How do I meet someone new every day? (without scaring anyone)
May 28, 2016 4:39 PM   Subscribe

I've been given a challenge- Meet someone new every day, for 40 days- but I have no idea how to do this.

The easiest thing I could think of was just to go ahead and ask someone for the time each day and that would give me an excuse to just talk to a random stranger. But with everyone having a cell phone on them I've noticed that asking for the time comes across as weird to a lot of people.

Ideas I had: Meetups from but I'm not going to drag myself to one unless it's near me and unless it involves something I'm interested in, which with meetup unfortunately is rarely the case for me.

online dating: That's a way to meet someone new isn't it? But I can't use this one every day.

can't really think of anything else. Any ideas on how I can pull this off?
posted by manderin to Human Relations (25 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Why not go to a random Meetup? I mean, you don't need to make a lifetime commitment to Flower Arranging, but doing it once might be fun and you might meet a different kind of person?

Do you have a friend with a dog? Can you borrow it for walk? I have met more of my neighbors since I got a dog than I ever have in my whole life.

Sport people are often chatty-- runners and hikers like to talk to other runners and hikers (or are at least usually approachable).
posted by frumiousb at 4:45 PM on May 28, 2016

Is there somewhere near you that needs volunteers? That's something you could probably do 1-2x/week at least.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:45 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Get coffee everyday and chat up either the barista or someone else waiting to get their coffee. Small talk with people in the elevator. Ask your grocery check out person how their day is going.

Take advantage of situations where social interaction maybe isn't necessary, but isn't wildly out of out of social norms. I think this is a great challenge, and I hope you have a great time with it.
posted by KMoney at 4:47 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Take up a new hobby? For example, you could take up knitting and go to a different yarn shop every day. Knitting people are pretty chatty.
posted by cabingirl at 4:48 PM on May 28, 2016

Bookstores? Go to a market that sells things you're unfamiliar with and have a chat with the owner/clerk? (Make sure you buy something in that case!) Ask people about their jobs?
posted by wintersweet at 4:51 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your partner probably knows people that you don't, and being introduced to people by your SO is as natural as anything. Maybe use that on the lean days.
posted by ftm at 4:52 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you have children or dogs, chatting up other people with children or dogs is considered normal.

Bus stops.


Deliver baked goods to people who've recently moved into your neighborhood.

Informational interviews.

Book signings, or anything you have to wait in long lines for.
posted by metasarah at 4:54 PM on May 28, 2016

I'd just confess right away to any person who would be in my proximity for any length of time.

Say "I am on a quest to meet somebody new every day for 40 days. It's day X. Would you like to be today's person?"

Some people will probably find this weird and interesting.

Be good about it though. Recognize when people are not interested, are busy or creeped-out and quickly apologize and move on.
posted by srboisvert at 5:07 PM on May 28, 2016 [20 favorites]

You could give a flower to a random stranger each day like this guy (he did it for a year in 2006 while living in Paris (holy crap, 10 years ago!)), and livejournaled about it. I think most of the entries are deleted but there are some still left on his LJ to give you an idea.
posted by foxjacket at 5:28 PM on May 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

(1) Outreach-oriented volunteer position. There are probably non-profits in your area that would love to have you for 40 days. Find one that you like, tell them what you're up to, get familiar with their mission, programs, and answers to FAQs, and get a stack of their brochures (or business cards or fridge magnets or whatever). Then you can go door-to-door, stand on a busy street corner, or put out a folding table at events.

(2) Provocative slogans on your clothing/bags. A fellow volunteer got a bag made with the name and logo of our non-profit (Bike Farm) and is regularly approached by people saying either "What's a bike farm?" or "Bike Farm is awesome, you helped me fix my bike last year!"

(3) Get out of your house and your car (assuming you have them). If you spend lots of time walking, biking, or on transit you'll end up talking to more people. Bonus: Get a weird bike. People stop and talk to me about my recumbent trike all the time. I got even more comments when I rode a velomobile. Or get a tandem and a sign that says "free rides." Or just walk out the front door and keep going until you meet someone.
posted by sibilatorix at 5:42 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

srboisvert's got it. The least strange and intimidating way to meet someone new is to tell them about your quest. Don't pick people who are busy or reading a book. Don't pick people who aren't free to walk away from you, whether because you're their customer or because they're trapped on your bus.

My experience struggling to complete quite a few socially awkward assigned tasks is that most people are game to take part in wacky things once you convince them that you're not a scam artist and it won't cost them too much time. (Convincing them you're not a scam artist or a threat is the hard part. Asking someone the time is not a good way to start.)

I'd have four or five questions lined up to ask them to pad out a three minute conversation "What food did you most hate when you were eight" is likely to go over better than "what do you think of the mayor?" Don't over-stay your welcome.

In general, your luck will depend a lot on your physical appearance and the context. If you're a burly looking guy in the suburbs, you're going to have to try a lot harder than if you're a tiny woman who lives downtown. In the former case, I'd stick to groups of people in very public spaces to avoid being scary: farmer's markets and coffee bars in the theater district rather than elevators and bus stops.

If you're willing to spend real resources on this, take an Uber (Lyft, taxi) car once a day. Or take up smoking.

Taking up smoking is terrible idea and you shouldn't do it. But, since Steinbeck's day, there's no better way to get into a casual conversation with people. Join your smoker friends when they go out to the alley also works.
posted by eotvos at 6:25 PM on May 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've done this kind of exercise before and would encourage you to add a constraint that talking to service workers who are on the job doesn't count. Chatting up the barista or bartender doesn't count, because they're paid to be nice to the people who come in and talk to them.

Ways this introvert winds up getting into conversation regularly: Chatting with other customers while hanging out at my favorite bar. Grumbling with fellow bus riders when the bus is late. Admiring somebody's dog. Complimenting somebody's nice hat or scarf or other relatively neutral accessory. Wearing a good hat (summer is Panama weather) that prompts compliments from others. Playing an unfamiliar lawn game in the park, so people ask "hey, what's that?"
posted by Lexica at 6:52 PM on May 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Put some effort into reading body language, though, if you do the "hi, I'm on a mission to talk to people" thing. I'm an introvert, and while I am usually happy to chat about the weather or the front page of the tabloids in line at the store, I'd suddenly remember I "forgot to get something, sorry, be right back [nervous smile]" if someone came up and said they were on a quest and what was my favorite food when I was eight. And then I'd put on headphones so nobody else would try to talk to me. (I'm sure you're very nice, but respect the personal space bubble, which for introverts includes talking as well as touching.)
posted by instamatic at 7:31 PM on May 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, please don't take advantage of the fact that retail/service industry folks have to be nice, we're just people trying to do a job, not conversation robots.

If you're at all a fan of music, jam sessions or open mic nights might be a way to meet like minded people.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:55 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would approach this with restraint and caution. These wacky challenges sound great in theory, but can make people uncomfortable in practice, as you recognize. Generally, I wouldn't force a one-person-a-day pace. How about one a week, and make it a year-long thing? That way you can select the opportunities that are the least awkward, and perhaps have more satisfying results.
posted by delight at 8:23 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have a stoop? Sit on it - maybe with donuts to share.
posted by Toddles at 9:53 PM on May 28, 2016

Go to an office supply store and get a packet of those
"HELLO MY NAME IS _______" stickers.
Wear one every day with your name on it. They should help break the ice a bit.

I forgot I was wearing one after a big conference and people walking by me on the street would say "Hi Jack!".
posted by blueberry at 9:55 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

- Eliminate anyone that has to be nice to you to get paid or get tips or not get fired. They should not be involved in this.

- Dog parks. Compliment people's dogs. "What a beautiful dog!" does it for me. (I don't have a dog. I like getting access to other people's dogs.)

- Are you in a city? Are there homeless people with mental illness? "Hi, can I help you with something?"

- Professional-dressed people in professional environments: "I'm working on a project where I have to get strangers' stories. What's the one thing you would want other people to know about you?"
posted by lazuli at 11:21 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are there buskers or other performers on your streets? Give them some money after they finish a song or performance and tell them that you liked it a lot.
T-shirts with unexpected slogans help too. I have one that reads 'Free Shrugs' and people will come to me and ask for a shrug (or what a shrug is. I'm not in an English speaking country) and another one reads 'Makers gonna make' and I've had people ask me what kind of stuff I make.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:11 AM on May 29, 2016

To make this seem a little less overwhelming, I'd use all the great suggestions here to make a week-long calendar that fitted in with my regular life. Monday, talk to someone new at pub trivia. Tuesday, find an [insert your interest] Meetup. Wednesday, dog park. You get the idea. Then do those same things again next week, but find someone else to talk to. Just because you have to find 40 different people doesn't mean you have to find 40 different ways to do it. (Maybe that was obvious, but it only occurred to me while reading the other comments!)
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 4:55 AM on May 29, 2016

One thing about telling people about the project: that will dramatically change how your interactions go, and also is likely to limit the relationship, because they are immediately aware that you're not "naturally" interested in meeting them. If that's not a problem based on the goals of your project, cool, just be aware of how it could affect things.
posted by metasarah at 6:14 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I regularly initiate conversations with people near me in line at the grocery store, the bank, Target, whatever. I meet very interesting people that way. At stores like Trader Joe's, shoppers often talk to each other. Oh, also in the bathroom, either waiting in line or at the sinks/mirrors. Unless you're male. Men are very skittish about talking to each other in bathrooms. Silly men.
posted by DrGail at 6:49 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I meet >1 new person a day on average, mostly at meetups and tech events. It kinda snowballs... Once you have a critical core group of people who all trust each other and are welcoming to outsiders, introductions are constant.
posted by miyabo at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2016

If you are in a big city that has Lyft or Uber, I've found using their services would work! Lyft Line or Uber Pool are especially good for this since you have both the driver and possibly another rider(s) that you're matched to. In San Francisco, drivers for Lyft tend to be especially friendly. My massively improved conversational skills have mostly been the inadvertent result of taking hundreds of rides over the past few years.
posted by hotchocolate at 10:13 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd try complimenting people. "Great bag, where'd you get it?" Or "I really like those shoes. They look like they'd be good for X occasion. Are they comfortable? By the way, I'm mandarin." Seconding bus stops or subway stations. The last random person I "met," sat next to me on the metro, so I asked him which was the best way to get where I was going. He was next to me for a long ride, so we chatted on and off for the time. I don't want to be gendered or anything, but in my experience, men especially like being asked for directions, but when I (a woman) lived in New York, I was really flattered when I was asked because I thought it meant I looked like I knew what I was doing.

Also restaurants. I don't do this, but I've seen it done not-strangely. "What's that you're eating? It looks really good. Do you recommend it?" Get creative. My mom talks to EV-ER-Y-ONE. At the grocery store: "Oh you're getting that? Have you tried X recipe?" "Boy they were cheaper last month" etc etc. People seem to like it, but I'd probably not. Maybe talk to older people... like 50s and older. They seem friendlier/more used to face-to-face interaction.
posted by serenity_now at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

« Older identify this necklace   |   Couples conflict - how do you fight - your stories... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.