How to Start a Conversation, Part 2: Use Rooting to Smooth into Conversation

Ever not talk to someone because you feel you have “no business” starting a conversation with them?

You think, “It’ll just be awkward because they’ll wonder why the heck I’m talking to them.”

Well, you’re right. They probably will think that. Don’t worry though; it’s not because of you. It’s a natural thing we all do when a stranger approaches us.

In this post, I’ll show you a simple technique called Rooting that helps to override this natural instinct and smooth into starting a conversation.

What did mom say about candy and strangers?

It’s just natural. When someone you don’t know approaches you think, why is this person talking to me?

This happens for a couple reaons:

  • Deep down, our fight or flight instinct is still tingling (after millions of years – geez!)
  • We’re socially conditioned to be suspicious of strangers for many reasons

You don’t know this person’s intentions so you think, “Ok, what does this guy want? Will he hurt me? Or worse…does he want to sell me something?”

The underlying principle of Rooting is it “disarms” this social defense people have toward an unknown person.

Show social intelligence–acknowledge the situation

The best way to explain Rooting is through an example.

Say you’re in a coffee shop and see someone at a nearby table you want to talk to. You might say the following:

“Hi, excuse me…(wait for attention). That watch is really nice! Where’d you get it?”

That could work, but more effective would be:

“Hi, excuse me…(wait for attention). You know I was sitting over there and your watch caught my eye. It’s really nice! Where’d you get it?”

The second example is less jarring and more effective because it calls attention to the “social situation.” Maybe it doesn’t do that explicitly, but the subtext is saying:

I understand I don’t know you, but this is why I’m talking to you anyway.

Laying the foundation

Rooting doesn’t have to be an elaborate story and in fact shorter is better. Really, these are just natural things to say.

It’s just a dab of social lubricant that works on a subconscious level. It helps in conversation for two reasons:

  1. It transitions into talking to someone.
  2. It suggests why you’re approaching them and helps overcome those subconscious concerns.
It’s called rooting because it lays the foundation for the conversation. You’re answering the question, “Why are you talking to me?” Even if it’s in a superficial way, it still helps ease their mind.

The end result is a smoother and less awkward beginning to a conversation.

Add a Dash of Mystery

Another way Rooting can work is by arousing curiosity. This also cracks their barriers because they want to hear what you have to say.

Below are examples of rooting statements that work well in about any situation. Notice how they automatically arouse curiosity and imply you’ll explain why you approached.

You would say these after getting their attention:

  • I just have to say…
  • You know what…
  • I wouldn’t normally tell someone this but…
  • Look, you’re probably gonna laugh at this…
  • Wow, you/that just really caught my attention…

You can make these up as you go, really. The wording isn’t very important and the next thing you say can be almost anything. It doesn’t have to link up well with your rooting statement.

Really, it’s your subtext that matters. That subtext is:

“I have a good reason for talking to you even though I don’t know you. This is OK. I’m a nice and friendly person; let’s talk.”

Why you can and should talk to anyone

You might be thinking, “but what if I don’t have a good reason for talking to them?”

Close friends, great experiences & fun chats flow from your enthusiasm for life.

Listen to me.

You’re an incredible person deep down, right? He or she probably is too. Getting to know you could make their life richer in hundreds of ways and vice versa, even if you only talk this once.

Besides, this is the only life either one of you will ever live – what have you got to lose?

That is a good enough reason to talk to anyone.

It’s this sort of zest and enthusiasm for life that will draw people to you AND entice them to be more accepting of a complete stranger approaching them.

Now get out there and talk to someone because they’re wearing a red shirt, or look like Harrison Ford, or sneeze like a mouse… Get what I’m saying here?

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