Etiquette when Talking with a Stranger while Traveling

TEXT: Kaycie Gayle

Talking to strangers is one of the enjoyable things you may encounter while traveling.  It may lead you to new discoveries and even friendship. However, make sure that you are also considerate of your conversation partner to make the interaction light and relaxing.

1. Talk to someone when they are close and steady

Some people refrain from talking to strangers thinking that they may be ignored. But actually, one of the factors you would have to consider is the timing. Some people approach people wrong timing, hence, they are likely to be ignored.  The best time to strike up a conversation with a stranger is when they are close by. The moment when you are next to them and they are not moving. Trying to engage someone who is walking or busy doing something is not ideal since you cause them to stop. Although they respond, they may actually be just being polite to you but certainly not the ready to talk long enough with you.

2. Keep It Light

There are some things that are best not to mention when having a conversation with a stranger. Talking about something that’s highly personal or confidential could make the other person feel uncomfortable. Instead of putting them at ease, you set them up for an uncomfortable set up that makes them wonder how could they stop engaging in the conversation. Since the topic may be too serious, they find it hard to walk away hence they feel tied. Keeping the conversation light and positive will make it easier for the other person to find a way out if they choose.

3. Stick to safe topics

To enable to make you and the person you are talking to be at ease while talking, and to avoid the conversation from coming come off as invasive it’s better to choose safe subjects. You may talk about the weather, comment about the surroundings, the destination you are leaving or traveling to. If the other person shows interest in continuing the conversation, you may share what you did or are planning on doing during your travels.

4. Ask ‘mind if ask’

Strangers may not be comfortable in giving too much or too specific information about themselves that’s why it’s important to ask if they mind you asking something. Also, it’s better to explain why you asked, to at least give them a hint that you are asking with good intentions and not just being nosy. It may sound a bit rude if you just ask directly without giving a reason for your curiosity.

5. Bring things up naturally and casually

Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t force a topic or spend time sorting what you will say next. Also, wait for the natural pause in your conversation’s partner speaking before adding your contribution to the conversation. Be also open if ever, the person you are talking to gives you detailed information during a light conversation or it is steering into a more meaningful direction.

6. Consider the tone

It is best to echo the other person’s ideas and tone. You can respond at the same level of informality that the person you are talking to uses. It’s a good idea to wait until someone speaks casually with you before you speak casually with them. You can use a casual tone like speaking to a good friend to people in your own age group. However, if you are speaking to an older person, it is still better to speak politely. Also, the place where you have met each other matters. If you meet in a more casual environment like an airport, park, or hotel then you can assume that it is safe to talk to casual. However, if you are in a fine dining restaurant or you meet them during a business trip, then you may opt to talk to them formally.

7. Pay attention to social cues

Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, you would notice that the other person’s interest is fading.  Nonverbal prompts and the person’s responses will tell you if the person is still interested in the conversation. That’s why it is important to pay attention to those slight social cues and their answers.  If they seem friendly, responding positively by making a comment, or asking a question back then it is safe to assume that they are open to having a longer conversation with you. But if you sense that they are losing interest, then maybe it’s about time to change the topic or better to excuse yourself and be on your way. Social cues will tell you if the person is just being polite or they still want to keep the conversation going.

8. Stick to Small Talk

Set your mind that whenever you talk with a stranger while on travel, chances are it’s going to only last for a couple of minutes. Consider the fact that both of you might still have to go somewhere else. If you are going to make small talk, make it very small. Avoid making the person feel tired and bored. If you think the conversation has to end, avoid trying to keep it alive to prolong it.  

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