Posted by Some Dude on October 27, 2011 at 10:26 am
Hi all! You may know me as a prolific commenter on HarvardFML; this is my new and improved means of doling out relationship advice! Got a question you want to ask, or a situation you want thoughts and advice on? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch this space for my answer! Today, I’m going to answer a question I was asked on HarvardFML and which has come up many times since:
I need to meet new people. How do I do [that]?
There are two parts that go into meeting new people: where to meet them, and how to meet them.
Where to meet them?
- Pick up a new extracurricular. There are lots of groups on campus that don’t have an elaborate or selective process for new members. For instance, just show up on load-in day for any student theater production and help them build their set. I’ve met lots of new people that way. There are 20-25 productions each semester, so a new load-in is happening at least every week.
- Go to a party on campus or at a nearby school. This is easier to do with a friend or two, but can be done solo as well. And there are a ton of nearby schools in Cambridge and Boston.
- Attend a student performance. There are performances of all sorts going on constantly, many of them free. Go see one, wait afterward, and congratulate the performers. You can meet a lot of interesting people this way.
- Attend a religious service. If you have a religious affiliation or are just curious about religion, go attend a service; there are lots to choose from, and religious groups are usually very welcoming.
- Hang out at a café and chat with the regulars. The locals are often there to people-watch, and will happily talk to you. Some of the local cafés have especially interesting regulars, too; for instance, Amanda Palmer (famous singer/songwriter and wife of author Neil Gaiman) can sometimes be found at Café Pamplona on Bow St.
- Go into Boston! There are free events in Boston at all times of year. When there’s a convention in town that interests you, attend. Take a friend or two and go clubbing. Downtown Boston is only a 10-minute subway ride or one-hour walk from Harvard.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to meet new people where people are plentiful but there is little competition. “Little competition” doesn’t necessarily mean a place with a huge gender imbalance in your favor; it can also mean a place where no one else is trying to meet new people. It can be somewhere very unorthodox, like a grocery store.
So, how to meet new people? That comes from being comfortable enough to strike up a conversation with a stranger. It seems intimidating, I know – I used to be paralytically shy. I was terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing, and it kept me from doing or saying anything.
The problem isn’t doing or saying something wrong – you will be amazed at how little that actually matters. Healthy self-confidence is what matters. But it’s hard to have self-confidence when you think you’re doing or saying something wrong – so how do you close that loop? By having a small but manageable number of things that you can check yourself against, things that you can know in the moment that you’re doing right, will keep you on your feet. I recommend my past posts about attracting men and attracting women for specifics.
So, what do you say to a stranger? A lot of things will work, but here’s a simple idea you can start with or fall back on: pick out something about the person that they’re wearing. A piece of jewelry, clothing, a logo, or something like that – especially something prominent, distinctive, or unusual. Ask what it is or where it came from. Maybe say what you thought it might have been. It might provoke the person to mention a hobby, a place they’ve been, or some other thing that you can ask further about. And suddenly you’re having a conversation with a total stranger!
(If you get ignored, dismissed, or shut down with an answer that doesn’t provide an opportunity to talk further, let it lie. Some people will be defensive, some will be in the wrong frame of mind, and some are just rude. Trying to force conversation at that point will just be awkward, and can kill your self-confidence. Just move on.)
Keep the conversation brief and mostly about them. You don’t want to mess up a first impression, so give yourself the least opportunity to ruin it accidentally. Talk for no more than a couple minutes at most, then excuse yourself to leave – but double back immediately and ask them for a phone number or email address.
Congratulations, you’ve met someone new!
Special Thanks to Coupling, Harvard Business School, and Life Is A Dream. Email Some Dude at email@example.com.