    Two, EVERYONE, has a story to tell.

    Three, EVERYONE, wants to be listened to with genuine interest and respect.

  211. avatar

    What the hell? Are you out of your MIND?
    “Pet lovers are so deprived of normal human contact that all they want to do is talk about their pets to anybody who will listen.”
    first question: What is wrong with this comment?
    second question: What is wrong with you?

  212. avatar

    Met a new guy who just joined the company. Talked a little about his role and what area is his focus. After a couple of exchanges I told him that if he wanted to meet anyone in the company to let me know. I actually like meeting new people and serving as an infrmation broker for intros and resources.

    Thanks for the challenge. It has been acceptes and completed. Cheers and great weekend all.

  213. avatar

    Ramit, just before reading this email, I just had a conversation with the coffeeshop guy who is a stranger but not exactly the first time we have seen each other…he said you look worried many times…it actually made me smile:). Maybe i used to go to his coffeeshop whenever i got stressed and my face showed it!!
    Anyway something to think abt.

  214. avatar

    Ramit I read your post on the bus from mykachevo to ushgorod. These are towns in Carpathian region in Ukraine.

    Post reading your post I surveyed the bus for my unsuspecting victim. Conviently the bus stopped to pick up a passanger. I moved my bag to allow the girl to have a seat and moved in for the kill.

    Me(m): hey are you going to ushgorod?

    Girl (g): No. #shaking her head.

    M: is it far to ushgorod?

    G: no maybe an hour.

    M: where abouts are you headed?

    G: Rusich ( I think she said this as she is speaking in ukrainian whilst I in russian. Im not 100% fluent in ukrainian).

    m: is it interesting to visit?

    G: no its just a village. # shes smiling now.

    M: is it near ushgorod?

    G: its about half way. Are you travelling?

    M: yes.

    G: where you from?

    M: just now I came from mukachevo. Nice city the carpathians are really nice. Have you lived here your whole life?

    G: yes. im interested though where do you live?

    M: well mainly australia I guess. Sydney if you’ve heard of it.

    We end up having a long conversation where the girl nearly misses her stop about australian versus ukrainian weather, standard of living and advantages and disadvantages of Happy to go into specifics if anyone is interested.

  215. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    I get this a lot

  216. avatar
    Ramit Sethi



  217. avatar

    After years of not playing basketball, I decided to go to the courts and jump in on a pick up game. After the game, I sat down and watched the next one play out. One of the players was on a streak and as I notice that, I tell the guy next to me, “Wow, he’s just on a roll isn’t he?” From there, we break into conversation about him playing here often, New Year’s parties, etc. It felt good being able to build rapport with a stranger.

  218. avatar

    Being a dentist, I talk to lots of folks from all walks of life.
    Despite that, I still feel awkward when someone bluntly ignores my kind remarks on a party or a formal occasion.
    This has led me to use questions like: ‘do you feel a bit left out to?’
    When even that doesn’t strike a note, I veer to the next person in sight.

    The tips Ramit mentions do actually work, or any other lines. As long as you practice. A lot.

  219. avatar
    Nicole O'Shea

    used number 5 in the supermarket checkout line – “Is today a busy day?,” and learned that it was, but not as bad as later, and when when the celebrities come in to shop (late night) and that the the cashier is really into juicing and green smoothies. Mostly listened after the original question; drove the conversation by asking more questions related to whatever he said and what popped into my mind.

  220. avatar

    My friend and I were recently at a restaurant, BBQ’s to be exact, and we noticed our server was a little unenthused. When she returned to our table, I asked her was she okay. She said she was having relationship issues and that there were a few people intensifying the pressure she was under. Well I took the time to give her some advice, gave her my business card if she ever wanted to talk, and doubled her tip. Having conversations with strangers is rather effortless for me, but looking forward to your next challenge Ramit, ciao for now.

  221. avatar

    Ah, Ramit, you’re emails make me giggle.

    A few of your readers seemingly know how to be great conversationalists already! Cathy pointed out that people love to talk about themselves, and this is often true. The second, as I’m sure you know, is to just BE INTERESTED, People are worlds within worlds; we can learn something from almost everyone.

    I love your testing approach, Ramit. I am a newcomer to your blog, etc, and really appreciate your “go get ’em” attitude. I have always believed that we are our own best test subjects…for anything and everything, including ways of thinking (try on another persons process for making decisions, for example, and see how it works for you). I have been doing this for years.

    Regarding your exercise – what a fun assignment! It is the type of thing a social psychologist would love to watch. I have no problem meeting people, and have often maintained contact with people and become friends with them post random meeting. Being newly single, I’m going to take this assignment out with me to meet some new faces – upping the intimidation factor sounds like a fun night out. I hope you don’t mind if we expand on your directions a bit.

  222. avatar

    If this is truly your belief, I can see why you do. Very inaccurate and narrow minded of you. I would love to see/hear of the research you’ve done to come to this conclusion.

  223. avatar

    Thank you Ramit, your post made my day.

    I can’t tell you a story about talking to a stranger today, but I’m comfortable with that anyway (business networking has helped), although I didn’t realise it was unusual to be a pet owner who is far from deprived of normal human contact!

    Anyway, I look forward to your next instruction and wonder if that will take me out of my comfort zone and push me further in the right direction.


  224. avatar

    I talk to strangers all the time, precisely because it doesn’t come naturally to me and I don’t like the feeling of being limited by fear of something that isn’t really worthy of fear. That said, today I will try to ask a question of a stranger because I’m not sure if that is what I usually do or not.

  225. avatar

    Fail..your emails make me giggle…not you’re.

    And to Eva above, the guy was clearly intimidated. Ramit – why do you think so many guys seem intimidated by women who take control of their lives?

  226. avatar

    I struck up a conversation with a guy at the beach about how the water was cooler than it was a week ago. It’s always awkward starting a conversation with a stranger but I think the trick is to just act like it’s natural – fake it till you make it.

  227. avatar

    Ramit – I talked to a random guy doing yard work next door and asked about whether plastic or brass hose fixtures are best. (Brass wins, for all sorts of dumb reasons no one cares about.) This was a great first challenge, but I have to say I talk to strangers all the time. I don’t recall ever making a conscious decision to do this, but now I can talk to anyone. Meth head, CEO, whoever.

  228. avatar

    While I do have some shyness and conversation issues, I don’t have issues at all with shooting the… bull with random people throughout the day.

    A couple examples of how far I’ve come since high school (I was a nerd AND a Boy Scout AND I went to private school, you tell ME how you think junior and high school went for me).

    – I was in HEB shopping the heck out the store (I racked up almost $300 at the register and it’s just me and the wife. Hey, someone has to make the homemade protein bars, rosemary pistachio cookies, venison pate, and gazpacho. I love cooking, so sue me), and I noticed an older couple looking lost and confused, so I asked them what they were looking for because I am in the grocery store at least once a week and know my way around. They were looking for dried dates… or figs… either way, in this particular HEB, they have those in the International Foods section (I guess putting them in the canned/dried fruits aisle is too easy? or is it because white people don’t eat dates/figs that often? Maybe Ramit can weigh in here). So I asked, they told me, and I helped them find the dried fruits of their labor. Nice people, and enjoyed my commentary on how they always have to put the lower demand items in weird places.

    – I have a Great Dane that I take with me whenever I go to the drive thru. She loves the smells, and I love making my dog happy. It’s a great conversation starter because they always comment on the giant dog in the back of the tiny Jetta that’s trying to suck every last oxygen molecule out of the fast food joint by sticking her nose up behind my head and out the window. “Yes, she’s pretty big, 140 lbs. but not the biggest of Danes!” “No, she doesn’t eat as much as you think.” “Yes, she has human sized BMs.” “She’s actually the perfect apartment dog.”

    – I’ve been wearing bow ties non-stop at work (and everywhere after until I go home) because regular ties are just too boring and bow ties are cool. This ALWAYS gets a comment by girls at the cash register in a store, at the drive-thru, walking around town, etc. The only negative has been I got a snide remark from a military man about 2-3 weeks into wearing them, “nice bow tie huahuahua” with the rest of the table chuckling too, “Thanks! You’d look great in a bowtie, too, you should give it a try.”

    – Talked with several ladies in the line for the MegaBus about international travel, living in San Antonio, Texas in general, how crazy Louisiana is, etc.

    I randomly chit chat with strangers because it also lets me try out comedy material on new ears without boring my wife and friends with the same joke over and over. Really lets you find which bits are best and lets you fine tune (A/B test) them to find the best combination.

  229. avatar

    I called out to a woman walking down the hallway where I work temporarily (so I know no one, this is my first week) who was carrying a box that she looked like she was about to throw away. I was in the process of organizing and cabinet full of supplies and thought I could use it to conserve space. She gave it to me. Later, I ended up giving her a box, and then after some chatting, she gave me a box of cookies that I decided to share with my group by leaving it next to the coffee maker. Meeting new people isn’t my problem though. I have others, which is why I subscribe. 🙂

  230. avatar

    I have the opposite problem, my friends and family complain that I talk to everyone. It doesn’t occur to me to not to. Grocery store clerks, folks in line, you name it. In fact I’m apparently so approachable that I get asked all the time about ingredients in grocery stores. Once I could tell a woman wanted my attention and I averted my eyes and started walking really fast because I didn’t want to be bothered and she sped up to block me and asked me the difference between heavy cream and regular cream. Which I could answer.

    So now I have to figure out how to use this ability to my economical advantage.

    AND the reason why we’re all answering is you threatened us by telling us to quit if we didn’t participate. Who says fear based learning doesn’t work!

  231. avatar

    This exercise is no-brainier for me, i’m one of those “people” that can and does talk to everyone from the homeless guy to the big CEO. Just this weekend i saw saw some guys filing a dumpster in front of a neighbors house. I wallk up, introduced myself and asked if I could have a piece of wood I saw sticking out. They were very nice and while ta lking with them i foind out they were from the same small town as my sister is living at in the other side of the state. So in addition to the piece of wood, they gave me antique china, antique dresser a and a few other things and carried it over.
    I love you encouraging others to do this. I think most people WANT to communicate with someone but for whatever reason, we are afraid to be the first one to say something.

  232. avatar
    Nanci Armstrong-Temple

    Thanks for this post Ramit, and for all the emails and resources. I have never had much trouble starting conversations, but I have some other problems that sometimes make it difficult to follow up and make contact (lack of self esteem, negativity, bad habits, limited time and income–full time student, parent of 5 year old twins, entrepreneur and just left my asshole husband). I have been working on changing some bad habits (worked out twice this week, meditating and watching motivational videos/reading motivational materials daily, skills building, following through with client emails, scheduling, went to some classes I’ve been meaning to get to, joined a rehearsal for an upcoming flash mob with a cause I believe in that will also be a good promotion for my business, etc) and your kick in the ass approach is often helpful because I get that you actually care about people.

  233. avatar

    Actually I just got a new job in the best advertising agency in my country after being unemployed for the last 4 months. I’m in my 20s and I know that I got the job mostly because of what I read on this site. I’m introvert and this challenge was quite a test for me in this new environment. That being said, I tried some of these right away and almost instantly connected to those people. Now it’s not just awkward hello in the hallway its couple of words and it feels great.

  234. avatar

    I find talking to strangers pretty effortless, but I went ahead and struck up a conversation with a woman at the bus stop this morning anyway, just to show I’m a team player here. I do find it less worthwhile to talk to men. 9 times out of 10 when I intiate a conversation with a guy, he treats it as an opportunity to hit on me. I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, including tricks like asking where he bought his (shoes, breifcase, etc.) because I want to buy something similar for my boyfriend’s birthday, or only striking up conversations with guys wearing wedding bands, thinking they’re “safe” (not a good idea as it turns out). Doesn’t make much difference. Either they’re dismissive (no chance with her so what’s the point talking to her) or they forge ahead anyway.

    It’s unfortunate, because there are some interesting men in my social sphere that I wouldn’t mind knowing better. Anyone out there have tips for how to overcome this? Is it even possible?

  235. avatar

    Was at my bank depositing some money and noticed the banker’s nametag had “Military Veteran” in really small print. Struck up a conversation about it. I learned that he is an arctic commando, how to build the perfect snow shelter, and that he desired to start a business with housing. I directed him to this site.

  236. avatar

    I’m a math nerd pretty much from the word go. Years ago I was tired of being an awkward loner, and I started taking to people. I talk to them in line at the grocery store, in the locker room at the gym, standing on street corners waiting cross, passing people walking their pets on the street…where ever. At first it was PAINFUL. But I got good at it. And people LOVE LOVE LOVE to be seen and asked about themselves. My boyfriend has commented several times how people now often just start talking to me (particularly children, which is kind of interesting since I don’t have or want children). I’ve become approachable because I want to be approachable and have worked to create openness. It’s changed my life.

    Thanks Ramit. This is a great exercise…it’s a good reminder for me that I am a work in progress and I need to sharpen and expand on my previous efforts. I’ve gotten away from the habit of intentionally striking up conversations, so I’ll be doing that this afternoon while I’m out running my errands. I’ll check back in later.

  237. avatar

    I find it easier in non pressure situations – so I started practicing in places when out and about: the cleaners, cobbler, the checkout, etc. I’ve kept it simple and that seems to work for me.

  238. avatar

    Hello Ramit,

    Thank you for posting this brilliant piece.

    Not because it’s excellent (you know it is), but because this assignment triggered an invisible script in my head, and luckily I was able to spot it in time.
    The thought was:

    “I work in sales. I don’t need to talk to strangers. I talk to them everyday. Let’s just sit here and have a nice evening.”

    My mind was tricking me to do nothing. Sure – I do talk to strangers everyday. But there is a full environment that makes it easy for me to do so. Your assignment is about taking action and not about the actual talk, and I didn’t get it at first glance.

    So I dismissed the thought, and said to myself: “It’s a trap. Just go out and talk to someone. Do something.”

    And I did. Thank you Ramit!

  239. avatar

    Well, this post was a big call-out to me. I’ve been reading IWT for about at least a year now, but I’ve never responded to anything, never put anything into practice. Basically, I was one of those people Ramit rails on about all the time. I’m also not someone who makes small talk with people I don’t know. But no more!

    I recently started a new job, and I don’t really know many people yet, so today I struck up a conversation with the person who sits next to me. We had a great conversation about how she liked working at this company, and how she used to work at Google as a support rep and hated it. New work friend made! I will have to keep doing this. Maybe one day, someone will mistake me for a social person 🙂

  240. avatar

    I’m not goin’ to try this, not unless I come across a situation where I actually want to do so. Over the years I approached strangers in such a way many times but I don’t see a point in trying to become more socially apt. I spent a lot of effort over the years trying to do just that and although it did help me in a way, I don’t see that it’s really been productive. I actually thought to myself lately that I would not deny who I am anymore. I am a person who totally loves being with (the right) people (even in groups) but I’m also a person who’s “shy”, and has difficulty relating to others at a personal level. I’m just not goin’ to put being sociable above being at ease with my own self.. I’m not goin’ to unsubscribe from your list, I think you had some interesting things to say (I like the notion of testing out things), but pardon me if I’m not feeling obligated to do what you want me to do.

    I’ve seen a few people lately adopt such a behaviour (asking people to unfriend them on facebook if they don’t fill a particular criteria, and then you who’s asking to unsubscribe from a list), and I must say I thought it was dumb.

  241. avatar

    I started a conversation with someone who was wandering around my office. I said “hey are you here for blah, blah, blah meeting.” We got to talking and I found out he’s head of our companies marketing department. Gave me a list of 4 people I should talk to and said feel free anytime I want to talk about MarCom to give him a a call.

  242. avatar

    I´m from Ecuador and my job is to complete a Software Development in Panama. The clients are financial institutions and I work with a team of developers and some IT consultants.
    Usually the conversations start reviewing the errors, followed by some accusations to the “criminal”. After some rounds we finish assigning tasks to each member and wait to next encounter.
    Today I tried to change a little after reading Ramit´s post, so I begin asking some light questions about Panama, the Canal and the construction boom. So as a first test I discovered that it´s much better to show some interest in the person than in the project. That doesn´t mean we left things and went out to drink some beers, but to appeal to a personal topic as an introduction prepares a better understanding to each other.

    Thanks for deleting the 2000 word post.

  243. avatar

    Took my ususal yoga class. Spent an hour and a half just 3 feet away from a total stranger doing all kinds of poses and stretches. After the class, but before we had gotten up, I commented to her how it was a great class and that I felt good. We shared what was challenging (hurting) and what felt good. I asked if she went to any of the other classes this studio offers. Turns out that she knows this particular instructor from a college program that they both are enrolled in. The conversation continued on pleasantly in various direction and we ended up exchanging emails.

  244. avatar
    Greg P

    I’m currently in Seattle for business, so last night I was out at one of preferred bars in the area. Ran into a bartender I know, spoke with him for a few and then his waitress and I struck up a conversation about her school work, philosophy and other random odds and ends. Ended up picking up a book we spoke about as well. Also ended up striking up conversations with others that popped in with a simple head nod and asking how there day was.

    Disclaimer: in the past, I’ve had major issues striking up conversations with others, to the point where I’d wear my iPod headphones at all times. Through travel, learning how to speak on camera and other assorted forms of torture, I learned to get past the worse of it. For myself, I’ve found its easiest to start a conversation either by simply asking someone how there day is going or by referencing something you both are witnessing (sports are great for this, as it is very easy to get someone chatting during a game).

  245. avatar
    Dr. Erasmus Chirume

    It’s easy for me to start a conversation with anybody I choose to talk to. I am an Academic Black man from Africa. I have friends from all over the world. I enjoy conversing with young and middle aged, like-minded males from all across class lines and cultures of the world.

    Recently, I had a conversation with a Caucasian middle aged male in a coffees hop Marion Ohio. We became friends in an instant. This friend of mine directs a missionary group of Americans who visit Haiti from time to time to provide an education service that encompasses a grades school, a trade’s school, and college prep program to people whose country lost its educational infrastructure in the historic, massive earthquake three years ago. I exchanged contact numbers with my friend, and I hope someday I will go to Haiti on one of the up-coming missionary trips to provide any educational services I can give to the Haitian children and youths. My friend is so eager to take me Haiti to speak to the young people about the power of education.

    Some big and life changing developments could occur in the future as a result of strangers starting a conversation in a coffee shop.

    I would want to be able to talk to ladies as well, but, I don’t want to be in trouble. I am open to them as well, lest people think I am chauvinistic and biased. I love and honor every human being reated by God.The majority of my statistics students in graduate school are ladies.

  246. avatar

    I did one better than a stranger — I work for a manufacturing company with a lot of engineer types, most of them are pretty introverted. I’ve worked here for three years and I don’t know half of these people’s names. Today I spoke to three of them, after looking shocked they smiled and were pretty friendly. I’m going to do attempt to do this with all my coworkers I haven’t really spoken to yet, I had been waiting for THEM to speak to ME. Why wait?

    Great challenge!

  247. avatar
    Mike B

    I’m typically very polite and make small talk with strangers often but rarely try to take it further into a conversation. I’m in begas for a big tradeshow and decided to go to an oxygen bar and try and strike up a conversation with the girl working the booth.

    She was great! It was supposed to be a 10 minute session and I hung out with her for over a half hour. She had some kind of electro massager which shocks your muscles which put on my back but then she put more on me just for fun and purposely made me slap myself with my own arm by turning up the shock level. Good times! Gave her my card.

  248. avatar

    I talked to the clerk at Wal-Mart as she was ringing up my stuff. I looked at her and asked her how she was. She said OK. Then I said, you look tired today. Then she opened up and told me that her dog died this week and she was really upset about it. She started telling me all kinds of personal stuff about her and the dog. Finally the customer behind me got impatient and started making huffing noises for us to move along. So I tried to break it off and leave and she just kept talking to me. After a couple more minutes I told her I was sorry for her loss but I had to run. She just shut down after that and went on with the next customer.

  249. avatar

    I don’t have a problem talking to people; I actually like it. Today I had a furniture delivery and while talking to the guy bringing the stuff in, I found out that he can carry heavy shit alone and has been doing this for 29 years. Nice guy and it was good to develop a rapport as 2 ottomans had scratches in the leather and wobbled. His initial reaction [company policy, I imagine] was to comfort me by saying that the repair department will be notified and come out to see if the issues were fixable. I didn’t want to pay for them as they came in defective and don’t want to deal with ‘perhaps’ fixing this; I want new and good.

    Because we had rapport, he was happy to agree to help his new friend. I also called the woman at the furniture store that I have been talking to occasionally and described the situation to Diane. She said no problem and coached me thru the “not paying for it” scene.

    Being kind and setting boundaries is a heck of a lot easier if we have rapport. I like a win/win when possible. All this has to be authentic, however. Its easy to see thru BS; real easy.


  250. avatar
    Matthew Smith

    I talked to a woman at COSI while we waited for food. I saw she was agitated that her to-go order was taking way too long (like mine). I said “This is the slowest fast-food, ever, right?” And then she vented about how much work she had to do, etc. and we laughed about it being a first world problem.

    Finding a context for starting a conversation works. Good challenge, man.

  251. avatar

    Hey Ramit!

    I was excited that I got your newsletter because I really, really love actionable steps and knowing what to expect (more or less) after/when I do something. I like things to be pretty clear cut and dry instead of having nebulous results or reasons for doing things.

    So this was great.

    I just got back from a luncheon that my room mate invited me too. There were some people I knew (mostly through my room mate) but a lot of people I didn’t. The whole time I kept thinking of your e-mail so I struck up a conversation with this girl Sarah, who I didn’t know and had never met before.

    In reality, I have no problem speaking to strangers (and have no fear of public speaking) but I don’t know how to keep a conversation going – even if I’ve demonstrated an interest – those who I end up meeting/speaking with don’t often reciprocate. (Maybe I’m not asking good enough questions? How do you keep a conversation flowing? How do you create a good conversation with someone who have nothing in common with?)

    So it became awkward – but I’m glad I did it. :]

  252. avatar

    A conversation that started from a coffee mug: I noticed a man had coffee mug with a paper insert that said, “Daddy’s Mug”and had pictures of two young children. I asked how old his kid’s were and where he got the fun mug. He told me it was a Christmas gift from his wife and kids and how old his kids were (3 years and 4 months). We talked a bit about age spacing between kids, introducing a older sibling to a new baby, changes in parenting a second child, etc. We ended up our conversation talking about the importance of early childhood education. Being a teacher and aspiring children’s book author, this was a good conversation topic.

    I’m an introvert and typically don’t just strike up conversations with random strangers so this assignment helped get me out of my comfort zone – plus most parents love talking about their kids!

  253. avatar

    I said to the cashier, “Hi, how are you? He said, “Fine, how are you?” I said, “My motto is if nothing hurts and everything works, it’s a good day,” inwardly priding myself on my good attitude. He said, “I have pain everyday. My motto is if I wake up, it’s a good day.” Then I noticed the braces on his legs. I was humbled! He is awesome!

  254. avatar

    I went beyond my usual standard line of asking my airport taxi driver how herday was and instead decided to dig deeper. We spent the entire 20 minute ride talking about how unique the Las Vegas taxi industry is compared to other cities. The discussion involved stories about corruption, the mob, and the millions of dollars that are made by a few choice companies. It was an enjoyable and insightful conversation about something I never knew about before.

  255. avatar

    Well, Today after giving a spin class, I saw a guy cycling solo on a spin-bike. I approached him and told him the time the class starts and said I want to see him in class next-week. This wa totally out of character for me! I don’t ever try and approach guys at the gym, no matter what, but somehow I felt he would benefit more from his exercise under my guidance and challenging routine.

    I really want to start a business in this line. I’ve been in the industry for almost 15 years now. I think I have a real gift for health and fitness.

  256. avatar
    Lars T.

    I talk to strangers all the time, and it’s one of my favorite things to do.

    1) Last night was looking at a real estate office window near my house. They have listings on the window with asking prices. I like to gauge the market, always praying it goes up:)
    An older couple stopped to look too. I joked about what they thought about the prices (This is Silicon Valley). They joked back about how they bought a long time ago so the market is still good to them. I gave them a pained look and wished it was the same for me. We discussed the possibility of the Oakland A’s moving to downtown San Jose. They were dead set against it. I was for it, mainly with the hopes that it can boost redevelopment in the area. Like the Giants did for San Francisco’s South of Market area. I couldn’t believe it when she said if they A’s did move to San Jose, they wouldn’t be alive much longer so it wouldn’t be too bad…wow.
    It was a pleasant discussion, and I have new friends, Mike and Janice.

  257. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    Thanks, Angie. Btw, that is the wrong question to ask. No man says, “I’m intimidated by her confidence!” (That’s only what women THINK men say.) We say something very different. Do the homework to find out what it is.

  258. avatar

    Starting up small talk is pretty easy. It hardly ever leads anywhere though. I chat with cashiers, the guy at my fav takeout place, people on the elevator, my colleagues. I started up a conversation in the elevator this morning at work. It ended when I reached my floor. The person you’re chatting with has to be in the same frame of mind as you, wanting to chat and make a personal connection. Otherwise you get blown off.

  259. avatar

    I chatted up my ATT rep on the phone today for about 20 min, at the end of the conversation he got rid of the fee I was calling about and miraculously my bill also decreased by $12 bucks.

  260. avatar


    I kinda like talking to strangers, but I realized that that wasn’t going to happen today unless I changed my plans. I forced myself to go out to Starbucks (win!) and talk to a stranger. A random guy gets in line behind me and I say “Good day for coffee”, as it is kinda cool and rainy here. He smiled and agreed. I followed with “I thought it was going to get warmer”.

    He said, “Tomorrow will be better, maybe 60.”

    “Wow! In January”? I replied. We both thought that was great. I got my coffee and we wished each other a good day as I left.

    So basically, we talked about the weather. Ha! But I changed my plans and accepted a challenge. That was fun.

  261. avatar

    I’m a shy developer making myself go to an Affiliate Marketing conference this weekend (Affiliate Summit West). It’s all about networking and going to fancy parties (Masquerade Ball, etc). I have a bunch of meetings lined up with some big companies. All of this is well out of my comfort zone. So I’m staying on your list! Hopefully I’ll have some stories for you when the conference is done.

  262. avatar

    I was walking downtown and while waiting at a red light, saw a woman carrying a camera I’ve been interested in buying. I said, “Excuse me, what do you think of that camera? I’ve been thinking about buying one.” She told me that it was a great camera and recommended that I get one for myself. Since we were both walking to different destinations, it was a short conversation, but pleasant and not at all awkward.

  263. avatar
    Lars T.

    Right on.. great initiative. Not too many people would do that.

    Years ago I was hired as a substitute teacher at a regional private school system. I was supposed to wait until they called me. After one day of waiting around, I just called all the campuses to introduce myself to the principal. They were glad to hear from me and I had a gig the next day.
    What was funny is, yes, I wanted an assignment, and once I got it I was terrified! But after two minutes in front of the fourth graders, it was all good.

    Way to go Andrew.

  264. avatar

    I donated blood today and overheard an individual say he had gotten a certificate for donating 10 gallons of blood. After I was finished I sat with him in the cantina and we talked at length. We went well past the 15 minute waiting period. It was an interesting conversation in that it was amazing how closely our lives had similar experiences.

  265. avatar

    So, tonight, I had to talk to the mother of a schoolmate of my son’s.. The had to came about because the girl in question had done something pretty dastardly concerning my son just before Christmas, and despite having been given the opportunity to apologise without involving her parents, had not taken it, and I had asked the grandmother yesterday to intervene…
    I did not know the mother, though I had vaguely seen her on the other side of the school. She initiated the contact this evening, so I did not have to go through that (though I actually find that icebreaking easy). What I did have to do, however, was to give a transparent, but not hysterical version of the situation from my side, which was difficult, as I was on the verge of crying, and then listen to and accept the apology from the girl. This was not an ideal way to get to know another mother, who, otherwise, seems interesting and someone I woudl like to get to know, but it might have been quite powerful. Each one of the three of us cried during this conversation, as some pretty raw emotions came out. And maybe that will bring us closer together in the future. I am certainly glad that I had this opportunity, which I created yesterday, to have some refreshingly honest dialogue! Thank you!

  266. avatar

    Six months ago, I moved to a town in which I knew not one person. I’ve done this before and think it’s exciting. Unlike before, this time I had a focused approach. I began networking and, my new dermatologist (that’s the first stop in a new town for a redhead) listened to my career strengths and suggested I meet a friend in a similar field. I met with her and she suggested I meet six people in different fields but whose work she respected. I met with each of those six people and asked who they believed were at the top of their game and on and on. I now have an interesting network in town where I’m still relatively new and it’s a stronger group than in any place I’ve lived for much longer. Each of these conversations (first on the phone and then the follow-up face-to-face) were with people I had never met before. But the opener was that someone they knew thought highly of them. No one has refused to meet me yet! This may sound like ‘cheating’ since I had a connection with each of these people, but it was a learning for me and it feels like it’s accomplishing my goal of growing a professional network.

  267. avatar

    I’ve received your emails for months and NEVER DID ANYTHING. Finally, I TOOK ACTION on your items today. Thank you! It was a great experience! Im a struggling freelancer and frequent a local coffee shop on my days off. I have a bit of anxiety today but took the challenge. I struck up a conversation with an older guy weaving a survival bracelet. I never understood what they did and why they are getting popular. I became genuinely interested. I learned they are a survival bracelet because although they fit around your wrist, if taken apart there is 15ft ft of rope. Now I know more information, AND, he is a cop…a friendly cop. When does it ever heart to know a friendly cop? THANKS RHAMIT! Im going to take more action from your emails.


  268. avatar

    I tried starting up a conversation with the receptionist @ my vet. I used the “busy” script …she nodded , smiled and I was on my way….not a huge success….but they actually were pretty busy and she just didn’t have much time to talk.

  269. avatar

    We read with interest your assertion that:

    “See, most people who write online have audiences with the intelligence of a snail”.

    In a recent poll among members of our organisation, we found that 98% considered most readers of online content had an IQ at least one standard deviation below that of this much maligned, rarely homeless gastropod.

    We respectfully request a retraction of the assertion that snails have an equivalent intelligence, when clearly their’s is superior.

    National Association for the Protection of Land-Borne Molluscs

  270. avatar

    I struck up conversation with a waiter with, “When you eat here, what do you order? If you don’t eat here, tell me why!” I said it with a grin. It got a good laugh and we talked about favorite foods and how to avoid bad Asian restaurants.
    In general, if it is someone who might be intimidated, then I go out of my way to be friendly and smile. Example, I am gentle and direct with people who interview with me for a job. Same goes for anyone I deal with in service industry. They are people like the rest of us, and I have no desire to get a free helping of spit with my entree.

    If it is someone who is ahead of me in status of any type or is in position where they have to fend off excessive attempts at contact, then I am careful to show that I will respect their boundaries while establishing rapport. Example, my boss (founder of company) will take my calls even on holidays because he knows that he won’t get a call from me while he is on vacation unless the reason is important to HIM not me. When he gets a call, it is something he would want to address. Another example, I was at a concert and the singer who was performing was out and about checking sound and he smiled and waved. I waved back, and from where I was standing, held up program and pen without approaching and he waved me over to sign it and got his friend the other performer to come out and sign too. It was clear to him that I would leave him alone if that was what he wanted.

  271. avatar

    Something I did today and like to do in general: at the grocery store, I always end up talking to SOMEONE in the produce section with some of the dumbest opening lines ever:

    “I never know how to pick (fruit/vegetable)? You look like a pro, what’s your secret?”

    Or at the checkout counter I like to ask about things that I think they might be getting sick of:

    “So do you get sick of the music that plays here, or does it change often enough?”

    “What’s the weirdest thing someone’s ever tried to return?”

    Questions I’m genuinely curious about! I asked the music question to the checkout lady today and she went on and on about how most days she hates it but today it’s different, how she found a $100 bill on the street, the wind outside, etc. Opened her right up!

  272. avatar
    Joe Cassandra

    Thanks Nahna, you usually don’t want to ask “what do you do?” bc most people hate what they do, ask about what they would “like” to do, usually more interesting and less depressing

  273. avatar

    Commented to the gal behind me at Chipotle regarding the snow. She mentioned she wouldn’t be able to enjoy since she had to work that weekend but I kept the conversation about her and had the cajones to ask what she did for work (I would have stopped normally). Found out she was a tax-preparer and got some tax advice!

  274. avatar

    Just started a conversation with a lady and her kid at the my bank. I noticed her kid had a lift ticket to a ski place I had just been. I asked her how it was. We chatted for a little bit. It was a short and pleasant conversation.

  275. avatar
    James Bowen

    I have a confession to make — I ask questions even when I am testing, and even when I think I know the answer. Because I want the validation of a smart person giving me the answer I was expecting. Sometimes they surprise me, and I learn something valuable.

  276. avatar

    I was at the gym and a group of Crossfitters was getting ready for their workout. I saw them setting up for deadlifts, so I asked them if they had any experience with the bar widening grips I have (they increase the effective diameter of the bar to increase the load on your grip). This led to a conversation about our respective routines and life in our area.

  277. avatar
    Anne Botha

    Hey, took your push and applied it. Focused on speaking to one person and using one of your scripts to do. Easy entry and success gained! While grabbing food, I spoke to the person at the cash register. Felt a moment of pause, anxiety. Took a breath and just do it.

  278. avatar

    I’ve randomly seen this dude around my neighborhood. He gets on my bus a couple stops after me and gets off around where I get off. I just saw that he goes to my gym around the same time I do. I struck up a converstaion with him and found out that he does auditing for a major hotel chain. They fly him out to the individual locations and have him audit the hotels. When he gets back from his most recent business trip I’m going to invite him to a drink at a local bar and pick his brain about business, travel, and any old thing.

  279. avatar

    Great tactics! I love striking up random conversations with people. Today in the elevator, I was standing next to a UPS delivery man. I said “Hey, how’s it going?” He replied with a very practiced smile and “I’m doing well, how are you today Ma’m?” To try and reach a more personal rather than professional interaction with him, I found a common point between us: We are both employees, and it’s Friday. I replied “I’m doing great – I’m so glad that it’s Friday!” He suddenly relaxed and agreed. By that time the elevator doors opened, and we wished each other a great weekend. Although short, the quality of the conversation went from awkward to professionally polished to friendly. It’s amazing how easily the atmosphere of the conversation can change so much, despite that we only said a few sentences to each other.

    The one thing that I do sometimes wonder, is how much small talk is too much? What is the line between small talk and “when is this person gonna shut up? How do I get away?” I try to avoid this by asking questions rather than telling people things about my personal life. This accomplished two things: a) Like everyone has said, people like to talk about themselves – it makes them happy; and b) I don’t need to worry about telling a stranger too much. Point b provides me with a sense of security. Am I paranoid, you ask? Probably…. 🙂


  280. avatar

    Talking to random strangers has never been a problem for me, but I don’t want to unsubscribe! So I made sure to approach a new person at a work meeting this morning and introduce myself. We had a nice conversation about work, and how early we all had to be there.

    I also wanted to share my favorite story on this subject. I went to college out of state, and did not know anyone when I arrived. I started introducing myself to every person around me in line (and there was a lot of waiting in line that week!). Everyone was friendly to the odd new freshman, and it was a great way to meet a lot of new people-my dorm-mates were amazed at how many people I knew around campus. It really helped to feel welcome right away.

    Looking forward to the next task!

  281. avatar

    A fellow came into the salon where I was a customer and chose a National Geographic so I talked to him about his travel dreams. it was a certain amount of work to keep the convo going but we were both glad to talk about travel and made me more friendly going forward. I may add this to my regular Tuesda and Friday challenge routine.

  282. avatar
    Josh L.

    Ramit, this is amazing. I’ve been reading your emails for a few months now and often started skimming when it felt like it got a bit sales-y (really puts me off). But this was genuine, funny, and you are getting me to take action. I will put this task into practice when I go out tomorrow (and not just one stranger, that’s not a stretch for me, I’ll go for at least 5 – public commitment 😉 ).

    I foresee that you continue to post awesome stuff like this, I keep take action, I see great results, and then I buy some of your products 😉


  283. avatar
    Chiraj Dalal

    I was flying yesterday and started up a conversation with someone on the BART on the way to the airport. She looked just as anxious as I did and so I opened by asking her how late she was for her flight. We ended up being on the same flight and had a reasonably non-awkward conversation that lasted 7-10 minutes. The issue here was I didn’t know when to end it. I didn’t want to end up being viewed as creepy but I didn’t want to be impolite as well. I feel this issue may be specific to the male-female dynamic as I didn’t want her to think I was coming on to her. I think this general thought is what holds me back from approaching certain women in social situations. Across most men and women who know that I am in a committed relationship, I feel perfectly comfortable socially. Hopefully, by testing myself socially with female strangers, I can learn to approach them in a manner that doesn’t creep them out.

    Btw Ramit I just thought you should know in the latest GQ, Beyonce is interviewed and discusses how she goes the extra mile to be successful, including watching film of each of her shows to continually get better as a performer. Seems very similar to your points about how elite performers work extra hard to get disproportional results.

  284. avatar

    Before I even read this, I was in the drive-through at McDonalds this morning. The guy was having some trouble with his credit card reader, and he mumbled to himself “sometimes it wants to work, and sometimes it doesn’t”. I overheard him and said “I’m the same way!”. He had a good laugh about that. It wasn’t particularly valuable, but it does illustrate the point that it’s REALLY easy to say something.

    After reading the post, I was walking on the bike path near my office and a jogger was approaching, so I decided to say hi. I made eye contact and asked her how she was doing. She didn’t stop running, but she did respond, and then when we saw each other going the opposite direction, she waved. Again, not terribly successful, but what did I expect from a jogger? Again, it just illustrates Ramit’s point.

  285. avatar
    Shannon T. Wilson

    I’ve been doing my own experiment, which started by accident. While shopping for the holidays I started responding to a common question with an “uncommon” response. This uncommon, single word, response was so powerful that almost everyone would ask me additional questions upon hearing my reply (even my children wanted to why).

    As timing would have it about this same time I read some of Ramit’s work regarding experiments, so I started to test. I’ve named my experiment the Fantastic Experiment (#fantasticexperiment).

    The next time someone asks you “How are you?” respond with fantastic! Not good. Not OK. Not fine but fantastic! Watch their face and be prepared to defend your fantasticness. They will want to know why! I even had one cashier stop scanning my groceries and say “WOW! I’ve never had anyone say they were fantastic!” I had another comment “Here comes the fantastic guy!” when I returned to his store two weeks later. Go figure. A change in one word with such dramatic results.

    I invite all of you to try my experiment and post up or tweet your results (#fantasticexperiment). Test it out. You will find you long for someone to ask you how you are doing because saying fantastic makes you feel good, it sparks conversations, and others want to be around fantastic people.

    Mr. Shannon (@stwilson)

  286. avatar

    Thanks again Ramit. I say no. 5 (“is it a busy day”) every time I get my hair cut mostly to avoid staring uncomfortably into a mirror for 15 minutes. It’s amazing how easy a conversation can flow from there and the haircutter often has lots of interesting things to say about human behaviour in general and their business in particular. I’ll be sure to try some of the others.

    Recently I accidentally got an insight into how to encourage other people to start conversations…I’m learning to unicycle and nearly everybody who passes has an encouraging comment or stops to ask me about it…even in an area where anything a bit different is normally frowned on. I wonder if doing something a little bit unusual & also vulnerable gives others “permission” to talk.

    Thanks again!

  287. avatar

    According to my wife, I do this all the time. She gets so annoyed with me and asks me how I do it. I tell her that it’s easy: most people are just like me – they have the same wishes, the same goals and the same fears. They may express them differently, but they all come from the same wellspring within us. And if people don’t want to be friendly, that’s fine. There’s no law saying that they have to be. It doesn’t make either of us bad perople. There are over 7 billion people in this world, so if someone doesn’t like me, that still leaves over 7 billion others to talk to.

    In the past, I have tried variations of all your questions except number 4. It wouldn’t work in the coffee shop I frequent because people are generally happy to be there. In most of the other coffee shops I been to people look just as miserable after because of the high cost of the coffee. I shall keep looking for somewhere I can use this

    Thanks for the post. I know the rest of your challenges are not going to be as easy as this one so I Live in excited terror of the next assignement

  288. avatar
    Mark Jacobs

    I spoke to a man from Brighton England at a pub in Ikebukuro, Japan. I introduced him to my little brother and we talked music for a little while, then he excused himself to go talk to his friends.It was my brothers last day in Japan, so I wanted to talk to him more anyway

  289. avatar

    I also tend to randomly talk to people; sometimes it leads somewhere, sometimes it doesn’t. This morning, I asked a woman in the elevator about her boots, and she said that she got them at Macy’s and then disappeared behind her phone. The girl at the car dealership last weekend was fascinating to talk to, though – we ended up looking up pole dancing school sites on our phones while I waited for my car to be serviced, and had a ball trying to find the most awful mobile site. 😀

  290. avatar

    I was in a garage today to get some work done on my car. Two guys were talking about front-end alignments and how certain tire stores do a bad job. When I got a chance, I asked one guy which tire store was that, even though I had heard the name of the store. We then had about a five minute conversation about tire stores, different garages, tire pressures related to front-end alignments, etc. I’m usually not one to initiate stuff like this, but I had just read this email before heading out, so I thought I’d try something. Thanks for the encouragement.

  291. avatar

    This is brilliant. I saw this done by someone I knew a long time ago and had completely forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder! It’s effective not only in opening conversations but also in reminding one of all of the positive things one can be thankful for.

  292. avatar

    I own a rental property. This morning I was shoveling the walk. One of my tenants came out of the building. She said hello and asked me how I was doing. I usually would just say fine and keep my head down. Today I told her how much I hated winter and shoveling snow. She said she loves it, and finds shoveling meditative. She offered to keep the walks shoveled for me! She didn’t want any compensation! Granted she is not a complete stranger, but I really didn’t know much about her. We got talking, and it turns out we have eight or nine mutual friends!
    I am really introverted by nature, but I learned how to interact with people by waiting tables and bartending when I was in college. It’s not that I don’t have the skillset, it’s just that I don’t use it. This was a real eye opener for me.

  293. avatar

    I think Cathy, way up there at the top of the comments, nailed it. Ask questions! People love to talk about themselves. I have a black lab and a gregarious four year old so it is pretty difficult to go anywhere and NOT meet strangers. I like Lliana’s approach of looking people in the eyes until they smile. People like to talk to happy people. It boosts their energy too. Assigning homework and keeping people responsible for doing it with a post actually makes your newsletter and program more attractive and personal.

  294. avatar

    I don’t usually have a problem striking up conversations with random strangers. Today, I chatted up a stranger about local taco trucks. I can always talk about food!

  295. avatar

    Well, thanks to my gene pool, this is one thing I ace it – I can talk to anyone, anywhere. Here’s one from earlier this week when I chatted to the man in the toy shop when I took my daughter in to spend her saved-up pocket money. His name is Andy; although camp he’s married with children; he’s absolutely lovely and he helped me find the perfect present for my sister’s birthday which was the last one left in the shop and I had it sale price too, although there was no sale label etc.
    For how not to do it, I have only to recall the most cringeworthy interview of my life – it was with Rocco Forte – the plump and pompous heir of Rocco Forte hotels who, for some reason, I associated with Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Saved at the last minute by a throw-away remark I realised that the hotel mogul and the gold baubles of chocolate gorgeousness were actually not related. However, in nervous excitement at the thought of the question I might have thrown him had I not been rescued, I spent nearly the entire interview collapsing into giggles, which I had to somehow keep explaining away. It stays in my mind as the most painful interview of all time…

  296. avatar

    I was having a spicy pork taco at the lunch counter of my favorite Mexican hole in the wall when a young guy (i’m in my 60s) walked in to order take out. He ordered a bagel with cream cheese, avocado, onion and tomato. I smiled and said,”that sounds like a good combination, do you usually order that”? He smiled, had a little trouble making eye contact, but said he does, and also said that my taco looked good, then said he doesn’t eat meat though he wished he could try Mexican food. I smiled and didn’t quite know what to say then so I kept eating and he got his sandwich and left, but I did go out of my comfort zone and asked a question of a complete stranger in a diner.

  297. avatar
    Alex ederer

    I struck up a discussion with a subway musician who sits in a fake boat playing guitar. To find out that his joy in life emanates from the smiles he gets from people looking at his weird contraption.

  298. avatar

    Person – gaucho at Fogo De Chao
    Question: So how comfortable are the gaucho pants?

    He said, yes, pretty comfy. Then we ended up talking about how many times we both had been to Brazil, the fact that I never seen those particular type of pants worn there at churrascarias, and why we went on our trips, and more. This is a test I’ve put myself through for awhile now, but it’s still intimidating. I have to keep doing it though, since I just moved 3 months ago to a whole new city. There’s always that nervousness built up from the times I REALLY did put my foot in my mouth. For instance ( in college), when I told a guy I was into neuroscience and psychology because I like to manipulate people. When what I meant to say is I’m interested in those subjects because I get a kick about understanding people’s inner workings – LOL. God, I don’t think I could have gotten more red.

    Oh, btw, one of the reasons I still read your blog is not only how useful your info is, but because you do have that attitude of “Sh*& or get off the pot.” When I open your email I know that I’m most likely going to get a gut punch I needed (like a good friend gives with honesty when you’ve been fuhtzing around.) So thanks, Ramit! Keep it up, my favorite weird cocky Indian dude!

  299. avatar

    I was at the gym working out when I noticed a young man wearing a high school t-shirt from the school I graduated from, so I approached him and asked him, “Hey, did you go to Riverdale High School?” Turns out that he was from there and the conversation kicked off really well. He brought me up to speed on past high school friends, including teachers who passed away after I graduated high school. We are talking about 8 years ago. All because I decided to talk to this kid I have never met in my life.

  300. avatar

    I accept your challenge. I’m going to rasie you by not only starting the conversation but trying to talk this to be determined female stranger and my girlfriend into a threesome. We’ll see how it goes.

  301. avatar

    I really like talking to strangers so this was a fun assignment for me. We’ve had a temp in the office the whole week and while she was leaving today I struck up a conversation with her. As I was going through it I really did consider how I talk the skill for granted of being able to talk to a complete stranger and get them to tell me a lot of details about their life in a short amount of time, but still keep things casual. It’s a great way to build rapport for further conversations and professional interactions. In this case it was interesting because she’s a temp and is interested in some of the vacancies that we have in our office. I noted that her ability to talk to people that work in the office she is temping in will be a good career asset for her as she looks for a new gig. I’m gonna try this once each day though out the weekend

  302. avatar
    Lauren K.

    I’m terrible at conversations with strangers! I had an important business meeting the other day that the CEO asked me to take for her and I felt like a basketcase, stressing out about being a good host, smiling while she was talking, asking intelligent questions, etc. I didn’t even want to take the meeting but I knew it was good practice and would show my boss that I’m valuable.

    I tried a few times today to strike up a completely random conversation but froze. I did go meet in person with a banker to help me with my online banking that wasn’t working. The errand was on my list of three things to get done this week and I still almost didn’t go, but knew I needed to push myself.

    I made a point of asking a couple extra questions so now online banking is getting set up, I know when my CD is maturing and how I should adjust direct deposit!

  303. avatar

    I did it! I work in security so meeting people isn’t an issue. So I upped the challenge and tried to find someone I’ve never spoke to before. This guy is doing maintained on his boat, so I stopped to chat. I learn the name of his boat “stonk” is an African word for fishing. He’s from South Africa, been in the states for 15 years. Since a friend of mine recently travelled there I told him about her experience. He agreed that there are part of the continent that are life changing. I also found out he used the live on Zanibar Island for four years WITHOUT electricity. Wow! Just lanterns and simple life. Cool guy, amazing accent.

  304. avatar

    Gratitude is a powerful emotion. It’s very uplifting. Do a search for “gratitude” or “gratitude journal” and see how you feel after reading a few results. It’s lifechanging.

  305. avatar

    That was very touching, Cat. Thanks for sharing.

  306. avatar

    I don’t know why I have such a fear of talking with new people. I am working really hard to get out of that rut. My problem with “canned scripts” is that I always feel I know when someone is using one on me and I hate to be seen as insincere. So today, I went up to a gentleman who came into my business (I’m normally behind the scenes), extended my hand, and gave my name. He told me his name and I asked him to tell me something about himself. It was an extremely pleasant conversation. I invited him to visit a networking group that I attend and he said he would love to.

    My next task is to try and do that same approach outside of the comfort of my everday surroundings.

  307. avatar

    I’m sitting in Subway, having just finished my free cookie. A nice older gentleman comes in with a USS Missouri hat… hmm “I wonder what he did?, Was he there?” I got off my high chair and asked if I could join him. “Greatest Generation” type of a guy. I know the outline of his life story and his weekly routine. Sounds like we’re on next week, for some more history stories and banter, same time and place!

  308. avatar

    I like to talk with people so this wasn’t difficult for me. I chatted with a guy who was working the counter at a food store. I said, “So, how’s your day going?” He then related to me it was going really well. I said, “That’s good. Why’s it going so well today?” He then told me about how he was working the early shift so he gets out in mid-afternoon and why it’s so great to get off earlier in the day.”

  309. avatar

    Almost feels like cheating since I already use most of there scripts, especially the dog one, (I am a dog walker by day. Thanks Earn1K!). Still, I’d like to have some good momentum going into what will likely be harder assignments down the line, so I made a point of making SURE I talked to at least one person on the street today.

    The first one (and only one I made a point of remembering details of) was when I was walking a mutt named Penny and the pit bull being walked on the other side of the street kept staring at her, jumping up and down, and straining at the leash to come over. I said, “Looks like Penny here has an admirer!” He laughed and we ended up having about a minute-long exchange across the street. The pit bull’s name is Blue and she’s about two years old and wants to play with every dog she meets.

    Usually, I’m not aware that I’m even using a script, so it was interesting to be aware of what going on as I did.

  310. avatar

    This one was really hard for me as I’m quite shy. I was dreading the assignment when I got the email. But I decided that if I ever thought of anything to say to any stranger, I would say it.

    There is a girl in one of my courses who has a really awesome hairstyle, which I noticed Wednesday. I decided I would tell her I liked her hair today, and I did! The entire “conversation” was not a long conversation, but there were lots of smiles and positive energy involved. I enjoyed it.

  311. avatar
    Casey McCarty

    I now help run a makerspace for which I used to volunteer. Before this, my graduate education had me primed for research, not networking. I used to feel clumsy and awkward selling myself or selling the work I do. When I became Assistant Director I didn’t know too many of the current members, some having been around years before me. It never fails to invite someone to talk about themselves. If I don’t know a member or only vaguely know them, “what are you making?” always works.

  312. avatar
    Karla N

    Last night I went out and had a few drinks with my coworkers. I will admit I am sociable. My job relies solely on 90% of conversing with people from all parts of the world. Furthermore, I am not timid to spark a conversation with anyone at a coffee shop, bar, and school. In fact I too read about being able to talk to people and I brush up on a lot of Dale Carneige material. For me it’s a continuous skill I want to master especially public speaking. For instance, last night I was at the bar I bought my friends a round of shots and this guy came up to me and asked if I was from around here. I told him, “No! Not really!” We conversed even more and sooner or later found out he was related to my friend and I was invited to family function and possibly a date. Universal conversation is a skill that I will always work.

  313. avatar

    At work, I see many recurring faces in the halls and break rooms, but I rarely take the time to make introductions.

    I introduced myself to a new hire. I could tell she was young, so I asked where she went to school and what she thinks of the working world. We ended up talking about her home town and alma mater. So often, I walk by the same people 50 times a year and never both to introduce myself. I do this out of busy-ness, not shy-ness. I don’t struggle with making cold introductions, so this was a fun assignment for me.

  314. avatar


  315. avatar

    I do this while at work, and I’m a part-time server and people will actually talk a lot about themselves and they are more than willing to talk to you. But I think this is because it is Canada rather than other parts of the world, might need further testing to see different responses.

  316. avatar
    Amy Morris Shalosky

    Thankfully, this is one of my strengths. Made idle conversation with a customer service rep and a bank teller. Now to transfer this skill to making relevant conversation with professionals.

  317. avatar

    Those are pretty killer “icebreakers”. Most of us are hardwired to interact socially and don’t mind the stranger’s easy going gab.

    She definitely would be up there on the woman of my dreams if she was carrying a copy of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”.

    And in my dream, I’m helping her include me as a regular expense in her conscious spending plan. I keed, I keed.

    Yeah, the pre-coffee personality disorder definitely differs from the post caffeinated
    version of most people in the morning.

    Almost like the “V8” commercials of days gone by where the vegetable juice helped people walk straight.

    One particular icebreaker at a local coffeeshop about ten years ago actually was the precursor to fatherhood for me — so use with caution fellas and fillies!

    Ramit’s right. 2013 is the year to take control. And this means
    take action!

  318. avatar

    Thanks for the call to action, Ramit.

    I’m really lucky- I learned to start small talk about ten years ago and honed my appoach in customer service jobs at Starbucks and teaching ball room dance classes. My current challenge is learning when to make small talk…

    However, I love everything you share and wanted to participate. I have a customer that I avoid engaging because she is not pleasant. Today, when I saw her I took a deep breath, smiled, and said, “Wow, that lip gloss looks great on you! What color is that?”

    She lit up. She pulled out the little tube to show me and told me where to get it.

    Great reminder that the more someone likes us (Or shows interest in us by asking nice questions about us) the more we tend to like them.

    Happy weekend.

  319. avatar

    Sorry, didn’t get to this today as I’m packing my suitcase to go to a Thai wedding next week (plane leaves tomorrow). I’m sure ot be talking to a lot of people I’ve never met before! If anything interesting happens, I’ll post another comment.

  320. avatar

    Talked to this girl, I overheard having the traditional college “I dont know what my passion is.” crisis. So talked to her, gave one tip, which was stop focusing on the vague word passion, instead just focus on what you like such as being the center of attention, giving advice etc. It ended with us exchanging contact info so I think it went well

  321. avatar

    The other day I got a call from a debt collector for the first time in my life. A “free” checking account that used to not have inactivity fees changed their policy, didn’t let me know, got $200 in fees racked up and eventually went to collections. I asked the female debt collector how she was doing, she says

    “Oh, just alright.” Just alright? “I got into a fender bender on Monday so I’ve been having to deal with the insurance company all week.” Aw, that’s too bad. Who’s your insurance through? “Allstate.” Well…. are you in good hands? “Haha, I think so.” Well, that’s really great. Quick question for you, is there anything I can say to you really nicely to have you take off 25% off what I owe?

    The answer was yes, and although this was a really pathetic reason to fork over money, being a nice guy and interrupting her debt collecting call routine got me just over 40% off of what I owed. How I got into the situation sucked, but I always tell myself (and friends): You will never see him/her ever again. Just go for it.

  322. avatar


    Talk about the power of persuasion..LOL
    Dammit! I WANTED that “2,000 word MEGA Post”
    As a person that has found it relatively easy to talk to people all my life and someone that has made sales and service my life’s work, this is an ‘easy’ task.
    For me however, in this ‘challenge’ that you’ve thrown down, I have decided to focus on talking LESS…and listening more.
    Yours is one of the few emails that I actually enjoy reading – coming from an IMer..that says something.
    Keep pushing…EVERYONE needs a coach or mentor.
    I like the ‘cut of your jib”!

  323. avatar

    Done. Talked to a fellow boater about his monohull and what made it his perfect boat. Why is this easy but social media is hard? My theory: audience of one (based on this assignment and it’s easy for me to engage one person and take some interest in their experience) versus an audience of many where I can’t even SEE who I’m trying to engage. Now to modify and test some of these scripts for engaging people on social media – see if my geek theory has any merit. And to see if I can actually get conversations started.

  324. avatar

    Well, I talked to about 125+/- random strangers today because I work part time as a substitute teacher.
    Things that worked, talking to a girl who was not working, told me she didn’t like teachers and wasn’t going to be in school in a week because she was going to start homeschooling. I wished her luck and we talked about how hard it could be to work when you weren’t motivated. We talked about the fact that it is easy to drift and not get much done if you didn’t have a structure and I shared some of the things that I have used to build structure and some of the challenges I had had when I first started trying to teach myself Algebra and Geometry so I could help students because that was what I was getting calls for not the science I was advertising for. I also share some of the tactics I use to over come lack of motivation. When we got done I went to help a different student and when I walked back to her part of the room she was trying to do her assignment. At the end of the class she thanked me because I had given her things to think about.

    What didn’t work was some of the way I handled some students who were trying to figure out how to get away with something they weren’t supposed to do. I allowed them to get under my skin and had a power struggle. I was able to talk to one later and we were able to clear the air. I had the other again in a later period, he was still mad at me, and I had again to correct him on behavior. I made the correction, didn’t get flustered when he argued but repeated the request and walked away. He quit what he was doing.

    My biggest challenge as a sub is keeping kids from hitting buttons and resetting the button so that I don’t stay stressed once that incident has passed. I keep a lot of notes about what worked and why about that. I am slightly better.

    As to the other, I frequently talk to random people in coffee shops. I have had some great conversations that way and learned about things I was unaware of.

    Forgive me the run on sentence, I have to rush to tutor a kid.

  325. avatar

    What was interesting for me was not so much the conversation I started (detailed about the weather, earlier sleet, possibility of warming), but how I felt before and after the conversation. Prior to the conversation, I felt busy and just wanted to get on with my purchase and my day, but when I slowed down and deliberately engaged her by asking questions and listening, I ended up relaxing and laughing and feeling good about the day.

  326. avatar

    I stopped in the liquor store near my apartment to pick up some supplies for a trip out of town this weekend and tried to start talking with the cashier while I checked out. It was a bit before 5 PM, but was pretty busy in there.
    “Seems really busy in here for this time time of day! Is this normal?”
    He laughed and kind of nodded. I laughed with him and said that everyone must be getting happy hour going early. He laughed again and nodded.
    I’m not sure if he didn’t get chatty because it was busy or if English wasn’t his first language, but he seemed to enjoy the conversation.

  327. avatar

    Lady cashier at checkout line looked tired and frazzled.. I was only one in line and she had to make extra accomodations for my wheelchair. Asked her if she was about to go off shift, that she really looked tired. She stared at me a minute, during which I smiled gently and tilted my head. She then proceded to trust me with her problems with her parents, children and deployed husband. She said she didn’t see any help on the horizon and was ready to give up. Since we had a few moments, I took out a piece of paper, wrote down some agencies and phone numbers she could use, suggested she check with base chaplain and or social services. A light of hope came back into her face, with a huge smile. “I get off in 15 minutes and I’m going to call these rightt away!”
    As she helped me load my bags into my lap she leaned down and gave me a hug. “No one else has shown care or interest in months! Thank you, even if these places don’t help, you did!”
    When I got outside I let myself cry a minute. So many people don’t take time to look at others with compassion, and so many need it!

  328. avatar

    I am not going to be out anywhere today, so I had to make do with who I met on the dog walk. An elderly couple, with whom I’ve exchanged smiles and nods occasionally, so not total strangers, but almost. Today, their dog ran ahead to greet us, so I made a fuss over him. When the owners arrived, I broke the ice by asking whether the dog’s sweater was in his school colors, as it matched his booties. (All you pet haters can stop gagging now.) They laughed, we laughed, she explained the sweater, all was good. The exchange left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside, and I think they enjoyed it too. Elderly people are often lonely, I think.

    Now this is a true story. My husband and I walk on this dog walk a lot, until recently, with our dog. But he died, and this is how he did it. Dh and I would often argue about the proper way to interact with others on the dog walk, He favors the friendly smile, the light quip, the longer conversation if the other party is willing. Being a died-in-the-wool introvert, the necessity of smiling at Every. Single. Person. who passes is work for me. Sometimes (most of the time) I like to drift along in my own little world, thinking about the writing I’m working on, or just admiring the sun on the water.

    We’d been having this conversation, and I’d been quite vociferous about saying that people just want to be alone with their thoughts and don’t want to interact with other people all the time. I went so far as to say, these people don’t care about us. They’re just out walking the dog.

    Our dog was doing what he loved to do on the dog walk. He ran down the bank to the water and lapped up a drink with his tail floating on the water behind him. He dug up a rock and brought it back up (his passion). I told him to put the rock down, because he’s not allowed to carry them. He dropped the rock, walked a few steps, staggered, and fell down. We ran to him, and it was apparent that something really bad had happened. Dh ran back to get the car so we could get him home or wherever, leaving me with a dying dog, sitting on the ground by the paved path as various people went by. Some people stared and just walked on. Some people asked if they could help, but I said it was all right, help was on the way and there was nothing they could do. One woman touched my shoulder, burst into tears, and ran away. A tall, silent young man with two big dogs of his own stopped, asked if he could help. I said it was ok, he could continue his walk, dh was coming, and he said, I’ll stay anyway. He bade his dogs to lie down, and they did and he crouched close. Then a VET came by, offered his help, offered to examine Bud at his clinic even though it was a Sunday and it was closed instead of us having to drive an hour into the emergency vet. Dh arrived, the tall silent young man helped carry Bud to the car, the vet left to unlock the door. End of the story, Bud died shortly thereafter.

    It is possible for me (I’m a writer, forgive me) to rework this as our beloved dog’s last gift to me: a convincing rebuttal to the idea that “these people don’t care.”

  329. avatar

    I started a conversation with the busdriver. Result: I felt more human.

  330. avatar

    I talk to strangers all the time and really enjoy it. Today I had a massage with someone new and spent almost a half hour after chatting with my new (fabulous) masseuse about how he got into the business and the gentrification of San Francisco. Great conversation and I totally will go back to him again in the future. Here I find neighborhood conversations to be really easy to get off the ground, especially if people have been here for many years.

  331. avatar

    It went great and landed me a date, although talking to someone I don’t know is not all that challenging for me. It was years ago before I decided to get this area of my life handled. Love the news letter Ramit, keep it up. I like to think of you as the aziz ansari of the finance world.

  332. avatar

    Like many of the above fresponders, talking to strangers isn’t a problem. I’m awesome in low-stake conversations — even if it turns into a viable contact. It is far harder for me to feel comfortable networking inside my own company, where the stakes are much higher. So…I accept your challenge and will be reaching out to a Sr.VP that I’ve been meaning to talk to for months.

  333. avatar

    On a monday morning in the elevator or at the coffee machine. ..
    Say (with a smile) ” Nearly monday”..
    Always a good opening line 🙂 Works all the time.

  334. avatar

    I asked a fella in the elevator about the netflix movie he was getting ready to return. turns out he’s seen both the “girl with a dragon tattoo” trilogies several times. we ended up continuing our chat in the building lobby for a few minutes.

  335. avatar


  336. avatar

    Commented on a woman’s necklace and she told me it was from Africa and which store she got it from.

  337. avatar

    Hi Ramit,
    Talking to strangers isn’t hard for me. But thanks for the reminder to LISTEN to them, and ask questions about their interests. I had a nice conversation with a reporter I don’t know very well and, as a result, may have made a new friend.

  338. avatar

    Follow-up to my early comment.

    After attending my first ever networking event. I can sum it up in one word – WOW!

    Yes, I have some business cards I will never look at again, and a few that I think have some possibilities.

    I made several real connections – one with a professional organizer, I actually scheduled a consultation (yes, there is a fee) – the second with someone who offered to chat about a potential business opportunity – I am exploring the information, trying the product, and really digging deep to see if this is something I could sell – and the third was someone with a handyman contact which I desperately needed (I need a doggie door installed, but need it done on the cheap).

    The lunch was good – fish really isn’t my favorite – but I can overlook that for the connections I made in one lunch meeting. I am looking forward to exploring how I can help these same connections and use some of the ideas from the women who have been in business far longer than I’ve even been contemplating it.

    Without Ramit’s emails and almost constant haranguing, I doubt I would have stepped out of my comfort zone and done this. So a huge thanks to Ramit!

  339. avatar

    I saw a random girl waiting for her train and went up and said “hey, I saw you from over there and thought you looked really nice” she said “yeah i noticed”. She turned out to be really nice and asked if I wanted her number a few minutes later 🙂 This mission was fun! I need to start more conversations with strangers.

  340. avatar
    Jessica M Frey

    Task Complete:
    While waiting for a new prospect at a coffee shop this afternoon (he doesn’t count as a stranger as we’ve already had email interactions), I chatted up the guy in line with me waiting to order coffee. I think he thought I was hitting on him, as most guys aren’t used to a woman up and talking to them without prompting in a public setting unless it’s flirtatious, but that’s OK. A little extra flirting in life never hurt anyone. We chatted for about 5-8 minutes until my prospect arrived, but it was a good way to pass the time. Better than neurotically checking my cell phone/electronic pacifier just waiting for someone else to text me, message me, do something on Facebook, or Twitter or any of the number of ways we can confuse communication with true connection.

    If you’re scared to go up and talk to someone, you can still meet new people! But, you first have to be open to the experience and get OFF your cell phone and other electronics in public spaces. Guys, if you haven’t figured it out yet this is a crutch that lets you physically be in a public space without actually being present. It drives me nuts when people I know say they can never meet anyone new (usually this complaint centers around dating, but applies to all scenarios) and yet they never give anyone the opportunity to meet them. By focusing on the electronics in your hand in a public space, you’re sending out I’m busy, don’t bother me signals. As social as I am, I don’t like rejection anymore than the next person, which means I’m probably not going to approach you and neither will anyone else. You’ve locked yourself into a self-imposed prison of isolation. How important is that wall of protection to you? Important enough to keep up at all times, or can you let down your barriers every once in awhile? Try it sometime.

    Now if you’re scared to talk to strangers, but want to try anyway. Congrats! I wish there was a magic pill, but like every skill in life it gets easier with practice. My father is the most extroverted person I know. He can talk to anyone and make friends anywhere, which is how many of my friends think of me until they meet my Dad. When I was little he used to drag me around when he did this, which was horribly embarrassing until it wasn’t. Eventually, I just got over feeling awkward in those situations. Repeated exposure desensitized me to the embarrassment. My personal belief is that if you’re debating a course of action, and it falls into the following 4 criteria then you should stop dithering and just DO IT!
    1) it won’t harm you
    2) it won’t harm someone else
    3) it’s not illegal or has any other negative side effects not covered by the affor mentioned harm.
    4) it could potentially benefit you

    Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? You end up a little embarrassed? Will you really remember that a week from now, a month, a year? Weigh that against the danger of staying exactly the way you are and making no changes in your life. Would you really be happier a year from now if your life stayed exactly the same? If so, I’m impressed and will issue a standing dinner invitation – I will take you out to your favorite restaurant and ply you with food, alcohol and sweets so you will share the secret.

    Ramit – I can’t wait for the new Dream Job course to come out so I can join!

  341. avatar

    I started doing this after working as a bank teller. The people who are nice and treat you like a person really, really stand out from the ones who don’t. As a mom of several young children, it’s so nice to go out and interact with people rather than just ignore them or use them for their function (barista, cashier). It makes ME feel more human.

    Of the examples you gave, I’m least likely to start up a convo with another person in line. Going to up that this weekend.

  342. avatar

    Today I was at the liquor store buying a bottle wine and I asked the women at the checkout, if business has declined since the New Year (there were not many people in the store). She replied “we were busy about a half hour ago and business is still steady”. I noted that after I asked her the question, he demeanor changed, she was smiling more. Thanks for reminder to network!!

  343. avatar

    So there are two conversations I had since reading this with strangers. The first is where I asked a cute girl who sits next to me in class if I could get her notes each day for the rest of the class. We talked a little more which was mostly me complimenting her notes and a little small talk.
    The other, more interesting, conversation was not started by me, but did depend on me taking it up. I was walking home after the first class of a Drawing course and I had a big portfolio bag and a houseless man with a deceptively well trimmed beard and a big white lab with saddle bats asked me if I was an artist. At first I thought about ending it at “Yes.” But instead I told I was on my first day and we talked about drawing. He gave me advice about how to make drawing easier for me and how he used to draw book covers and some commissions. In fact he may just an artist that has a dog pack animal. The dog was happy and had a healthy amount of stuff to cary as did the man. It was nice and some of my favorite people to talk to are the homeless.

  344. avatar

    I’m what they call A Talker. I do know when to talk and when to keep my trap shut, but if I’m in a cab or in line or whatever I have no trouble chatting people up. Today I was surprised when a young woman in my barre class
    started chatting ME up (“That class last night was brutal!”), which was kind of awesome because I’m usually the person who starts up a conversation.

    Today I had a great conversation with the cabbie who drove me home from the grocery store – I mentioned that groceries had gotten noticeably more expensive in the last couple of months, and she suggested a few places I’d never been to where I could find great produce and meat in bulk. I doubt I’d ever had heard of these markets if I hadn’t struck up a conversation.

  345. avatar

    Since it is Friday, I found it easy to just ask, “Any plans for the weekend?” and got good results. Everyone had something they are looking forward to doing, even if it is just sleeping in.

  346. avatar

    Ramit, I’m already one of your students, but I’m pretty proud of myself this past week and it falls right in line with this post. I started up conversations with strangers this week – in another language! Mind you, they were short ones, since I’m not fluent, but I wanted to try at least attempting to speak another language rather than falling back on English and hoping they spoke it too. Everyone was really nice about it and wished me well on my future language skill improvements.

  347. avatar
    Jessica Epstein

    I’m a very sociable person and starting conversations with strangers is something I already do a fair bit of. So this assignment wasn’t too difficult for me–but I figured I’d best do it, and do it today, and comment about it, lest I be one of the lame-o’s you don’t want following you!

    Today I conversed with a few people while out in the city … rather than using my iPhone to direct me somewhere, as I usually do, I asked a couple of guys standing nearby for directions and we chatted a minute. At a store, I chatted with a girl who was looking for the same product I was, and we shared some “tips.” Nothing major happened, as in I didn’t make a new friend or get a new job offer, but it was invigorating to first of all have accepted and met the challenge, and secondly, to be reminded of how lovely it is to talk with strangers.

    Interestingly, I was thinking recently how I haven’t done enough random friendly chatting with strangers lately, and ought to “refresh” that habit. So thanks for the reminder.

    I have only been following your blog for a couple of months, and a lot of the things you’ve been talking about recently are things that I, through a combination of my nature and experience, have learned to do. I’m the type of person that sets goals and reaches them–even new year’s resolutions. I have systems. But, as a result of relocation and some lifestyle changes in recent times, some of my usually strong organization and systematic-ness has slipped, and I have been feeling less in control than I used to, and than I should. Pretty much every time I read one of your articles or watch one of your videos, I get reminded of something I am accustomed to do but have neglected for awhile.

    All that to say, thanks for being the angel in my inbox who gives me a kick in the pants. I don’t usually like anything “motivational” … but yours is motivation that works. So, thanks. Keep it coming.

    Looking forward to your next challenge. It will probably be more difficult for me than this one was, but that’s healthy and I love it.

  348. avatar

    I said to a guy at work that I didn’t know “I don’t think I know you.” Seemed simple enough. We exchanged names and he gave me advice on the courses I want to take that he just so happened to have taken already. And we had awesome lunches in matching Tupperware.

  349. avatar

    I was offered a job once as a waitress at a fancy place for people with lots of money. I declined. I was afraid of the rich fancy people. I didn’t think that I would be able to be personable or have anything to talk about with them (“so what’s being really rich like?”), and I was intimidated by their wealth. My coworkers said I was crazy for passing it up, the money was great and they said it was so easy. I just thought “they don’t get me, they don’t know that deep down I’m really shy.” And I was sure I had made the right decision. I was wrong.

    Later on, I took a job as a waitress in a much less intimidating place, mostly out of necessity, I wasn’t making enough at another position in the same place. I was still afraid that I would be an awkward mess in front of strangers. I didn’t have this insecurity with my new coworkers, all strangers! But add the element of people paying me for my service and friendliness? Game over. But I did it anyway. And yeah, it was awkward at first. I’d stumble over my words, laugh at weird times and not know what to say. I felt like I was just learning to be human after being a robot or something. It was a daily struggle for a good month, I would get all nervous as soon as I approached a table and felt like a spazz with sweaty palms. But I eventually turned to some good ol’ lines like “Beautiful day isn’t it?”, “how’s your book?”, “cool shoes/ring/whatever, where did you get it?”. Worked like a charm! I am a shy person but I am capable of talking to people I don’t know and making chit chat (when I feel like it), what paralyzed me was the fact that these people had to give me money! I’m glad I got over that fear, it was silly. And anyone who has been a waiter knows that what you get in tips may or may not have anything to do with what you say or how nice/polite/knowledgeable you are.

  350. avatar

    I tried two conversations – one was a friendly laugh at some elevator banter which pulled me into a conversation about the prospect of a twice baked quinoa potato. Sadly, I was quickly shunned, they wanted to continue with their won conversation. Awkward when you are in an elevator.

    The second was with an opening line of “It is hot in here,” which turned into a funny conversation about numerous scenarios people encounter in daily city life and how it can be hilarious to stumble through them.

  351. avatar

    I’ve actually been trying to talk to strangers more for about the past month so these stories may be cheating. A couple weeks ago while I was at a local craft brewery I saw a guy walk in wearing a shirt from a different craft brewery that had opened up only a few months ago. I went up and mentioned that I had been to that brewery as well, and we chatted about them for a few minutes. When the guy was getting ready to leave he came over to me and gave me his remaining beer tokens because I had made the effort to talk to him.

    Just yesterday while I was at a new bar that opened near me some people came up and asked if they could sit at the table with me and my friends. One of them was drinking a beer so I asked what he had. We talked about craft beer for a while. By the end of it the guy had told me of a few awesome places to get craft beer in my area as well as some unadvertised specials at those places.

    Just goes to show that people really make their own “luck”.

  352. avatar

    This is actually something I have no problem with, and I think it’s because I’m just insanely curious about everything and everyone. Just today, I saw a woman in the breakroom at work taking something out of the microwave that looked and smelled heavenly. And right away I had to ask: “What is that? It smells amazing!” It was a vegetable stir-fry she threw together for dinner the night before. So we started talking about what was in it, what spices she used, and all that other good stuff. So now I have a great new recipe to try out!

    Someone else pointed out that it’s all about asking questions, and I think that’s right. Ask questions, because honestly, people do like talking about themselves and are happy to open up when someone else seems interested in what’s going on with them. And generally, people love to help, too.

  353. avatar

    Done. How do you stay focus when the conversation is predictable and not stimulating or intersting?

  354. avatar

    I went to a bookstore after work and asked someone in the Science Fiction aisle if he had any favorite SciFi book he could recommend. So we talked for several minutes about his favorite books and compared notes.

  355. avatar

    I started up a conversation with my flamboyantly gay check out operator. He chatted away back to me. It lit up my day as he was soooo lovely and chatty. I now only want to go back to the supermarket when he is working and will wait in line longer to go in his que to talk to him I love him so much.

  356. avatar

    I talked with another customer while we were waiting to check out at a sporting goods store. She wound up giving me a $10 off $50 coupon that was about to expire so … BONUS!

  357. avatar

    I stuck with the easiest conversation which was: “Got any plans for this weekend?” to the ECO (read: Janitor) whom I talk to on a hey-we-both-exist-in-this-work-location-let’s-say-hello basis.
    Learned about his plan to go for a mani-pedi with his wife, brunch, and chiropractor appointment.
    It ended with the traditional “stay safe” and smile that usually crops up in our office on Fridays. But I *did* actually initiate the conversation as opposed to being passive. (It wasn’t a total stranger, but not someone I usually talk to, so I’m counting it as a win for right now.)

  358. avatar

    OK, so I took the bait, and it looks like I was not the only one…
    Spoke to a little girl about the color of her cup of gelato, so sweet! Does that count? … and also with a woman in an accessory store who wanted to know if I knew where to shop for a Kaftan, turns out I actually had three options for her, and she was so happy! Ended up that she was the owner of the shop I was in, and offered me an additional 5% discount on top of my trade discount! Yeah!
    Win, Win situation 🙂

  359. avatar

    Out shopping today, I struck up a conversation in each store. Used Ramit’s busy/quiet day line if I couldn’t think of anything else. It worked like a charm. But honestly, I’m a chatty person so it wasn’t too difficult. My problem is when it comes to talking to anyone I think of as a superior – bosses, clients, or profs. In those situation my usually natural ability to chat pretty much evaporates. As soon as there’s something at stake for me in a social interaction – it’s like my awkward switch gets flipped on.

  360. avatar

    I was living in a non-English speaking country for over a year and knew enough basic conversation to get by in shops and restaurants- so things were very functional and non-personal. Since I’ve been back home I’ve found it more difficult to make small talk because I was out of practice. In shops recently I’ve been trying to get back into it. I was in a fabric/craft shop and asked the shop assistant if she sewed and she said she didn’t but she wanted to learn. I then proceeded to tell her a little about teaching myself to sew. It made me feel good that I’d encouraged her to try a new hobby and I wasn’t standing there in awkward silence. I’m also going to a BBQ tomorrow where I only know one person so I’m going to talk to at least 2 other people.

  361. avatar

    I am working on the material you offer and appreciate it greatly. As for this assignment, it was easy – talking with strangers is not difficult for me, and I do it all the time. I think that you are at least partially wrong about pet owners – they talk so much about the pets because of their attachment to the pets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of human connections too. (I have tested this assertion informally.) People mostly enjoy talking about the things that are important to them. My extension of this challenge is finding and talking with people who can help me develop my earning strategies.

  362. avatar

    I started up a conversation with a clerk at one of my favorite stores. There was a much-advertised sale starting today, and I asked her if they had been busy. She responded positively and we talked about how the bad weather didn’t seem to affect their foot traffic the way it usually does, but the conversation didn’t really “go” anywhere. I felt really awkward and distracted, but after reading some of these comments, I can see how to do better next time. I used to think testing was simply making a plan and getting a result, but I’m seeing the role that “practice” plays.

  363. avatar


    Talk to a stranger. That’s our first test? Come on now kid. That’s not a test.

    I’m already a top performer. And I love the idea of you giving challenges to us. But let’s aim a bit higher.

    Let us have it. We can handle it. If we can’t we shouldn’t be on your list.


  364. avatar

    I work in high-end coffee, so I do this every day I’m behind the bar. There are times, though, when the conversation goes beyond “What are you in the mood for today/What’s your day hold for you?” and I end up in more in-depth conversations. Recently, I was chatting with a man who comes in after dropping off his daughter at school and ended up with a proposition to come in and speak with some of the jazz classes he teaches to at-risk youth in the area — specifically, to talk with nonwhite teen girls on how to exit the mire of appearances- and boy-based drama so they can get out of the negative spiral that so often occurs.

    Even if full conversations don’t occur, it’s really wonderful to be able to be perhaps the only person who asks someone how they are in a given day. For those commenters who said that “talking to strangers isn’t worth my time,” I say, stop being such an asshole. Being nice to other people is not only nice to other people, it’s also nice to yourself.

  365. avatar
    Irene Santos

    I talked to one of applicants who has experience in the industry I am trying to enter. I said Hi, smiled, and said its really freezing in the room and I introduced myself. after small talk she started to talk about her previous work experiences with other companies in the same industry. I notice though that she really wants to talk about her experiences to a novice like me because she keeps on interrupting me whenever I tried to switch to some other topics. Talking to her is one of the best decision, I learned that the industry is not what I wanted.

  366. avatar

    So, I had a go at starting a conversation with a woman I didn’t know this morning… We both were trying to walk around some cars and the drivers were being odd. She answered back in a friendly way but I learned something… I was so focused on finding something to say that I didn’t really take notice of the fact that she had her back to me. Better to start a conversation with someone facing you. Oops.

    I actually already use the script listed for checkout chicks (I think it must be boring for people working so good to show interest in their day) so when I go out later I am going to use that one again and notice if I can use it to get a smile on someone’s face at the supermarket. 🙂

  367. avatar

    I don’t have too much trouble talking to people I don’t know, but it’s also not as easy as I’d like it to be. I ended up asking an old lady I randomly passed on a park path an innocuous question about where she got her shih tzu, and somehow ended up privy to her daughter’s entire life story. My dad consistently has this sort of thing happen to him with old ladies in airports, so for anyone trying to pick a target demographic for social skills practice…

  368. avatar
    Joshua Valdez

    I actually already did this last night! I was heading out for Stanford’s senior pub nights and struck up a conversation with a cute girl I hadn’t met. I asked her what her plans were after graduation and she replied ‘find a job’. To which I asked, ‘does that mean, you know, cleaning toilets? because that is a job!’. She was pretty flustered and I almost went Ramit on her right then and there. Instead I’m going to take action and email her links to Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week and I Will Teach You To Be Rich right now.

  369. avatar

    Two ladies were talking outside of Starbucks in the the town I recently moved to (in Southern California). So few people meet and talk on the street, MUCH LESS WALK HERE !!
    BUT MOST people that came to get a coffee seemed to stop by and say hi to these ladies FIRST! It was unbelievable! When I finished my coffee I walked out I asked them if they were the ‘godmothers’ of the town and they started laughing! We took the conversation from there after I mentioned how popular they were and asked them for more information on how/where to meet people around here!

  370. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    You don’t need my permission to do more challenging tests. Do them and post them. My Brain Trust students do them every day.

  371. avatar

    Ramit, I actually caught on to one of your tips in “How do I stop being shy” video, and used it to strike up conversations with strangers, making every script to be a question about THEM. With that in mind, as well as taking note of the little hints they’d give out during our chat, helps me keep the conversation going. I never realised the extent to how people absolutely LOVE talking about themselves, until I used your tip. I managed to meet with many people from different types of industries that I believe could help me with what I would call my plans for “world domination”.

    I look forward to your next assignment.

  372. avatar


    I tested some new stuff today. Every time resulted in a short friendly chat – whenever:

    a) there was an obvious common factor (standing in the same shop/queue/bus, looking at the same thing, etc.)
    b) there was a convenient “third party” to comment about – their dog, a book they’re reading, whatever.
    c) I tested asking for help from people in the street: “Excuse me, can you tell me how to find….?” – they gave help if they were standing still, although they (understandably) seemed hassled if I spoke to them as they were walking.

    But one type of situation my tests NEVER WORKED! For example:

    1. While walking along the street I saw a cool, friendly-looking guy standing in front of a shop. I smiled and said “hi” as I passed and he looked at me with an icy frown as if I was harassing him.
    Later my “hi” with a smile to a girl at another table of the cafe met with a “get out of my space” reaction.
    The simple friendly unprovoked “hi” seemed to make people suspicious.

    2. I then tested random topics with attractive strangers in the street (“nice weather…”, “I like your coat/bag/whatever…”, “it’s crowded today…” etc.) and EVERY TIME was met with suspicion as if I was a weirdo.

    So when there’s no apparent reason to talk – for example walking along the street and seeing a cool/interesting/hot/nice person doing their own thing (walking in the opposite direction, standing at the intersection, sitting in a cafe, etc) I often felt as if I’m intruding into their space, hassling/stalking them.

    Given that these are the most common situations in which we see interesting strangers we’d like to meet, what to do?

  373. avatar
    Elizabeth Chen

    Ha, people use my baby to start conversations with me all the time as well! I’m Caucasian and my husband is Chinese, and we live in a Chinese community (in a suburb of Los Angeles). You wouldn’t believe how many Chinese people come up to me out of sheer curiosity about my “Asian-looking baby”, ha ha! XP

  374. avatar

    I was in an office waiting room and saw someone with a leatherbound book for holding portfolios of work or presentation materials. I asked her about it, and she grunted. In her 30’s, grunted. Okay, then.

  375. avatar

    The office next to mine has had workmen in all his week moving out office furniture and filing cabinets. I ran into a woman who works in the other office who I have said a polite hello to before, but never actually talked to. I asked her about the move and turns out she is in charge of the consolidation her office is currently under going. We discussed it for a bit, and I wished her luck with the move and a lovely weekend. All in all it was nice to get outside of my comfort zone – thanks for the assignment/encouragement!

  376. avatar

    I have found it difficult to strike up conversations with people all my life (I’m 27 years old). Naturally, my first reaction to this assignment was “Hell no, I can’t do this…I’m socially awkward”. Then I thought, “Why not?! “This is the biggest barrier I have and it has stopped me from living the life I want to live. If I conquer this, I conquer all”.
    So, I went out on my morning walk as usual but this time determined to have a conversation with someone. As I walked, I noticed a couple with a dog walking towards me.
    Me: “What kind of dog is that?
    Owner: “It’s a Golden Retriever”
    Me: “He is so cute” (looking at the dog)
    Owner: “Yes, he is” (smiling and looking at the dog)
    Me: Thank You. Have a great day
    Owner: Thank you
    I went on walking thinking “That wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be”
    I stopped at a Mexican Restaurant to order some food. Now, I’m the kind of customer that never greets anyone, I just get straight to the point of my visit. However, this morning I actually said Good Morning and ordered my food.
    As I grabbed my food I asked
    Me: “Is your co-worker off today’?
    Employee: “No, she will be coming in later”
    Me: “Oh, ok” ( This is the part where I forget how to speak Spanish)
    I want to tell him have a good day in Spanish. My first instinct is to say “bom dia” the Portuguese equivalent of “Good day” but I don’t (I have done this before and get weird looks). This all occurs in 10 seconds of awkward silence while I look at him. Finally, a Spanish word comes to mind and it’s “Gracias” which is Thank you. I grabbed my food and left.
    I’ll have to make this into a daily habit and maybe someday I would be able to say “I’m socially skilled”.

    Thank You, Ramit!

  377. avatar
    Zach h.

    I am also this type of person and was thrilled when the first challenge was something I already do. I attempted to do something courageous and outside my comfort zone. I tested an invisible script that I realized I have a few weeks ago and asked someone I respect and admire a few questions. We will see how this goes!

  378. avatar

    Detest shopping, so buzz in and out with blinders on. Today, stopped in grocery store and went through self-checkout. Had to get my change from the clerk. I looked her in the eye and smiled as I greeted her. (Don’t even remember what I said.) She returned my eye contact and smiled back. Not too surprising. But, she looked down as she counted my change and handed it to me, then made eye contact and smiled (as did I) as she bade me have a nice day, and I did her.

  379. avatar

    I coach youth basketball on a volunteer basis, I got to the gym early for practice and there was a guy cleaning the gym. It was really dumb and I probably looked like a complete ditz, but I was basically just like, wow these kids eat a lot of candy. And he replied with you think this is bad….the nights I clean the cafeteria I understand why all the kids your age are fat. (I was a bit taken off guard as I’m neither fat nor a kid – I’m 30, so I just laughed and said I bet.) Then we had a conversation about youth sports (he originally thought I was a high school basketball player trying to warm-up before the game).

  380. avatar

    There are a bunch of writers hanging out at the college I work for (MFA candidates). I asked a group of them what they’re working on, and why they chose this program. Some thoughtful responses.

  381. avatar
    Leslie Uhl

    What an awesome idea! I love it!
    After reading your post this morning, I made the effort go out and have a chat with our garbage man when he arrived (something I never do). I started by talking about the weather ( we had a huge snow/windstorm last night and this morning) and ended up letting him know how much I appreciated him being out in all weathers doing his job.
    Thanks! Look forward to the next challenge!

  382. avatar

    I feel very good about have found you. I know I’ll learn so much from you thank you

  383. avatar

    I was in the store today and randomly talked to three different people – one was a very pregnant lady with an awesome dress on. She obviously took the time to get Dressed even though she must have been 8 months pregnant and had two kids with her under 6. I complimented her on the awesome dress and she just lit up.

    I spoke with another woman in the cold medicine aisle that was looking for something that would work on her son (I eavesdropped a little first.) I asked her how old, and gave her a few recommendations to try since her son is just a bit older than mine and I’d just taken mine to the pediatrician for the same thing.

    Another woman I talked to had a baby in a stroller and I asked her how old he was. Turns out he was only six days older than my son so we discussed birth weight and other mom stuff in the elevator.

    I’m going to try and do this more often. At least once per outing. It’s a challenge for me since I’m introverted, but it’s also good for me to feel more comfortable making small talk with random people.

  384. avatar

    This woman at the grocery store asked me to help her read the spice bottles because she was looking for a specific blend (and apparently had trouble reading the bottles.) After finding it for her, I simply asked her if she had used that blend before in cooking and would she recommend it. This led to a 15 minute conversation about Martha Stewart and how to cook the perfect frittata. Easy as pie. 🙂 But I’ve never had a problem talking to strangers. I could probably talk to a brick wall lol. Still, I’ve read/done your stuff for awhile now and you always know what you’re talking about so I purposely did it anyway. Looking forward to the next challenge!

  385. avatar
    Akasha Stoecklin

    I love this post! I used to be terribly shy as a child and then, one day in high school, I decided to get over it and started talking to people everywhere about everything. But things got tricky when I moved to Latin America a few years ago and learned Spanish. Sparking up a conversation with a random stranger in a foreign language? Craziness. So I decided to do it in Spanish every day for a year. Every time I left the house, I looked for an opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone new. My favorite one was with a taxi driver in Nicaragua who was careening through traffic like other cars didn’t exist and like it wasn’t pouring down monsoon-like buckets of rain. When he almost hit a bicyclist, I told him and the other three strange people in the car with me (in Spanish) that we were all going to die and that the taxi driver was trying to kill both us and everyone else on the street. That made the driver laugh and got everyone talking. We had a great little conversation for about ten minutes.

    Now I’m ready to tackle the next language and ramp up the talking to anyone about anything skill to another level – a multilingual level. Such fun!

    Thanks for the great tips. Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us.

  386. avatar

    I was in Petsmart getting dog food when this woman came down the aisle with what had to be one of the ugliest dogs I’ve ever seen. Poor thing. It made me feel bad for him. As she came closer, I asked her what kind of dog he was. Her answer? She looked down at her dog, looked back at me and said, “I have no idea,” turned around and walked the other way. When I ran into her a little later, she wouldn’t even make eye contact with me.

  387. avatar

    I took a part-time job as a barista so I would have an excuse to talk to random people, with company-provided scripts to get me started. However, I still have a terrible time talking to people outside that context.

    Today, I caught up with a woman with whom I normally only exchange hellos and goodbyes. Without much else planned, I asked, “Mind if I walk with you?” She said no, and we continued to talk for a few minutes. We are going out for drinks tomorrow evening.

    This may qualify as the opposite of Eva’s cockblocking story above! Thanks Ramit!

  388. avatar
    Michael S

    I started up a conversation with a guy at the gym today. He was on one side of the room doing kung-fu on the heavy bag, I was on the side boxing. We nod to each other all the time but never really talk. They changed out the heavy bags to new lighter ones so I started up a conversation about it in between sets, thinking I’d spend my minute and a half break practicing like Ramit said to. Ended up being a 45 minute chat and he taught me the basics of kung-fu. Now I’m super badass 😛

  389. avatar
    edith russo

    I went to a wordpress meetup last night, first time to a meetup. dreaded driving downtown in rush hour and trying to find the place at night, but i eventually managed. Sat down next to a stranger and started a conversation about wordpress. felt pretty good, it was easy to keep the convo going since we both were interested in wordpress. and then, i was the first to volunteer to ask a question to the expert panel. i can’t believe i did that, normally i wait a few turns. it was kind of a relief too since i kind of stress out if i have to keep waiting, dreading when i finally have the chance to speak. of course, i wasn’t that eloquent, but i got my point across. thanks for reminding me that i’m stepping out of my comfort zone.

  390. avatar
    Michael S

    haha, maybe she was dog sitting and embarrassed. When i dog sit I make a joke out of not knowing a thing about the dog. That sucks though!

  391. avatar

    This has been a great day for me, test-wise.

    I was a bit nervous about this challenge at first. Actually, I was trying to think of a way to cheap out on this. Instead, I ended up striking conversations with 5 strangers.

    Although I had brought something I could have eaten for lunch to work today, instead I went to Subway to find some one I had never met before and talk to them. I hesitated, but struck up a conversation with a man and woman who were together, about how one liked things spicy, and the other not spicy, and a chemical that makes food spicy. This made me feel so confident. They seemed to enjoy the conversation just as much as I did.

    I then talked to the girl putting my sandwich together about overfilling subs and how to keep the toppings in. Later, I spoke to a co-worker I didn’t know during lunch. After work today at the gas station I spoke to a woman who had accidently locked herself out of her Fiat. She told me about how it was being rented by her insurance company in the mean-time as she was trying to find a new car. Someone ran a red light and wrecked her then-new car. We also talked a bit about buying cars altogether.

    I’m liking talking to other people so much now I want to test out different ways of making a conversation. Can I start a conversation with anyone about something off the wall? What kind of advice can I get from strangers? How many useful contacts will I be able to make?

    I’ve learned so much from testing. Testing is part of my job description, but what pleases me is where I can take testing on a personal level. I feel like a virtuoso. My wife loves to cook, but I almost always do the grocery shopping. Each time I go, along with the normal groceries on the list, I test getting at least one new item. She loves it, she’ll find new recipes using the item and I’ll know if we like it or not. My best finds have been in fresh vegetables, the olive bar, and international foods.

    I have also applied testing to other parts of my personal life, especially the relationship with my wife. For anyone who hasn’t thought of it, testing works wonders for sex. You’ll increase the pleasure of both yourself and your partner.

    Thanks Ramit.

  392. avatar

    Lately, I have been asking everyone I meet how their day is going. Often I get a good and that’s it. But a handful of people, longer conversations have ensued. I began sharing my new years experience with a woman working at a restaurant and she told me about her trip to Colorado. Another girl in the elevator showed me how cool her nail polish was. Another checkout girl started asking me about what I did and wound up chatting for a few minutes in which normally this would never happen.

    While all these events are pretty mundane, I’ve begun removing the invisible script that “I can’t talk to strangers because its weird” and replaced it with, “the people I meet would be happy to meet me.”

  393. avatar

    I started a conversation with the person sitting next to me on the plane. He was talking to a little boy seated next to him. I asked him if he was a teacher because he related to the little boy so well. Well I found out the person was a teacher at a private school, he uses comic books to teach his male students. He lives in a community home for teachers at the school as part of his teaching program. In exchange for doing so and agreeing to teacher at the school for 3 years, the school pays for his masters degree. I even gave him some tips we we talked about how to find a job. He has a friend who has been unemployed for several years. We even discussed our Myers Briggs score. He was surprised to find out that I am an introvert. He is a extrovert.

  394. avatar

    I was at school, walking down stairs to get lunch, and striked up a conversation with a teacher I had never met.

    “Hello! Windy day, isn’t it? What do you teach?”
    “Hii! I teach algebra 2 and geometry. My name is Mr. Nguyen.”
    “What is your major in?”

    Whoa. We saluted one another and walked away.
    I tried this again on another teacher and found out that she is a nuclear physicist, half-lives, uranium and all. Even scarier cool — and they’re normal looking people.

    A boost in brain confidence resulted.

  395. avatar
    Luisa Lopez

    I asked a new co worker what made him abandon his job and just live in a different culture. He said he was burnt out and needed a change in his life. I admired his courage and found his sense of adventure refreshing

  396. avatar
    Jonathan Andersen

    At McDonalds the woman working the counter asked, in a fast food cashier tone, “How are you?” I returned it with, “Good. How are you?”

    She seemed a little thrown off. And when I only ordered a small drink, she told me that I could have it for free since it wasn’t worth the trouble of ringing it up.

  397. avatar

    I bantered a little with the girl serving me lunch today, making various quips about the food. She really enjoyed it. It was fun.

  398. avatar

    I just started a new job so I had to get to know people and for me it’s just easier for people to come up to me to introduce themselves because there is one new name to learn versus I have about 60 new names to learn. But I signed up for the Negotiation course and I am being very gutsy in striking up conversations with new coworkers for the success of my career future. So I asked one of my coworkers what kind of work is she doing as I walked past her and she told me and we got into a conversation about some of her personal background and what brought her here to this company.

    I find that things are never as bad as you imagine them to be and I live with the motto that you regret more of things you didn’t do then you did do.

  399. avatar

    Yup, I did it….started a conversation with a random person. Since its something that’s a little more natural to me, I more proud of myself for actually leaving a comment about it. I began the conversation with, “Is that the galaxy note?.” If anyones seen those things, they’re HUGE. Me, being the andriod person I am just had to inquire about it. All in all I got some pretty useful information about the phone. I guess social skills builds into creating positve relationships. I never have a problem with initiating an interaction through conversation, its more so maintaining that relationship. I just feel like after a while things just get old and the couldn’t get enough of conversation you had the first time, isn’t going to be the same the third or fourth go round. Then, I just start to feel intrusive and I completely shut down. Treating that person as if I never spoken to them before, which of course make the situation even more awkward. Then, I just completely avoid the situation at all costs, giving only partial smile and very sutle waving gestures. My goal is maintain whatever chemistry that’s created during my first encounter with people I speaking with. Hope I didn’t ramble too much…
    Please excuse all spelling and gramatical errors, too lazy to edit.

  400. avatar

    As I stepped into the elevator this morning, while peeling a grapefruit to eat, the woman already in the elevator said “oh man, that smells good” to which I replied “yep, I have one every day, the red ones are the sweetest.” She said “hmm, I never knew that, I thought they were all sour and gross? You learn something every day!”

    In a normal situation I would have said as little as possible.

  401. avatar

    Did it! Asked a random question to the department store worker. Got a look of surprise right away and then had a hard time bringing an end to the conversation to leave the store. Maybe this works too good some times!

  402. avatar

    I start random conversations with people all the time. I have found out so much – everybody has something to teach you. I have heard about family members who got murdered, how people overcame diabetes, life in Columbia, good work (positively inspired!) in Uganda, and whether it will rain tomorrow. It’s just the most wonderful thing to connect with other human beings and to discover that 99% of them are funny, entertaining, kind and considerate.

  403. avatar

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    You did it, Ramit. You got me to actually take action AND comment on it.
    I truly dislike talking with people…or atleast I thought I did.
    I chatted up the checkout woman at the grocery store during my lunch hour. We had a nice little chat about how busy the store was. Then, I went back to work and just chatted up everyone that happened by. I found out so much about the people I work with everyday.
    Thanks for the assignment!
    I hope to continue talking with folks – known and new.

  404. avatar
    Jeff Waechter

    While sitting at the Marriott in Denver waiting to head to the airport, I heard a man asking about how to determine if he is missing stays on his account to the staff. I politely informed him a fast way is to review his folios an make sure his account is attached to his receipts. After a couple of mins talking, I found out he is a Ref for the NFL in Denver for the upcoming playoff game. Our discussion was short lived as other Refs started to arrive and he joined in football ruling speak.

  405. avatar

    I find there is nothing like a compliment to start a conversation. I complemented both a woman and a man on their shoes today, at different times of course, and received genuine appreciation and conversation.

  406. avatar

    I work at a jewelry store, and this guy came in browsing the watches. i looked him in the eyes, smiled and asked him what he thought of this new watch we got in. he took a look and said it looked decent, then proceeded to tell me what he really liked. we didnt have that brand but he still looked at what we had. sometimes it results in a sale, sometimes not…

  407. avatar
    Jason Brenizer

    I went to the Transmedia Austin monthly mixer at ChannelAustin Studios (which, I learned, is the longest continuously running public access TV station in the world). I met several new people, but I’d like to tell you about Anu.

    She’s originally from Madras, India, lived in Canada for a while and now lives in Illinois. She is in Austin to learn about a new passion for her – filmmaking – at Austin Film School. She has recently published a novel called Finger Puppets in India through Harper Collins, and chose to self publish in the U.S.

    I’m halfway through writing a novel (which I started back in November) and I’m a filmmaker, so we had a lot to talk about. Soon she will be reading for the audio book and I was able to give her some pointers on voice warmups and technique, since I also have experience acting for film and voice over.

    Before handing over my business card, as our conversation wound down, I wrote the following on the back:
    WHY – Novels, audio books, filmmaking
    WHEN – Jan. 11, 2013
    WHERE – ChannelAustin, Austin Transmedia mixer

    I recently started doing this and it has helped me to better remember new people. I’ve been told by a few recipients that writing on the card feels more personal.

    I almost didn’t go because a couple hours earlier I pulled a hamstring doing yoga (Triangle Pose of all things) and ended up sitting on a bag of ice, moping. But I can say I feel a stronger sense of well being having gone to the mixer. Elevated.

    I’m about to refill the bag and go for another RICE session – Rest Ice Compression Elevation.

    Just because my body says NO doesn’t mean I have to do what it says.

    Thanks Ramit for the challenge!

  408. avatar

    I was at a garage waiting for my tires to be fixed and started talking to another customer waiting, unfortunately, I don’t remember who started talking to whom, but we ended up having a really interesting conversation that even got to a book that I was reading (what every body is saying by Joe Navarro, former FBI agent) that she had read also. A great conversation with a complete stranger- I used to be extremely shy as a kid, and have worked on improving my people skills, but I have never had a great experience like that before.

  409. avatar

    I was getting TWO duplicate office door keys made today. I told the hardware store guy that yesterday I had an 84 yr old friend on my massage table waiting for me as I used the restroom, outside the office, in the hall to change clothes before giving the massage. I locked myself OUT of the office. After knocking forever, my poor client opened the door for me, all wrapped up in the massage table blanket. OMG! I was so embarrassed. Hence the spare keys! Not one spare, but TWO. Mr Hardware Store wasn’t sure what to think, I laughed (at myself) some more, and he finally cracked a smile. I feel like an actress when I do this because I am such an introvert AND it feels good to make someone else laugh or smile.

  410. avatar

    I’m almost always talking to new people in my line of work (healthcare, ER specifically), and the fun part about that is people have some of the most spectacular stories, good, bad and ugly. Today I talked to a woman who moved back South after spending most of the past 20 years in PA (near Penn State). So I asked her about the whole Paterno/Sandusky mess and she said that she was actually on camera after the sentencing, being asked what she thought about it as parent. So then I asked her if she moved back home to get away from all that, to which she responded, “No, I moved back because my husband moved in with his girlfriend.”

  411. avatar

    I sparked up a short conversation with a check-out clerk at Costco. I asked her if it was busier this time of year-as it was following the holidays. She responded with a smile and a laugh replying that it was indeed-especially the last two weeks. I didn’t have many items to purchase so our interaction was brief but i am glad i took the challenge.

  412. avatar

    I went to meet the mailman at my mailbox and it was a new guy. My dog started barking at him and I smiled at him and said (after quieting the dog), “Just another ferocious beast on your route, huh?” He smiled and told me that it’s not a problem, he’s handled worse and then drove to the next box. I think I might have to try and get a story out of him next time! Who knows, he might have been an Irish bare knuckle boxer or something!

  413. avatar
    Rachel Stelter

    Went to a yoga class tonight and made a point to get there a few minutes early. Complemented one of the other girls on her cool tie-dye leggings and we started chatting. I’m totally not someone who usually talks to random people, because I always use some sort of script like, ” i just don’t care that much…I’m never going to see them again.” But I know I need to force myself to be more outgoing because social people have better networks and quite frankly enjoy life a little bit more. It was great practice getting over that initial, “meh, why bother making the effort” and reaching out to someone, and also taking a genuine interest in someone new.

  414. avatar

    Have you ever intentionally distracted yourself in public to avoid talking to other people? Can you imagine walking onto the train or bus to find everyone on board looking up with a smile to greet you?

    Spending plenty of time each day on public transit, I know most people stay preoccupied by listening to music, reading a book, talking/texting, sleeping, or looking out the window. I once watched a man take out his laptop to watch a movie for the five minutes he was on the train. I understand that people are bored on public transit, so I don’t blame. However, I’d rather stay engaged with the people around me. As a result, I often end up chatting with strangers. Because I like to stay completely aware of my surroundings, I prefer not to listen to music or read. I attempt to make eye contact with anyone that comes on the train. Most people try to ignore everyone else, and won’t ever notice my effort. For those that are socially engaged, mutual eye contact is a potential spark for conversation. It’s very important to think about the look on your face when attempting to make eye contact. Eyes can smile or frown depending on what you are thinking about. Make sure you have smiling eyes when making eye contact with anyone, otherwise you may intimidate. If that person is feeling good, you may get a real smile in return, in which case you can smile too. It always makes me happy to exchange a big smile with a stranger, even if that is as far as it goes.

    You never know when a stranger needs someone to talk to or needs to ask directions. By staying aware, keeping friendly eyes, and smiling back, you are letting that person know you are approachable. I only start up a conversation with someone if I get all positive initial responses and if there is actually something to talk about. When there is nothing to talk or laugh about the first day, establishing friendliness in the beginning might lead to easy conversation another day. In this way, among the hundreds of people I run into every single day, one or two might actually talk to me. Sometimes it’s a brief comment about the weather or something random, while other times I end up learning something, networking with someone in my field, or simply listening to someone talk about their day.

    Connect with your community! It’s part of being human.

  415. avatar

    OK, I’ll bite on this one.

    I’m constantly getting picked on by co-workers because, as Ramit succinctly put it, I’m their Nuclear Weapon. The fun part about my line of work that is that I’m always meeting new people, all of whom have some of the most spectacular stories… good, bad and ugly. Today I talked to a woman who moved back South after spending most of the past 20 years in PA (near Penn State). Asked her about the whole Paterno/Sandusky mess and she said that she was actually on camera after the sentencing, being asked what she thought about it as parent. So then I asked her if she moved back home to get away from all that, to which she responded, “No, I moved back because my husband moved in with his girlfriend.”

  416. avatar

    I was sitting at a sushi bar with my man at this new place I’d not been to before and there were two dudes next to us drinking beers and having a great time. The conversation happened so naturally that I don’t even remember what started it, to be honest. One of the dudes has been going to that same sushi spot for 15 years so he was telling us what to order, etc. The sushi place is in Huntington Beach (where my man just moved) but the guy lives in LA (where I live) and drives out to HB just to eat at this place! We chatted about our travel experiences and how much more fun it is to travel and immerse in the culture as opposed to doing the super touristy thing. We also talked about fishing as this dude loves to fish and my man just got his fishing license.
    I have to admit that when I read today’s email I thought to myself that this “test” was silly for me because I’ve never had trouble talking with people, strangers or not. But I realized that a person can always improve himself, regardless of how good he is at something. And then, out of nowhere a conversation bloomed and at the end of it I turned to my man and said, “well shucks, now I have something to write about on IWT!”

  417. avatar

    Talking to new people is something I really enjoy- all the more so, since I started chatting to this random guy a few years ago. We are still chatting, but he is no longer that random as we have been together for almost four years now!

  418. avatar

    I feel like I almost have an unfair advantage: I work customer service at the local fast food. Even more so, I’m good at it. My store is located right off the freeway, so we have our regulars, but tons of people come through that I’ll never see again in my life.

    After a gentleman stood looking at his receipt, food in hand, I asked him if there was something wrong. We had a good five minute discussion on sales tax, his town vs the town that I work in. Nice fellow.

    I also had no problem asking the young clerk about his career goals when I went to the store after work.

  419. avatar

    So Ramit, I took your advice and struck up a conversation with someone new. The person I selected? A homeless man. Our conversation was filled with just about everything you should never discuss with a stranger. He talked about his horribly racist thoughts and how he personally feels discriminated against as a white man, how his last relationship ended, politics, and how he would rather be alone than date a fat woman. And there you have it! Perhaps my next lesson should be in “learning to select a stranger”.

  420. avatar

    being overweight with a robust body shape often makes me feel isolated and social awkward but i try to engage other people in brief conversations when i encounter them at bus stops or while riding the bus and that is how i learned to crochet one day
    i was very curious on how to do the craft of crochet because the LEARN IT or DIY books were not cutting it for me and it felt like a different language even with pictures to guide me it was of no use
    one day sitting at a bus stop i was watching an older lady just crocheting away with her hook waving back and forth in a dizzying rhythm and i moved closer and finally had the courage to ask her how she was doing that with her crochet hook—-to my amazement this older woman took apart all that she had worked on while i was watching her and she started over with a slow demonstration explaining everything she was doing until our separate buses arrived
    and that is how i learned to crochet in a brief time while waiting for a bus and a kind stranger willing to take the time

  421. avatar

    I’m the life of the party around my friends but I must seem like the shyest person around new people. Lucky for me, I get to step outside of my comfort zone every sunday. I attend a multicultural, multigenerational church with 300-600 people on any given week. Before the sermon starts, we are given 5-10 minutes to strike up a conversation with someone new. I can go through the pleasantries just fine but I get stuck keeping the conversation going if it stalls. It’s easier with a talker; I just listen and ask questions. Also, if I find someone that I have a connection with (possible friendship), I don’t know how to seal the deal. So I’m meeting all these new people but aren’t converting them into real relationships. What do you do when you can start the conversation but can’t finish it?

  422. avatar

    This afternoon I was grabbing tea at one of the grocery stores in my hometown and got to chatting with an employee about the store layout, the ability to buy booze at grocery stores in different states, and other random food-related topics. By the time the conversation was over, my tea was ready and te friend I was meeting had arrived.

  423. avatar
    Anna Karena

    I struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to me at a musical called Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It went just fine and this is an area of my life I don’t struggle with. Whew at least one area.

  424. avatar
    Jaclyn Norton

    Hey Ramit – I started a conversation with this fabulous older English woman at a cafe by my house today. She was drinking this delicious looking coffee in a big, clear mug, and before remembering this post I blurted out “excuse me…but WHAT is that?” This led into a whole other conversation about her flat white coffee, and how all those glasses spare that one broke, but the cafe saved that one for her daily coffee in. I was pretty satisfied when I realized moments later this was my “Ramit challenge” for the day.

    Another time I started a conversation with someone I didn’t know was in fact with you, when you and Chase Jarvis were at the Bravehorse Tavern in Seattle over the summer. You’re initial reaction to my polite interruption was asking “why did you pierce your nose on that side.” The conversation obviously panned out much differently than the above one, and I will admit the initial approach here was much more nerve-wracking. But, both conversations were well worth the reaching out.

  425. avatar

    I talk to people a lot, and have always had a pretty easy time with starting up conversations with strangers.

    However one of the things I’ve had to work on lately is talking to my fitness classes while they’re panting and sweating. While I’m walking around correcting form, people don’t want to hear just about posture and which muscles they’re working, I also have to be able to entertain them a bit, and build rapport through my stories. It’s been a real learning curve. It’s hard to know what engages people when they’re not able to respond verbally.

    But the good thing about doing this? I have a really high rate of people coming to me after class to book me for personal training, because they LIKE me.

  426. avatar
    Joe K

    At work today, I asked an ER nurse holding a large needle and syringe where she was planning on using it. ER nurses have great senses of humor.

  427. avatar

    Great.. this test often works very good with me.. wherever i go.. i do start a conversation with my neighbor ! And it always turns out helpful.
    The very recent one…
    I had been to a walkin drive for interview of a Giant IT company, hundreds of candidates came from long way. I cleared the first two rounds and was made to sit in different room with people with similar status. Only 15 people in the room and waiting for hours for next round. I was so bored to even sleep !
    I started a conversation with a candidate next to me over the field that he had experience on and Ghosh…we went on to discuss over the field, company, experience, work culture, future prospects about our domain knowledge and on on. And now we ended up with a connection on Linkedin.. this surely can turn out to be positive for future growth, right ?
    The conversation was healthy and I felt more confident to clear the next round and get selected !
    All the best ..

  428. avatar

    I started a conversation with an artisan chocolate maker at her store/factory.

    I simply asked her where she came from. When she responded she had lived in 4 countries, I asked in which country she learned to make chocolate. I then learned this was her fourth career over her lifetime – of completely different careers from chemist to fashion designer.

    It was a fascinating conversation and enriched me and inspired others who over heard it. It created a nice bond … she gave me more chocolate and I offered to contact some media sources to help her publicise her intriguing business and life story.

  429. avatar

    I read this email then a coworker I have only seen around here and there sat next to me in the downstairs lobby. I cheated, Ramit, and I picked a different topic (does that still count?) and since it’s Friday, I asked about weekend plans.
    So then, like all other Southern Californians, his plans consist of watching sports over the weekend. Sports is a great topic, isn’t it? I mean, so long as you can actually carry on a conversation I suppose, and so long as the conversation welcomes it. So now I have a new work buddy who came to say hi at my cubicle later and also some new skills I can utilize in really any situation. This is why you’re my buddy I’ve never met, Ramit, always looking out for me because I don’t know how to do it myself.

  430. avatar
    Karl Stelter

    This used to be one of my most biggest problem areas coming out of college, and 3 years later with a lot of dedicated work (and equally awkward conversations) I’ve gotten to the point where I can confidently navigate through a conversation with someone I don’t know. In fact, I’m in negotiations to book some freelance videography work for one of the couple’s my wife and I met on our honeymoon – and we talked business once for 5 minutes at the end of a 7 day cruise. It’s a skill that is SO valuable and pays off like crazy.

    My advice: learn to take a genuine interest in the other person, and find how you can help them.

    Today I applied that on a visit to my bank to automate my business checking to pay my business credit card in full every month (your book is the ONLY finance book I’ve ever read that got me EXCITED to clean up the way I tracked / take care of my finances – a big, BIG thank you for that) and as we started talking I found that he was planning on starting a national, non-profit, extracurricular music center for kids in 6-12th grade – particularly those in not the best family situations.

    As I kept asking about it, what instrument he played, how he came about this idea, we came up with another idea: ‘what if at the end of the program in 12th grade each kid was involved in a music video they either wrote, scored, played, whatever’. He loved the idea – and wants to keep in touch for promotional material for the end of this year.

    Note: I know you like to give non-profits shit for not wanting to pay, but I’m not afraid to tell him we’re not a good match if it comes to that, and can always refer him to someone who would appreciate the rec. Bottom line: he’s a good hearted guy who I enjoyed getting to know. Plus he’s my banker, so, that helps.

  431. avatar

    I rock climb three times a week and normally keep to myself. I asked a guy in the gym if he climbs alot and which locations he likes. It was awkward the entire time and so I changed the topic to asking him how to climb a particular route.

    Challenge accepted by Ramit; did it but failed miserably.

    Learned: I suck at talking to strangers and need to improve my social skills.

    On a side note, I was talking to my climbing partner about my finding an internship in accounting (right before leaving the gym) and a guy joined in and gave me tips; got his contact info and have a reminder to call him to ask for a coffee question session (I think he does what I want to, just with government instead of private accounting).

  432. avatar

    I actually spoke to the checker at the grocery today (I rarely talk to people I don’t know). She had the line closest to the door and I noticed she was wearing a heavy coat. I told her she must have drawn the short straw today to get that line since there was a blast of cold air every time the door opened. She laughed and smiled and wished me a good day. It was not hard at all and I am looking forward to trying this in other situations. Thanks Ramit.

  433. avatar

    met a new guy at a meeting that gathers once a month, learned what he does and lives for. got the means to keep in touch when occasion arises.

  434. avatar

    I met a stranger at a church group tonight, struck up a conversation, ended up talking about music and its relation to the spiritual life. Come on, son!

  435. avatar
    Dariel Dato-on

    Struck up a couple conversations at a bookstore and in the elevator. Found that most people are actually more than willing to entertain a conversation. However, they are always waiting for the other person to speak first.

  436. avatar

    I really never have an issue talking to strangers. I am the person that smiles and says hi to everyone if they make eye contact with me. I still tried this assignment though to a Target cashier and it worked! I used to work in retail and asking number 5 works every time. It just starts a conversation and it gets them to open up. I hope everyone had a great time trying the assignment!

  437. avatar

    I just came out of a taxi. I am an introvert but have learned to be more at ease talking to strangers from my husband. I now talk to taxi drivers all the time and had a great time. The ice breaker was him commenting how nice the guy was opening the taxi door for me. I still hear myself sometimes saying don’t freak these poor guys out by speaking too frankly. I take their questions as cue to continue. It was a blast. I will have to start talking to more random people though I often talk to food court aunties, restaurant wait staff, and people generally looking lost. Learning to talk to different people has really helped me come out of my hermit world. Thanks!

  438. avatar

    My hubby and I had breakfast out this morning at a coffee shop in a different part of town. I struck up a conversation with the two guys on the table next to us by asking if there was anything interesting in the newspapers they were reading. We ended up getting a great run-down on where to shopping and a recommendation for a book shop and art supplies close by. I’m challenging myself to do this more often. Thanks Ramit

  439. avatar

    Not easy to meet a stranger in a small village where you know everyone.
    Anyway, I went to the butcher and there was already a conversation about glasses. I joined it and it ended in a series of jokes. That was fun.
    I still think I bombed it because I didn’t actually start a conversation with a stranger. I’ll try again.

  440. avatar

    I didn’t do it. Nor will I, because you told me to. Why? People are different and I have no problem doing that. Sometimes, I have long and nice chats on the busy with elderly people (I love elderly people, they always have a lot to teach!), sometimes I have chats with not-so-busy people at stores. It is nice, I like it and I am not bad at all with people!

    Nevertheless, two things I loved reading in your post. “TEST IT!” and “You need to TAKE ACTION!”. I am in the middle of doing that in an important area of my life. Reading it made me smile, and reminded me that I am doing the right thing (as at least, I will learn something new). Hey, some people can’t talk to strangers, some people need some kind of reassurance from time to time!

  441. avatar

    Started a conversation with a old gentelman from a different ethnic culture last weekend in a dodgy area of the province I live in.

    Long story short, we were driving to a destination, scouting out a running rout anlong a sectoun of coast which required us to enter a very poverty stricken area. In places like this, gangsters etc thrive. So I was on cautious mode, especially having my 4 year old son with me.

    Anyway, we all get out the car to eat lunch at a community picnick spot. Think dirty, the locals hanging out by their cars playing loud music etc and we looked right out of place. Got tons of surprized stares.

    Relaxed a bit after a while and watched how the locals interacted with eachother and families.
    Watched an old man take his grand daughter to play on the swing, soon my four year old was running behind her to join in. Kids don’t see prejudice, it’s a beautiful thing. Anyway I chirped up to start the conversation with this old guy about the energy that youngsters have, and how I can barely keep up.
    This old man who I have no cultural common relevance to laughed and we both related to my point.

    We went on to chat about how kids these days know so much about technology, how his 5 year old grandaughter was showing him how to use his old cellphone and had such a laugh. We talked about the old South Africa and how in his family dynamics were so different than the current generation and it was really a respectful lovely conversation in which I learned so much.

    In the end, his grand daughter ran off and he greated me, some 27 year old white girl, out of place, and followed his grand daughters whims.

    I marvalled at that experience and felt very inriched.

    Cape Town
    South Africa

  442. avatar

    I am an RN so communication is important when re-assuring people having procedures, I am pretty OK with small talk. I am in the process of returning to the US after working in Europe for the last 7 years so my challenge at the moment is to find a position anywhere in the USA as most medical facilities are reluctant to hire anyone who has not worked in the states in the last 12 months. My networking skills are not what they could be but I am getting responses to phone calls and e-mails and my resume is now moving about between agencies. Just received an e-mail from another agency this morning, who WOULD LOVE to help me!

  443. avatar

    I went door to door around my neighborhood to find the owner of a cute stray dog. Struck up several conversations – but more importantly, I took my children and several of the neighborhood children too. It’s important to teach children how to communicate and/or for what they want in an intelligent, polite and effective manner.

    Then, the next day, this girl must have read your blog because as she was walking in the hall outside of our office, she stopped me and introduced herself, etc.

  444. avatar

    On Tuesday, I went to a ToastMasters club meeting. I met several members. I went because I wanted to get some practice at interviewing, and I dressed the part. It just so happens that the only talk that day was on interviewing. It reinforced what I knew, and it gave me the encouragement to give an impromtu speech on New Year’s goals. I don’t really do the resolution thing, but I was most grateful for the timeliness of the talk and the extra input I got on my trimmed down one page resume and on point cover letter.
    Later in the week, I negotiated with an online salesperson for a refund on a service that I had purchased. It was a poorly researched purchase, and once I admitted that to myself, I had to move quickly to ask for a refund.As I calmly pointed out the poor service and situation to the owner, it became clear that I was not to be dismissed. What I liked most was that I didn’t really get upset, even though it was not something that I was happy about.
    The result of the two conversations was that it helped me to focus more and that’s great!

  445. avatar

    Was sitting on the riverbank when a random guy came up to me and acknowledge my pretty dress.

    Usually in these situations, I do the polite thank you and shut the conversation down.

    However, this time just let the conversation roll. It was weird and we talked on the most randomest of topics. It went for a whole hour.

    What I found fascinating was that I asked him his name within the first 3 – 4 sentences, but he never asked me for mine.

  446. avatar

    I’ve been out at a bar and noticed 2 ladies sitting on chairs behind the actual raw of bar chairs. Seemed as if they opened their own stand or something so I told them just that and was invited to join them so the new stand will grow 🙂

    I did, and after 5 minutes of conversation I actually got the number from one of them… Must say it felt AWESOME!.

  447. avatar

    After reading the post I was all fired up and ready to take action! So I wandered down to my local corner shop to buy a newspaper and, seeing that there were no other customers around, simply said “how’s your day going? Looks fairly quiet” to the lady behind the counter. This lead to a twenty minute conversation about quiet days, busy days, interesting customers, where we both lived, my job, how the lady came to be the shop manager… All sorts!

    Fresh from what felt like quite a big achievement (I’ve lived here eight years and never really talked to anyone in the shop) I went off on a training course and from talking to several other delegates found a lady who manages a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation service – an area I’m interested in working in. Thinking of all Ramit’s other advice I’ve never followed, I offered to buy her a coffee or lunch to talk about her job, expressing my interest. She was having none of it… She invited me to her office for a coffee instead so we could have a proper discussion, and I’d be able to have a look around the clinic, talk to her colleagues and really get a good idea of what roles I might like to pursue. Not bad!

  448. avatar

    The awesome thing about this skill is that it reminds you “everyone has a story.”
    I struck up a conversation with a cabbie who was incredibly well-dressed (shirt and tie, very well groomed,spotless cab…) – he gave me his thoughts about customer service and taking pride in one’s appearance, especially at work.

    Absolutely worth getting out of my comfort zone for.


  449. avatar

    I started up a conversion with the mum next to me when our kids were in their swimming lesson. I am particularly pleased (yes, my bar was was low) because I did it more than once and with two different people. It wasn’t a great success as the conversation petered out pretty quickly, but as it is a weekly thing so we’ll have the chance again next week.

  450. avatar

    I decided to officially meet the people who work at the cafe/coffeeshop on the same block as my house that I visit about 2-3 times a week. I see the same folks every time I’m in there, but don’t know their names. So I said, “I’m in here a lot and see you a lot, but I don’t know your name. I’m Jeanne, nice you meet you.” She said she was Anna and asked if I knew about their punch card since I’m in there all the time. Turns out you get a punch for every purchase over $5 and when you reach 10 punches you get $5 free to spend. Now I can say good morning to Anna and get some perks for my spending there. Good stuff.

  451. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    HA I remember you

  452. avatar

    I can talk to anybody from 2 to 102. Ramit’s advice is spot on and it is a great skill to have. Two things to do that might help especially if your really nervous:

    1. Choose someone 10 + years older then you. Older people are use to being ignored by younger folks and they are eager to chat. If your 20, try someone 40 +. If your 40, try someone 60+. I do this all the time and learn a lot in the process.
    2. Instead of thinking about what you are going to say, after you use one of Ramit’s icebreakers, listen and keep asking questions. People love talking about themselves and will be happy to talk to someone so interested in them.

    Good luck everyone. Now I’m off to the coffee shop and I’m going to chat everybody up.

  453. avatar

    I introduced myself to a new consultant at work. Like a dork, I couldn’t pronounce his 20+ syllable name. But he was cool about it, laughed and said, “Just call me Dean.” It turns out he’s from Chicago, one of my all-time favorite cities.

  454. avatar

    Before the actual conversation, I called this bassist who I really wanted to work with on a gig, but had never had the guts to call him. I was super happy I finally worked up the nerve to do it. Then at the gig, on our first break, I just went up and asked him, “Have you been working much around town lately?” Turns out he’s incredibly easy to talk to, and we really enjoyed playing together. I’ll be calling him again.

  455. avatar

    I found that I can start a conversation, carry it, but my ending leave much to be desired.

    Spoke with a woman at the Whole Foods Store about the vitamin supplment she was purchasing. Conversation opener was easy since, she educated me on the suppliment and why she chose it. However, I found that as the conversation drew to an end, it was difficult for me to say “thanks for the information consider it next time I have purchase more XXXX. Have a nice day” and leave. It seems like if I left, I was rejecting her…but as the person who started the conversation, isn’t it my responsibility to end it? Anyway, the awkward silence ensued and then we both just ended up say bye and waving awkwardly.

  456. avatar

    I’ve literally thrown myself into a completely different direction of work towards the end of last year. After a few months of gearing up to 20 days or so of “super split-second friends” at the Olympics in London, I’ve shifted over to working in a gym as I want to be a PT of sorts, but knew my social skills sucked (i.e. I’d say Hi…I mean: smile a quick smile then avoid eye contact if they weren’t interested) so where I am at the moment they have this thing called “Every Member Every Time”…to be honest I still crap my pants after a break when I see that on my shift. I have to go out on the gym floor and TALK to people (cue: HOLY F***). Coaching I can do easily, small talk makes me twitch.

    But this week gone I decided enough is enough, and had this written in my internal mirror (you know that mirror in your bathroom you look into in the morning, whilst grasping its sides saying, “C’MON!!!!” or whatever): “I know my sh**, you don’t. You will listen to me. And if you do, You will answer my questions”.

    Just from that change alone I’ve found it way easier to talk to everyone and now actually say “hello” to people and LOOK AT THEM. (It feels awkward as hell, but sometimes they’ll actually turn around and proceed to ask me something).

    As an aside, I decided to take your e-mail on board even more so and tackle talking to people in uncomfortable public transport. On the bus it’s an epic minefield of avoiding everyone’s eyes and shoulders, and (smelly) armpits and not letting your newspaper, book, or kindle touch anyone else – whilst you’re crammed in like sardines.

    An old lady came on looking for a place to sit who’d clearly been caught in the 2 minutes of WTF rain that dropped its mess all over the place. I offered her my seat and she said, “no thank you. It’s been a rotten old day, I wouldn’t want to make the seat wet”. I asked her why her day was rotten. Old people have some awesome stories about them.

    She then asked my name and proceeded to ask me where it was from, how I didn’t sound remotely like I was from there and how her and her husband lived not far from where I was born….when I was born. o_O

  457. avatar

    Since college, I have noticed that my “swagga” as such has declined significantly. Specifically with being able to fluently introduce myself and start conversations in a non-business environment. I feel that I excel at this in more formal settings but wish to reinstate the big man on campus feel that I lost after moving to a new city.

    Last night I went to a wine tasting where people from several walks of life gathered. As per your advice I took it as a game and made it a point to introduce myself to at least 3 people one of which had to be a circle of girls (the most treacherousness groups for a young single male to approach). While introducing myself to old males was relatively easy, I started discovering my own hidden scripts surrounding women my age. “They are probably busy and don’t want to be disturbed.” “They arent looking for a random person to say hi to” or “they will just think I am trying to hit on them”

    Thinking back to your past emails I shrugged this off with another glass or 2 and went for it. I am happy to say I connected with a group of ladies in a similar industry and had several rewarding conversations once the initial awkward period was past. I encourage those of you at similar events to try the “so which wine was your favorite” line. Though it was not super suave, it certainly worked for me.

  458. avatar

    Good point, Denise. I concur. And an important thing to remember, a good conversation/chat/discussion is about listening, not being a chatterbox. So, icebreakers are good to start, but then keep listening and you may win a friend in a longer run.

  459. avatar
    Diana R.

    I noticed a fantastic chalk drawing on the board at a cafe and told the cashier how much I liked it. She turned out to be the manager and was happy to tell me about how she looks for artistic talents when hiring. One of her staff members is the chalk artist and another sings while working. It was pleasant to chat a little while picking up my latte. (Thanks, Ramit, for telling me that it’s OK to buy lattes and focus on big wins! And I’m looking forward to your megapost.)

  460. avatar

    I’m not sure if this is cheating, but after reading your challenge, I realized that I did it earlier morning. I went to this Newly Opened High-End Tea shop here in the Philippines on my way home just because I got curious. Though their products were really pricey and I had no plans of buying them, I still pushed through and talked about the teapots, and how are they used. I even got useful tips on ‘correctly brewing tea’. I think people, especially in the service history, is very willing to share their expertise with you, if you ask the right questions.

  461. avatar

    I dropped by a burger joint for a quick lunch. It was not really busy but very slow service. The guy in front of me commented that it was slower in Taos. After I got my burger I walked over and asked him if I could join him for lunch (which I have never even considered doing before). He said, “Sure. Sit down.” We talked about living in Taos, his planned move to somewhere warmer in Arizona, his family in town. It was a very pleasant half hour and a surprisingly easy conversation.

  462. avatar

    I was at the gas station, waiting to pay at the cashier. There was a small, retired guy in front of me.

    He turned back once to look at me. When he look back the second time, I started the conversation.

    It looks like it is going to rain ( it was sunny in the morning )

    Old man :
    I don’t know but I just come back back from my sugarshack and the snow is wet and heavy.

    We kept talking for almost 5 minutes, both had paid the gas and kept talking. I found out where is his sugarshack and almost got an invitation to get a guided tour!

    It was fun. Weather is a good script to use to talk to most older people. It is not as successful with people under 35.

  463. avatar

    Hello from Spain.

    Today I went to the swiming pool with my 2 kids… at the end of the sesion i was spoken with another dad about the children… It was so interesting because he told me about his kids and he asked my about the possibility of another son/daugnter in the future.

    My answer was, “it depens of my personal finance situation” in the next years, fortunalety i am in the path of more financial freedom… so Who knows?

    Saludos desde España!!!

  464. avatar

    I talked to the guy and girl standing in line before me, while waiting to get our coats. It really was a nice way to pass the time, and since standing in line is normally really boring I think it’s one of the best places to strike up a conversation.

  465. avatar
    Eric Chiang

    This morning I chatted with a stranger at a deli store nearby where I live. He was waiting for his breakfast order, and so was I. The conversation:
    Eric: What did you get for breakfast?
    The guy: Nothing special, the usual eggs and stuff. This place takes a while.
    Eric: I remember once when I came here there were a bunch of school kids getting breakfast..
    The guy: Oh yeah, that’ll be an impossible wait, gotta go somewhere else. Kids come here because the candies. The principal don’t allow junk food like these (mentioning the candies/snacks), more of a health conscious person, but kids can just come here. There’s also nuts and other more healthy stuff here though.
    Eric: Yep lot’s of choices for candies here..
    I never thought I could start a conversation with a complete stranger, with only common background of “waiting for breakfast order”, and do it in a non-awkward way.

  466. avatar
    Kristin S

    Well I try to do this all the time, but sometimes it works better than others. Most recently, I was at the bakery and started talking to a woman about the types of dogs that were outside, and we had a conversation for about 5 minutes. So over all it went well, but I think I will take this one step further and talk to someone about what I do for work to see how that goes.

  467. avatar

    Went to the grocery store in a snowstorm last night asked the check out girl how’s your night going? Has it been busy? We had a bit of a chat and I headed back out into the storm

  468. avatar

    Striking up conversations and talking to strangers is my default mode – living in San Francisco really mixes it up and yesterday was no different! I did bump it up a notch for discussion’s sake, and chatted with folks a little more than usual so yeah, I get how I can definitely be more intentional about this within my professional network.

  469. avatar

    I talked to the woman in line at the dry cleaners with me, by saying “wow they are really busy today.” We exchanged a few sentences but that was it. Talking to random people has always been hard for me, so it did feel awkward, but I was glad I took the first step. In hindsight, that questions “busy, huh?” doesn’t really give people much to say back except, “yup, busy.” I need to start asking better questions that are more open-ended.

  470. avatar

    I struck up a conversation with the cashier in the checkout line. I went on a cookie run for me and some of my coworkers, and joked that we had a cookie craving at the office. The cashier laughed, we asked how each other’s days were going, and she told me to enjoy the snacks. Not much of a conversation but it was nice to smile and laugh unexpectedly with someone else!

  471. avatar

    I talked to a friend of a friend at that party just randomly, and he told me about his studies (air-traffic controller) which is what I wanted to do before failing at the entrance exam and going to engineering school. And this idea woke up in me, he explained me I could still take the exam, and with the skills I have now and I hadn’t when I fail, I could pass the exam. But that would mean another three years of studying…

  472. avatar

    Scenario: Info meeting to join a beginner triathlete training program
    Talked to one of the organizers after the presentation. I apologized for being late, and asked her to confirm that “all ability levels are welcome” and then to clarify if there is a baseline level of fitness expected in order to participate.
    Result: Her answer was “be able to move for 20 minutes” – and then we spoke further about fears/anxieties around weak sports and how to overcome them. The reassurance was useful to me because “ability to move for 20 minutes” is more concrete to me than “all ability levels welcome” – now I think I can succeed through participating.

  473. avatar

    Yesterday I bought a new (used) vehicle and had to take it in to get the plates. Rather than the typical get in and get out I was determined to have a conversation with whomever was helping me. My opening line was “which style of plate is most frequently requested.” The woman behind the counter was more then happy to answer.

  474. avatar

    I probably would have done it anyways, but your article gave me an extra to strike up a conversation with the other people waiting to be served at the vet today. I introduced my dog and got everyone into a discussion about their pets and their favorite pet memories, etc. If I hadn’t I get the feeling that everyone would have just sat there awkwardly waiting to be served.

    At the end of high school I was incredibly antisocial, but living in close proximity to a bunch of other decent people in a dorm freshman year forced me to get comfortable with living in close proximity to a lot of other guys (including sharing a room that would have been small for one person with two other people). It wasn’t easy at first, but I developed a method for training myself where I’d listen to other people talk and adopt phrases to help me start and at times extricate myself from situations. I got to the point where I could string together different sayings and get a better feel for what worked and what didn’t, then I started making up my own and mixing them in. Now I can pretty easily converse with just about anyone.

    I think the only thing I might be doing wrong is jumping into other people’s conversations if they’re near me and I’ve been listening in. Sometimes I think it’s awkward for them, other times people are cool with it.

  475. avatar

    I was out getting my hair cut this morning, (or you could say all of them cut… ba-dum), and I asked some random lady there about the salon’s new addition. FYI this addition a certain type of spa treatment inside a salt cave. She said she had never used it, so we asked one of the girls working to explain. The girl started to, then just said she’d give us a tour. The three of us walked into the salt cave where the girl proceeded to give expert detail and explanation. The lady sounded way impressed and said she’d book the salt cave next time.

  476. avatar

    I used to be super awkward in public, and have used scripts as training wheels to start convos before. Now my girlfriend talks all the time about how I make friends with everybody (especially charming waitresses and old black women… best super-power ever).

    The idea of using a script again was terrible! I thought, “I can talk to anybody, I don’t need to do this! Everyone will know something is weird about me!” But of course the point is to TEST something repeatedly. If I need to do that, I’ll embrace my weirdo.

    Test: “Is it a busy day? It looks pretty busy.”

    Said to waitress at cafe. It started a short conversation that was less small talk than I thought it would be. I’ve been here before, but I *think* the waitress visited my table more frequently than on my previous visits. I’m actually gonna test this out somewhere else to see if it really is improving the service I get.

  477. avatar

    I think the secret is that I’m commenting on how busy it is. Maybe that makes the waitress more attentive… we shall see MOOHOOHUAHUAHUA!!!

  478. avatar

    I think just interacting with someone when they don’t expect you to speak to them can brighten someone’s day. I got a smile out of one of the cleaning staff at my gym. Thanks Ramit

  479. avatar

    I’ve always been a quiet, reserved type – but I’m lucky. My wife is one of those who can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere and it’s rubbing off on me. We go to a weekly wine tasting and I’ve been striking up concersations with folks there. Anyhow, I was in a social situation and noticed this young woman, with some tatoos, talking about selling some art. Bingo! I asked her about that art and if she had a picture of it. This led to a group conversation for about an hour…

  480. avatar

    Great post! Whenever I meet someone at work I always compliment them on something they have at their offices. Always a great icebreaker

  481. avatar

    I’ve been trying this for a few months.

    I like to sit down with people at crowded cafes and start a conversation with them. If I see them reading a book on a topic I know something about, I’ll ask them something like, “Are you interested in Greek Mythology? I was reading about Homer last week and the article said [whatever it said]. What is your opinion about [the article’s view].”

    This starts up a conversation about half of the time.

  482. avatar

    I am one of those persons that talks to anyone (and the wind – haha) – often out of curiosity. The payoff? Little gifts from the chat – chuckle, learn something new (place, event, book, app, website, etc.), find something/someone we have in common, and/or beginning of a new friendship. Small world.

    I was in a shoe store and asked a woman if she was going to add the shoes that she was trying on to her collection (an easy and obvious chat in a shoe store). I learned about her collection and how she felt about the shoes she tried on. We exchanged stories about our collection – current and future wish-list.

    Thanks for your post. This was an awesome reminder about how many opportunities there are to strike up a conversation with anyone, and as I mentioned, you just never know what little “gifts” come along. People are pits of information – trivial and meaningful!

  483. avatar

    Today I talked to an interviewer (for an interview–hey, I hadn’t met them), and a woman buying a cat in a Petco. Nothing interesting worth posting, but I’ve got a better story.

    I’ve been doing things I was uncomfortable with but knew I needed to for the past few weeks. The other day, I was in a hotel lobby, and I struck up a conversation with the concierge. He was from Kenya. I asked if he noticed anything, and at first he seemed very careful not to offend in any way.

    At all.

    So, I told him an interesting story I had heard about how children in Africa actually appreciate schoolwork, seeing it as a privilege, instead of a chore like many American students.

    After that, he seemed more relaxed, and told me one thing he’d noticed: In Kenya, people envisioned America as a utopia, with no one homeless. I learned that generalizations go both ways, and that people are more comfortable to talk about a potentially controversial topic if you bring it up in an open and reasonable way.

  484. avatar

    I used a variation of your canned line above, spoke to the mailman. Since it was raining yesterday and it was turning all the snow into that delightful mixture of mud and slush, I said hello and remarked on what a terrible day it was to have to deliver the mail. We bantered about the weather while he found all the junk mail addressed to me, and then he went on his way.

    This is the sort of challenge that varies in degree for me. I can be relaxed with talking to people if I’m feeling good about myself. If I’m not, however, I will be more reclusive and less talkative. This hurts me the most when I’m nervous about meeting someone important for the first time. So I think my personal goal is to keep doing things like this, regardless of how confident I’m feeling on any particular day. Then I can hold my own no matter what circumstances come my way.

    Been reading for awhile, and usually would ignore a challenge like this, saying how it is simple, I understand the concept behind it and how it helps, and there’s no need to just go do it. But finally realizing that if you don’t practice it, it doesn’t count for crap. So, hopefully I can keep this streak alive.

  485. avatar

    I started a conversation with the man sitting next to me in the airplane. I first thanked him for helping me with my luggage and then asked him where he was from. I asked him about several things and we talked for a few minutes.

    I was studying about electrons in the airplane and I wanted to ask him about something that I did not understand because he is an electrical engineer. However, I was afraid that one of us might get embarrassed so I decided not to ask that question.

    I take back everything I said about British people being unfriendly. Today, for some reason, everyone was very nice to me and people carried my luggage for me without asking. 8 different people helped me without asking them to and 2 others just started a conversation with me.

  486. avatar
    Mary Lynn

    I can easily talk to anyone I bump into. That’s not a problem. Attending cocktail parties and mixers by myself is a very different situation, in my opinion. You’re “trapped” in the room with the other people. It’s awkward to end the conversation and move on, especially if the other person is left standing alone. Also, I find it hard to break into a conversation. One-on-one or at a dinner party, where you have time for longer, more meaningful conversations, I have no problem. But at a cocktail party by myself, I’m a complete wallflower. My friends are shocked to hear this because I’m considered to be affable and a “people person”. I’m sure you’ll be addressing these situations later on, right, Ramit?

  487. avatar

    I’m very awkward around people, but when I notice the same fear in the people around me, I feel like I have an upper hand on them. This happened recently on campus when a few of us were invited to join a society. I saw that everyone was nervous(in my mind this puts us on the same playing field) and that gave me the confidence to ‘break the ice’ and start a conversation on the impending meeting.
    Consequently, this gave me the same confidence to be able to answer questions directed to us by the speaker without feeling like people will laugh at my answers because I had already sized up the ‘competition’.

  488. avatar
    Andrew Emmert

    last night, while I was waiting around for dinner, I started a conversation with Vera.

    I started out with a canned line on how I appreciated that she wore a scarf that day, and how that’s not a fashion sentiment that gets reflected through the younger generations. This got us started off on where she bought the particular item in question and how different her kids sensibilities are from hers.

    all in all, it was a fun little diversion for a few moments.

  489. avatar

    Walking home from work yesterday it has started to rain, a woman walking her dog was coming towards me with a plastic bag on her head. I smiled and said “Nice hat!” and she replied “Only if my dog doesn’t have to poop.” haha!

    Great first challenge! In addition to striking up a conversation, it’s important just to acknowledge someone’s presence. I don’t mind making small talk or chatting anyone up for that matter. In my profession (archivist/librarian), being outgoing has set me apart from quite a few of my colleagues. It takes practice to become comfortable with the art of small talk so I make an effort to improve my social skills every day…happy hour certainly makes practicing more fun.

  490. avatar

    I tried to talk to the service at the bakery I go on Saturdays. I asked her whether she was new there because I haven’t seen her so far. She answered but seemed to be surprised and a bit embarrased – so it was a very short talk.

  491. avatar

    I already do this to break out of my fundamental shy mode anyway, so I’m gonna consider myself ahead of the curve because I’m always testing the results.

    2 days ago I was in the coffee shop and the girl was in zombie mode. She told me the price of my coffee was $2.55. I said “how much?” and again she said “$2.55” At this point I paused and held her eyes for about 3 seconds, asking “Aare you sure that’s the price?” and smiled.

    This is my favorite part – I could physically see her brain kicking her out of zombie mode and into the real world. For some reason she had been reading the 1 on the register as a 2. A huge embarrassed smile broke out on her face and she said “Oh my god! I’m sorry, it’s $1.55! I need to wake up or something!” I told her that she does work in a coffee shop after all. After that we were laughing and she was bumbling as she got my coffee – as if she was serving Clint Eastwood or something. I paid $1.55.

    Next step – learn to get free coffee!

  492. avatar

    I went into Potbelly for a sandwich and decided to talk to the guy ringing me up. I asked how business has been after the holidays. He went on about how its continued to stay busy especially through the weekdays and how the weekends are oddly very slow. He continued with thanking me for my business and I was on my way.

    I didn’t say much after that opening line. I decided that I’m really bad at small chit chat conversations and will have to test this out further. But, I also realize that some people, when asked a simple question can just start talking with no end. And that’s ok with me cause I can just simply listen.

  493. avatar


    This post oozes with authenticity. As always, thank you for being a stand for that.

    The real take away for me was the reminder that change is uncomfortable and that the willingness to take steps into the uncomfortable is the way I get to take responsibility for my life and for my desired feeling of empowerment. So solid.

    Now we’re cookin’!

    I chatted up a really nice cute guy about his dog using the canned response and it turned into a one hour conversation during which we grabbed a coffee. I’m normally quite chatty as per your examples but this homework sparked a little extra confidence to approach an attractive guy who normally would have intimidated me. It felt Rich 🙂

    Looking forward to continuing this homework in my daily life and for the next round of challenges!

  494. avatar
    Annika S

    I use these scripts all the time! As a waitress myself, I find it really awkward just standing around waiting for the other person (repairman, checkout person) to do their job, so I always ask “how’s today going – are you nearly finished?” We then mutually grumble a bit about work & life, even if I’m actually having a great day, it’s easier to just agree & go along with what they say. Boom, awkward silence sorted!

  495. avatar
    Annika S

    Mary, I’m exactly the same way – short meaningless conversations with the checkout operator, the repairman, no problem, but social ‘mingling’.. argh! It makes me want to run and hide! I just don’t know what to talk about! I’m sure Ramit has something related to this lined up, if not then I guess the answer is: test it!! 🙂

  496. avatar

    Had a chat with the checkout clerk at one of the local charity thrift stores. The store puts up a new window display every month of fancy/unusual items and auctions them off, and I went in to put a bid on something I saw there (a vintage animal pelt, some kind of exotic cat). I asked the clerk about it, and she mentioned she wished she could put in a bid herself, so we started talking taxidermy. (Yeah, I’m a weirdo like that, but apparently so is she.) Pleasant but brief exchange that got cut short when she had to help another customer.

    If there’s a lesson in this, it’s that if both parties are willing, you can have a good conversation about literally anything. Hell, sometimes, the weirder the subject, the less awkward the conversation. All inherent weirdness is diverted into the topic instead of the occasional pauses.

  497. avatar

    I asked one of the nurses at my work if she was working on the weekend (I normally would have sat watching the TV screen and listening to other conversations). We ended up having a conversation with the whole group of staff in the lounge that led to a lot of deeper issues and what needs to change about the world. I’m sold!

  498. avatar

    I tried twice, with mixed results. The first time, I was by myself in the food court, and I approached a family and asked if I could sit down and eat with them. They were very amiable, and we started chatting. It only lasted about 5 minutes, before they excused themselves. The next time, I saw a gaggle of people, and I asked a girl standing there what was going on. She told me about the event, and I asked a couple of questions. I then left, as she was giving me a bit of a weird look. It was no problem to approach these people, and even talk to them. However, I failed to have any sort of in-depth or meaningful conversation.

  499. avatar

    I love meet new people. I was at the grocery store where i saw this lady with a cute hairstyle. I approach her and asked her who is her hairstylist because her hair was beautiful. From that point she began talking about how long she have been going to her hairsylist & how great her stylist is. I told her I was looking for a new hairstylist. The conversation was great and she gave me the contact info for her hairstylist.

  500. avatar

    I retired from a high school about a year ago . So interaction with high school kids is sometimes viewed with suspicion by them, so starting a conversation could be tough. One day I was called on to do a repair on a heating/cooling unit in a class room. I was asked by one of the students how I knew how to fix it. I replied This is why you have old people! After that I would hear Hey! Old Man How do you fix this or that? ( I’m only 73). From that time on talking from them to me was easy. Right before I retired I suffered a stroke . While I was in the hospital I was given a get well card that measured 2 feet high by 3 feet wide signed by as many kids who could get their names on it.
    So you see we are put on this earth to touch someone somewhere somehow in which we enrich their life and they in turn enrich ours.

  501. avatar
    Rosa Boone

    I just spent $23 to talk to a complete stranger.

    Since moving back to my hometown, I have been holed up in the house with work, thus my social skills have suffered. I decided to take your challenge to test if I still had it.

    I ordered take out from a new pizza joint to enhance my chances of meeting a stranger. I actually per-ordered my meal on their website last night (since I am working today) to test their punctuality as well. About 15 minutes before they were set to arrive, I practiced my lines in the mirror and how to keep the conversation going if given expected responses.

    I discovered that they are indeed punctual, that the restaurant has been in town for 2 years, and that the owner of the franchise has several locations in surrounding cities. All of this from a teenager who I didn’t think would open up to me. We even spoke a little bit about the weather.

  502. avatar
    Samir Penkar

    I smiled at the guy next in line with me at the grocery store. He asked, ” Where are you from?” “India,” I said. “You know my heart surgeon is an Indian, his wife is a doctor too and how their son is studying medicine.” He continued,”I really admire you Indians, you are so well mannered, well educated and intelligent. What do you do?” he asked me. “I am a project manager,” I said. And we spend some time talking before I checked out.

    About a minute or two of interaction, really felt good after that. Thanks Ramit. It’s easy but we don’t do it often enough.

  503. avatar

    I started a conversation with a jazz guitarist after his set at a coffee shop I frequent. I am a guitarist myself, and I got the contact info for his teacher. I’ve been wanting to find a good teacher/mentor and start taking lessons again. All it took was one simple conversation.

  504. avatar

    This is pretty easy for me. Its keeping the convo going that gets trickier.

    For this task I just asked a lady how old here kid was. She told me, then started telling me about how they tried to put him in an older class but he was to crazy so he is back in the younger class. She kept going but then he started to run away :).

    Anyways, first task was easy. I’m going to continue putting myself in uncomfortable situations till I get good at this :). I recently became an organizer of an entrepreneur meetup in my area (no one would step up, so I did… did you know you have to pay for that? I do now.). Not something I’ve ever done nor really desired to do, but outside of my comfort zone I go.

  505. avatar

    At the dry cleaners, there was a new guy behind the counter. I asked if he was busy or slow today, and he said busy. Then he mentioned that was better than the alternative. Laughing, I told him I didn’t recognize him; he said he had just started working there, but that he was also applying for a job with a jeweler, and that he was planning on going back to school. People do seem to like to talk about themselves.

  506. avatar

    So last night a few friends and family got together for my cousins birthday at a local restaurant/bar……..while we were all hanging out at the bar, I saw a guy order some frozen concoction that was all dressesd up with pineapples and cherries on the rim of the glass. Im not a fan of frozen drinks but it actually looked pretty tasty!

    Usually, I’m sooo afraid to talk to strangers and people who I infind intimidating so much to the point that I have to medicate myself before going into social situations and don’t even get me started on public speaking!!! There are only a hand full of people who know this about me and apparently I hide this fear pretty well, so I’m told. Sometimes I just suck it up and don’t take the meds. Iastnight was one of those nights……….

    I asked the guy…..”hey there! What’s that drink called?” “He said….oh this? It’s called a frozen gator punch”… I say”looks tasty!”…….he says, “I haven’t tasted it yet, why don’t you take a sip and tell me”…….so then I said “sure, why not?”……I tasted the drink and low and behold….it was GOOD!……so I say “wow, that IS tasty!”…….he says in that case…”bartender, can I get another?” he let me keep the drink! WOW!!! He’s smooth! In case your wondering……no, I didn’t exchange numbers with him or go home with him…..we were both there with other people 😉

  507. avatar

    My job is talking to new people, and something I’ve learned recently is that while I’m great in formal situations, but I suck, SUCK at talking about myself, and other people’s egotism only goes so far! At work this is easier as I play a character, but one on one as ‘myself’ it feels terrible.

    I talked to a stranger yesterday while walking the dog. They asked if their kid could pet her and I said yes, apologized for how excited she was, and went on my way. While I am capable of talking to people, lots of people! spontaneously, I’m incredibly anxious the whole time, especially in the time leading up to the conversation

  508. avatar
    Sean Morrissey

    Not sure if this really counts, since it was the night before you posted this, but I wound up striking up a conversation with a random dude on the train about Android ROMs because I noticed his Galaxy Nexus. (It also got my curiosity going about installing custom ROMs on a phone without an SD card, but this is beside the point.) It came across as typical awkward nerd conversation but was interesting nonetheless.

    The takeaway for me is that I tend to be a lot more open to starting a conversation when something about the person catches my attention. (Though I suppose this could be done at a higher level by finding the person you want to talk to and LOOKING for something about them that can catch your attention.)

  509. avatar

    This is definitely a hard one for me but using these as a starting off point really helps. I was in a book store today and tried the “Is it usually this quiet?” line. The small talk just flowed from there.

    It seems like once you show that you’re open to “trivial” small talk and even slightly interested, you give the other person the permission to make small talk.

  510. avatar

    I usually strike up a conversation with anyone, because I like ppl and love to find out all about them. I usually learn something from them and then that knowledge prepares me for using it with someone else I talk with, so it’s a win-win.

    I was in a long line during the holidays at the Post Office when a woman I did not know came up to me and asked if I had 3 boys and said she thought I used to live next door to her. I said, no I don’t have 3 boys, I have 2 and I didn’t kill anyone (risky, I know, but I am a risk taker). She said that these 3 boys were always so surprised how giggly here girls were and would always get a kick out of hearing them laugh. I said, well, I wish I lived next door to her and I said we could pretend we did and she said to me “You still look beautiful” and I said and so do you! I ended saying “It was nice seeing you again.” Everyone else in line got a kick out of it too and the time seemed to go faster and more enjoyable for everyone and I had fun “playing” with this person. I know I didn’t start the conversation, but this is where it led and it was a fun experience. It’s life – have fun with it and enjoy seeing where it can take you. You’ll be glad you did.

  511. avatar

    A woman sat next to me on a flight, and I asked her, “what book are you reading?”

    I ended up talking to her for an hour. I learned a ridiculous amount about the perspective of libertarians on everything from gun control to how poor people don’t have enough willpower. Also got a potential contact for graduate school.

  512. avatar

    I did this experiment at a local mall and used the “How your day’s approach, I bet it has been busy.” The thing that struck me is that how most people just gave short answers and did not continue conversation. But this morning while getting my oil change I started talking to the guy sitting next to me and started asking him about his iphone and he started showing it to me and all the features he liked on it.

  513. avatar
    Susan Kelly

    Great story. I liked it a lot.

  514. avatar

    I can usually start a quick conversation with the smallest effort to get over that hurdle. Like many, I just don’t try that hard. Yesterday, I spoke to an all but stranger&