My New Stranger Strategy


What would it happen if I made a habit of walking up to a complete strangers and introducing myself? In the past few months I have tried to be intentional about doing just that.  I have done it in airports, at the gym, and restaurants. I had no idea of what to expect. Would people be annoyed? Would they look at me with the you-are-creeping-me-out stare? Would they dismiss or ignore me? Not really. People’s reactions have surprised me.

stranger strategy

 The great majority of people seem genuinely glad to have a brief personal dialogue with a perfect stranger. I believe human beings are created to be part of a shared existence, part of community. It’s easy to be in the middle of a room filled with people and to be alone, go to work everyday and not connect with anyone, walk around a large gym, see the same people for months or even years and never connect with anyone. Could a friendly smile and small talk from a stranger, actually make a difference? Most definitely.

I have exchanged travel nightmare stories with fellow travellers. I have commiserated with parents of teenage boys about the challenges we face. I have learned new exercise routines from guys I’ve met at the gym. Unexpectedly, I have made new friends simply because I took the time to introduce myself and began a conversation that would eventually blossom into a friendship.

Most of these exchanges have been rewarding, some of them might even become life changing. Time will tell. But none of them would ever happen without breaking that first awkward moment of silence and purposely entering someone else’s world.

This whole experiment has helped changed my perception of people and even my vocabulary. I no longer look at those whom I don’t know as “strangers.” They are now friends I have not yet met.

 How difficult is it for you to introduce yourself to someone new?

  • I have always found this difficult to do but rewarding, as you report. It may be one small thing we can do to break down the very isolation that exists in suburban (speaking for my own context) communities. People need relationships with others, whether they realize it or not. They may not seek it but usually welcome it.

    Besides, it’s more enjoyable to be friendly. 

    • I love this phrase, “it’s more enjoyable to be friendly.” So true!

      • vince

        Hi Mau,

        I admire your courage and attitude towards perfect strangers. i like that style, i mean that guts. new in your blog, i do hope to learn from you. vince

        • Thanks for stopping by Vince. My Brazilian friends call me Mau as well.

    • Vince

      Thanks for that insight pastor wil.

  • “strangers are now friends I have not met yet” – excellent one Maurilio! I enjoy talking to strangers too, especially when I’m traveling… some good experiences for sure, and some strange ones too… but all rewarding in their own special way.

    • I might have to write a post on the strange exchanges. That would be funny!

  • Tami Heim

    Love this Maurilio. I’m in!

    • What do you mean, you’re in? You have always been in. 🙂

  • I recently moved to a new city where I knew no one other than my husband.  I make it a point to meet at least one new person a week.  I work from home and it’s easy to get isolated – but this strategy has worked well.  Like you, I’ve met people at the gym, the library, meetups, the mall – people have been pretty friendly.  Not everyone is going to always be in my life, but plenty of new friendships are being formed!

    • I hope you’ll find a life-long friend in the most unexpected way, Phyllis. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rozanne Frazee

    I agree with you, we were definitely created for community and not to be alone. Way to go!

  • Excellent post! When I was a child, I actually told my mom, “Mom, every stranger is just a friend you haven’t met.” And it’s been my motto through the years. I used to find people sitting alone in restaurants and ask to join them. 

    I’m all for this mentality and showing people genuine value and care.

  • Tommy Hargrove

    Great post and hit me just as I’m reading Maxwell’s book on connecting. You’ve now given me a challenge to do a better job at connecting.

  • First off, that image cracked me up! Reminded me of the crazy Dominos mascot, The Noid.

    Lately I have tried a new stranger strategy based off of your smile post awhile back. So far it’s going well, but living in Seattle forces me to deal with the Seattle Freeze.

    I’m also in charge of greeters and ushers at my church so I’m that smiley guy every Sunday welcoming everyone who walks in the door. At the end of the day my hand and cheeks are sore. 🙂

    • So I took your advice and today on the bus ride home I met a lady who is friends with the guy who created the Thanksgiving flavors for Jones Soda. 🙂

  • Tim Peters

    Great post.  What type of lead-in questions do you use? 

    • It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes it’s “great looking shirt.” or “I think we got in the longest line.”

  • I do this with waiters/waitresses. It’s amazing how the demeanor changes on their faces when you recognize them as a person, not just someone serving you food. 

  • Candace

    My dad was a connecter in every sense of the word; it was thee best gift he passed down to us.

    It’s pure joy to hv that ease in relating to people…makes life richer n funnnn actually!

    Wish everyone got to experience it.

    • My mother is that way. She will talk to anyone, and I mean, anyone.

  • Josh

    I love this idea, but often find myself frozen as far as how to start the conversation. Do you have any advice?

    • Find something in common or some you like about the person or the setting you’re in. In airports the easy question is “where are you going?” “Is that home?” Compliments are always a great way to begin talking with someone. Who doesn’t like to hear “that’s a great looking shirt” ? There’s a fine line between friendly and flirty, so be aware of compliments when talking with the opposite sex.

      But no matter what your opening line is, a smile has a way to break down most barriers. Start there and simply say, “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met, I’m josh. What’s your name?”

  • It depends on the situation I’m in. If I’m at the grocery store, gym, etc, it seems really awkward and I don’t know what to say. But if I’m in my element, if I’m on a college campus, at church, or even when I worked in sales, it is/was incredibly easy. 

    I really like this idea, though. Might have to push past the awkwardness and try it.

    • That was the most difficult thing is to be friendly in places that are not my “domain.” But these have proven to be the most interesting exchanges, however.

  • Nich0531

    This is a great strategy.  As an extrovert, having someone be intentional and enter my world really makes my day.  People are all different and have so much to share so you can really learn a lot from strangers.  Plus, you really do never know what will come from a simple conversation.  I’ve made several friends because I’ve just leaned over and started to talk to some one while waiting in line at Starbucks or deciding what cereal to get at the grocery store.  Keep up the stranger meeting.  : )

    • Some of my most rewarding friendships started out as random conversations.

  • Joe Lalonde

    It’s amazing at how difficult this can be even in a “safe” setting. Take a church for example. At mine, we have a handshaking time. There are people who will not get out and shake another person’s hand or even talk to another person. They’ve been given a free pass to say “Hi, my name is…” and it’s still too difficult.

    • I must say that the church “turn around and shake a hand” thing is not a natural I-want-to-meet-you thing. Even if you do, it comes across as a forced gesture and most people hate it.

  • I’m a raging extrovert, but I must admit that the idea of doing this makes my palms sweaty. I often have to really push myself to walk up to someone I don’t know and talk to them. This is especially true of small groups. I can easily get on a stage and talk to a thousand people at once, but if I have to walk up to 3 mommies chatting together in the park, I get palpitations. I freeze up. 

    I figured out that I’m just scared of rejection. It’s all a matter of insecurity. I’ve gotta get over that!

    • Amanda, “raging extrovert” and palpitations and freeze up don’t usually go together. It sounds like you are a true introvert. In my experience, introverts can bear their soul to an audience but dread the personal interaction of a small group. Something to think about.

  • Anonymous

    “I no longer look at those whom I don’t know as “strangers.” They are now friends I have not yet met.” is a great line.

    As an introvert, I always have to force myself to meet people at the tweet-ups. Funny how life is like a high school dance all over again 🙂 

    Just saying “Hi”goes a long way. Now to practice the art of breaking the awkward silences of conversation.

    Cricket Cricket

    • Phil, while you might be an extrovert, I love your profile pic. Looks like you could be a lot of fun.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks. The pic is pure bed head. My hair will stand up almost a foot without any gel.

  • Tonja

    Just yesterday, a lady at my local Subway introduced herself to me because she saw that I drove the same make and (unusual) color of car. We had a great conversation and she made my day. We’ve only met once, but Kay and I are already on a first-name basis.

    • I get that from guys who want to ask questions about my sports car. I am certain that it’s a dude magnet. 🙂

  • Dalene

    Since my days in campus ministry & walking up to strangers to ask them if they know Jesus, I can pretty much walk up to anyone & ask anything now. Actually, it’s how I met my husband 🙂

  • Diana Pemelton

    i do talk to strangers….. but they put me on medication  😉

    • Diana, you’re on medication because you argue with the voices in your head while trying to talk to strangers. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I love this. I, like Phyllis, have recently moved to a new town. I haven’t quite tried this yet and, to be honest, don’t get out much, but I do grocery shop and take my kids to school, and attend church. I’m an introvert, but as a writer I’m crazy-curious about people’s stories. I have met convenience store clerks by asking them about their unique jewelry or tattoos, and had the nicest bagger at Kroger tell me about an animal refuge to take my family simply because I mentioned we are new in town.

    Something you said in the comments strikes a cord — dare I say pet peeve– with me. In visiting congregations seeking a church home, I have been simply flabbergasted by the number of people that will worship around us and walk by us and never once stop and say, “Hello. I don’t know you. My name is___.” Such a very small thing to do that could make a HUGE difference in someone’s day — and perception of how they view your congregation.

    • I got convicted of that same thing in my church some months back and made a point of introducing myself to people around me on a regular basis. A couple of them have become good friends in the past year.

  • This is much easier here in Brazil than in the US.

  • Like your new outlook, I’ve never met a ‘stranger’.   My wife jokes that there is a sign on my forehead that reads:  “Tell me about your life”.    For whatever reason, my body language must be very open and inviting.     I view that as a good thing.

    As always — a great article!

  • Cindy Simmons/STAR 94

    “I no longer look at those whom I don’t know as “strangers.” They are now friends I have not yet met.” I put this into practice recently and loved it! I also stole your line and used it on my radio show this morning.  I love it! :o) Thank you!
    “Cindy and Ray” STAR 94-Atlanta

  • Great thoughts, Maurilio.  I’ve tried to be intentional about this in some situations.  I’ve never had a negative experience with it…and it has opened some doors to people’s lives that would have never happened otherwise.  I wrote a related post today about asking one’s self the hard questions about connections.

  • Great thoughts, Maurilio.  I’ve tried to be intentional about this in some situations.  I’ve never had a negative experience with it…and it has opened some doors to people’s lives that would have never happened otherwise.  I wrote a related post today about asking one’s self the hard questions about connections.

  • I have this theory that we are more connected to people than we think. That’s why I introduce myself to strangers. I did a post on my blog ( By starting a conversation & reading a lot you will find connections to almost everyone you meet. Those that don’t introduce themselves to strangers miss tons. By talking to strangers I’ve connected to the following (just to name a few):
    — Flight instructor who taught Jimmy Doolittle how to take short runway takeoffs
    — A son of a Phillipno Scout who liberated a POW camp in the Philippines during World War II
    — A stewardess who was grounded in Gander, New Foundland on 9/11.
    All were because I’d been reading about those events and walked up to strangers and introduced myself to them.
    Thanks so much for the post Maurilio. I loved reading it!

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