You just finished asking for name and age and your eyes are beginning to wander around the room. You start racking your brain for something else to ask. You really want to be good friends with her but you can’t seem to get that friendship started. Eventually you give up and excuse yourself. I understand completely! This is a very familiar scenario for me. I want to develop the skill of getting to know people, and I’m sure you do too. Here are a few ideas to get us started.
Speaking as one who has traveled with my dad a lot to churches around the U.S. and Europe, I’ve found that there are places where I have felt comfortable and places where I have felt awkward. The following suggestions flow from an analysis of those situations. From here on, I will be referring to your will-be friend as Anne.
Introduce Anne to all your friends. It’s easier to get to know someone if you are not the only person that is asking questions. Feel free to talk to your friends, but make sure you are talking about something that Anne can understand completely. Don’t talk to your friends about anybody Anne hasn’t met, unless you first explain to her who you are talking about. If you and your friends start talking about something that Anne doesn’t understand, pause and explain to her what you have been talking about. Don’t leave her confused and left out.
When you introduce Anne to one of your friends, tell your friend something you have learned about Anne that you think your friend might be interested in. This will give them something to talk about. Say something like, “This is Anne. She plays Violin.”
Invite Anne to sit with you. This is not enough, though; Anne will still feel uncomfortable if you don’t talk to her.
Make observations about things around you. Inanimate objects are great conversation starters. I once had a really long conversation about an alarm system with girl in Texas. We must have come up with fifty ways to go through that door without setting the alarm off. It was a pretty funny conversation, and it was the perfect thing to get us talking and laughing like old friends.
Take her exploring. If you are at a Heartland meeting (most of you know what those are), take her on a walk around the property.
Invite her to do jobs with you. I know this one sounds kind of strange, but this is an excellent one. I remember (this was also in Texas) helping a bunch of kids pass out tea to the adults, and washing and drying dishes in the back kitchen. I had a lot of fun conversations with all the kids while I was drying dishes. Doing something like that has a way of stimulating conversation. It’s always better to have your hands full when you don’t know what to talk about. You feel like you are really interacting even when you are not talking.
Although I feel comfortable 98% of the time on trips with my dad, that Texas trip is definitely ranked among the best as far as my comfort level and getting to know people well. Those people did all the right things to make me feel at home. So learn from them and be a better host. It’s a great trait to have.