How can we pull a stranger into a deep and meaningful conversation? This is a question I saw online lately and I thought I’d take a shot at answering it.
I’m Jerry Banfield and I’ve had a lot of amazing deep conversations with near-total strangers and I’ll share what I’ve learned with you here today because as a full-time Youtuber, this is the best thing I can think to share with you to help you in your life right now. How do we talk for real with a stranger?
First, there’s an element called positioning. Put yourself in places where strangers are in the habit of opening up and this will be a lot easier, for example, 12-step recovery groups are environments where people are in the habit of really opening up with strangers. I go to Alcoholics Anonymous every day. I’m an alcoholic and this is the place where I’ve had the deepest and meaningful conversations with people I’ve hardly known. People at Alcoholics Anonymous consistently will open up about things that elsewhere they might not tell their friends or family. For example, often the worst parts of the life they’ve experienced, most shameful secrets and many of these can come out pretty quickly with a near-total stranger in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.
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I recommend on number one, if you really want somewhere you can have deep conversations with people, look for that positioning and recognize places where it doesn’t tend to happen. If you consistently are not seeing people really open up, the context may be limiting people. If you’ve never been somewhere like a 12-step meeting and there’s a 12-step meeting for almost everyone. If you’ve never been somewhere and seeing how these conversations happen, going somewhere like a 12-step meeting can make it easier. However, you don’t have to do that there are some other principles I can give you which will make it very possible for you to open up with a stranger.
Since going to Alcoholics Anonymous, I have had lots of amazing conversations with near-total strangers because of the one key thing I do. I open up really easily about stuff. I’m very comfortable with the worst of my life and I’m willing to just throw almost anything out there depending on the context as kind of a fishing rod and a little bit of bait. I like to just throw things out that strangers often might not be expecting, open up and be vulnerable. That often encourages more of the same from another. Thus, lead by example. If you want to take a stranger into a deep and meaningful conversation, go there yourself as that’s what I do.
I’m willing to go there and lots of times I get rejected. It doesn’t work out. It can be taken in the wrong way sometimes but the times where it goes well are so worth it and so powerful that all the times where it doesn’t go well are not a big deal. I have deep and meaningful conversations all over the place with people. It could be at a restaurant or it can be at somebody’s place of work. I look at it as if I’m out there to carry a message of love, hope, and faith and especially things like sobriety, I’m out there to do that with anyone anytime. For example, I had a friend open up to me at a bachelor party about his drinking because I opened up about mine. Often, if people are asking about something, that can be a good way to get into it and if you really want a deeper meaningful conversation, it means being willing to talk about almost anything. Whereas, when I was at the bachelor party newly sober and the guy starts asking a lot about why I don’t drink especially at a bachelor party? This was before anyone else got there. What happened was, I just started opening up in more and more detail very quickly like “Let me tell you about these 3 things that happened. That’s why I don’t drink anymore.” Then from there, we got into a deeper and deeper conversation about it.
This can go for any pain you’ve had in your life. For example, if you’ve lost a child, a relationship, a job or financial insecurity. Whatever is bothering you, the most often is the best opportunity to get into a deep conversation because many times the law of attraction has pulled the exact right person in front of us. I am not even surprised anymore at how often I come across somebody and we have something in common that we never would have figured beforehand like alcoholism. You might not look at me and think I’m an alcoholic and often I’ll run into others and say, “Hey, we happen to be in AA” even though we’ve never seen each other at a meeting. I’m grateful today that I’m willing to open up anywhere. Thus, if you want to get a stranger into deep and meaningful conversation, be willing to open up yourself.
Finally, if you’re struggling on the opening up and you’ve given this a try a few times, it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to mess things up. And you might need to go somewhere that you feel safe opening up if you haven’t done that before and opening up in such a way that you feel comfortable sharing anything with anyone. I was able to do that for the first time in Alcoholics Anonymous after hearing what people were willing to say in an open meeting in front of others. I felt safe talking to a couple of the people who shared specific shocking things and meetings about all the stuff I had kept secret my whole life. Once I went through, I did that process a whole bunch more times. I did it with others in Alcoholics Anonymous. I did it with the director at my church. A hypnotherapist can be very helpful for this as well as regular therapists, counselors or a psychologist. There are a lot of people who if you start looking for it and asking for help and opening your mind can help you start opening up. That’s the secret to getting people into a deep and meaningful conversation.
I was checking out at the grocery store the other day. The girl looked like she was having a rough day and I went right in for it. I’m like, “How are you?” and she said something like fine. Then I told her something about how my hard time. She said, “Okay, my grandfather just died. I’m having a really hard time of it. I said, “Thank you. Thank you for telling me that. I’m honored you share that with me and I appreciate the chance to just to see what you’re going through.” Today it helped me to have some context on my day. My one grandfather already died and the other one is nearly at the end. So I can have some empathy and compassion for that.
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