Talking to strangers: Malcolm Silva
Talking to strangers was one assignment I was personally not looking forward to. I dislike it when strangers walk up to me for no necessary reason, and following the golden rule, also dislike doing so to others.
I spoke to 5 strangers, the majority in semi-comfortable environments. Just didn’t fit in the 6th because I was mentally done with the assignment and not willing to do it much more, not asking to be excused for it, just stating that it was a conscious decision.
Since I was already going to be out of my comfort zone, I decided I should at least be prepared beforehand and read up on the article provided as the guide for the assignment, so I had in mind body language, openness and the response of others as I fulfilled the assignment. I spoke to one person in my institute class, two on UVU campus, one during a lunch break at Wendy’s and the last one may be considered a less faithful to the project one, but I spoke to a semi-coworker in India, though I made sure the initial conversation with this specific person wasn’t work related, and I hate speaking non-work subjects with my coworkers, which is why I still personally qualify it for the assignment, my goal was to speak at that moment for the assignment.
I am not the type of person to walk around in a group, so I would say the stranger at my institute class and the semi coworker to be would be the cases where I was “with a group of peers”, whereas the Wendy’s encounter, and the 2 at UVU campus were the one-on-one encounters.
I noticed that more often than not, the reason I don’t have elongated conversations with people I don’t know too well or strangers is based on my own body language. I often close out, not intentionally, but I do. I believe I get intimidated in some of the conversations, for example, at institute, the stranger was another man, 2 years older than me, who I decided to speak to because he had read the Book of Mormon in Portuguese, and since I was raised in Brazil, I wanted to know why he chose to read it in that language, instead of us standing, I was sitting in a chair, and he sat on the desk, ending up above me, this is where I first noticed myself closing up, I didn’t want to look up at him, so I hardly made eye contact, my body language must have suggested I wasn’t much interested in continuing the conversation after my initial query was met, it wasn’t productive, and I may have even given the impression that I just wanted the conversation to end and for him to leave me alone, because he did shortly after.
I also noticed that I am more comfortable with computers, it was through a video chat program that I spoke to the new coworker to be from India, I asked to train a new group of outsourced employees for my company, and I was told there would be their supervisor, who was aware of the company, but not too familiar with it, so, on the premise that their supervisor should be more familiar with the company to better represent it and to not alienate him and those who would be below him, that I should introduce myself, and make him feel more comfortable with the idea and know that though it was a work relationship, that the company was made of good people, same as anywhere else. I don’t like mixing business and pleasure/leisure at all, it annoys me to no end when others do, but I tried doing so for the sake of this assignment. Mahdy was closed at first from what I could tell, he was probably wondering “why does this guy want to speak to me alone before the training even starts?”, and since I was the more experienced employee for the company, and the one to do the welcoming, that is what I did, for this, since I knew very well everything about the company, what we’re all about and how we like to do things, I was a lot more confident in what I was saying and was able to open up more, and even to get him to open up more, he started with little to say, but through asking him questions about what he thought of the idea of working with the company, and what his expectations were, he started to open up, I tried throwing in some humor to the conversation as well, some computer jokes that only insiders get, and luckily, he got most of them, so, by the end we were able to both speak freely to each other, and due to that, we were more in sync for handling the training process for the week after that, since he knew he could trust me with questions and not feel like he had to handle any questions the trainees had on his own.
The interaction at Wendy’s was pretty straightforward and not much worth note, I was able to remain overall open, eating fast food is somewhere I am awfully comfortable and the conversation was simple, I said “Hi”, she was a pretty brunette, we talked about how sad it was when there were 2 cashiers and we both got the new one who we had to repeat our order to 3 times before actually moving on, and a small joke or another was made, and we both left with our food. There were no problems with rejection, we both agreed that new cashiers were always a fun experience, and that was it.
Speaking to other students at campus would be the “fun” examples, I spoke to one male and one female, I guess speaking to only females would be sort of cheating, the guy was not too happy I walked up to him and started speaking, we were both walking in the same direction and I decided to just ask how things were going, and how his day was, he looked at me annoyed and said a simple “fine” and kept walking without much more, I made another comment on how the day was being awfully slow, didn’t get a second glance from it… I don’t think I had any sort of “closed” body language, I was just walking to my second class of the day, and I don’t see a reason to close myself when I’m walking in public-ish spaces, but I guess he was busy or simple not interested, who knows?
The last subject of test was another female, also a student on UVU campus, a pretty redhead, and though she wasn’t against speaking to people, she didn’t seem too much for it either. Same as with the guy we were both walking in the same direction, to my public speaking class this time, and I said “Hi”, asked how she was, and though the answers weren’t monosyllabic, they were still along the lines of “I have no idea why this guy is talking to me…”. I noticed she had a drawing sketch book among her materials, and asked what kind of art she was interested in, to test getting her to open up, as the article suggests, but to no avail, the conversation was over as soon as there was an excuse to walk a slightly different path, in this case, just forking the path and walking awkwardly on different sides of a hallway like structure for about 50ft.
Trying to get people to open up is where I struggled most, though I tried with questions, it may have been my body language once more, though I didn’t notice myself closing up, I may have, can’t say for sure… But I still dislike talking to strangers, and hope I don’t get caught by someone in your next few classes.