What neighbours can do to create connections…
You don’t have to be an experienced social director to create connections in your neighbourhood.
Starting a conversation with strangers can take some courage.
We recommend you keep it simple, warm and friendly.
Here are some ideas on how to get you going.
The weather, whilst not a show-stopper, can be a gentle non-threatening opener to a conversation. But what next?
- Ask some questions. When it comes to best practices for how to meet your new neighbours, asking a question about the area can initiate more of a conversation and friendly rapport.
- Most people will appreciate the chance to fill you in on things they know about the neighbourhood and local life. Ask where the best place to get a coffee or takeaway is, whether there are any good spots for live music nearby, or, if you have a dog and so do they, whether there’s a good dog park or vet in the area.
- Try to ask questions that warrant more of an answer than “yes” or “no,” and that can get people talking about their interests. When you see the person again, follow up on your previous conversation and pull on those common threads you’ve established.
- Pay your neighbour a compliment when you see them e.g. their house, garden, dog, outfit etc. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
- Show interest in things they seem to like (perhaps you notice them carrying a guitar or reading a book or working in their garden — ask them about it!). This will indicate that you may have things in common—perfect grounds for chatting and creating connection.
- Listen to what the other person is saying. If you’re too focused on what you should say next, you’ll miss opportunities to follow up on good talking points right in front of you. These could be areas of similarity between you and a person you’ve just met (such as having the same birthday), or lead-ins that others provide which give you an opportunity to find out more. Either way, you’ll seem like someone who really has an interest in the other person, and you’ll also come up with further conversation topics.
- Express yourself openly and honestly. People can sniff out insincerity pretty well, and if you’re covering up, they’ll feel less like talking with you.
- Avoid making judgments. No matter whether the person you’re talking to is your friend, neighbour or a relative stranger, if you come across as judgmental, the other person will feel less like having a conversation with you and getting to know you better.
- Look for obvious cues as conversation jumping-off points. People you don’t know that well may reveal things about their interests or background just by what they’re wearing. Someone wearing clothes with sport team logos gives you the opportunity to ask about their fan allegiance, which can make for interesting conversation if the team is from another town, city or country. Unusual or particularly artistic clothing or jewellery is another conversation-starter.
- Stay on top of the news, and store some of it away so that you can chat about it later. You might not want to get into a serious political discussion with someone you hardly know, but some events from the national or local or sporting news can present interesting conversation topics. There certainly is plenty going on to provide rich fodder for conversation, as long as you keep clear of particularly sensitive topics.
- Think about what you might say. Just as meetings run more smoothly with a predetermined set of topics, your social conversations may benefit by similar planning. If you know you’ll be at an event with people, think of three or four things you think would be fun to chat about.
- Don’t be scared by silence. A quiet interlude in an otherwise lively conversation doesn’t necessarily mean the conversation and connection is over or that you’ve become uninteresting. Sometimes a little break in the chat can give each of you a chance to refocus.
- Note whether the other person would like to break off the conversation. To be a better conversation partner, you sometimes need to know when to close as well as to open. If people sense that you don’t know when to stop talking, whether it’s saying goodbye at the door or letting your partner get on to other tasks around the house, they may tend to stay away from getting entangled in what they may perceive as a tedious interaction.
- Everyone has their own brand of humour. In the early stages of getting to know your neighbours, if you usually like to make jokes you may want to tread a bit carefully at first, just in case they may offend. It can be difficult to back off from an unfortunate comment with people who aren’t your closest friends or family members. As you get to know each other better, you will likely know what the ‘no go’ joke topics are, and conversation will be easy.
- Stay connected, start a meaningful conversation. Be a good neighbour and a great listener. For more conversation tips visit www.ruok.org.au
Being able to keep the conversation going can certainly build the bonds between you and the people you care about the most. If you’re trying to have an enjoyable exchange with someone you’ve just met, these tips may lead to surprising outcomes that can broaden your enjoyment in unexpected ways.