I talked to a stranger at the gym. I had seen this person before, but I did not know her name or anything about her. I decided to ask her about her tattoos. She told me where she got them, and we had a brief conversation introducing ourselves to each other. There was not much substance to the conversation. It consisted of “what’s your major?”, “how often are you here?”, “do you live on campus?”, etc. I suppose it was interesting to learn a bit about this woman, but all in all I did not gain much from the conversation. Very rarely am I instantly hooked when talking to a stranger, it always feels like I’m searching for the next direction to take the conversation.
The easiest thing to talk about with new people is commonalities. In this case, we both go to the gym. This is a fine topic of conversation, but I find most people are not really into the gym as a hobby, but it’s more a part of their lifestyle. It’s the same type of thing as finding someone who goes to the same school as you, or is in the same line of work. Even if two people share one of these commonalities, neither party is likely interested enough to carry out a deep conversation on the topic. I call this first category of commonality to be “common circumstance”.
The next category is “common interest”. The common interest I find myself talking about the most with new people is music. Almost everyone listens to music, and a lot of people will be interested in a least one of the same artists as you. Since this is deeper than simply common circumstance, it gives more substance to a conversation. You can talk about other music that’s similar, or experiences related to that music. I’ve met many strangers in lines for concerts. These people are always super fun to talk to, because right away you have a topic of conversation that both of you are deeply into.
Of course, there is more you can connect over than just music. Finding someone into the same hobby as you is a great hook to a conversation. I suppose this is why one of the most common pieces of advice for making new friends is to join a club of something you’re interested in. Common circumstance can also be a common interest, e.g., some people may be extremely passionate about their line of work.
Finally, I would call the last category “common worldview”. This one is rather hard to describe. This is about finding people who think in the same way you do. This doesn’t mean meeting someone with the same political opinions or religious beliefs, but more people who process thoughts the same way, who find importance and beauty in the same things you do.
I recently met a local artist through one of my friends. Our first conversation was about the art that people we know are making, and everyone’s motivation behind it. I had never spoken with this man before, but we both had the same sort of motivation behind our respective crafts. This sparked a great conversation which led to me helping him with a short film a few weeks later. Meeting people with a common worldview will often form a strong relationship immediately, especially if it’s relating to a matter you both find very important, in this case art.
My goal is to meet more people with a common worldview. I’ve found I’m able to form much more stimulating relationships with people if we have more in common than just interests. Of course, this is no easy task. You often don’t stumble upon someone like this by accident.