How I Avoid Panic Attacks When Talking to Strangers

panic attack talk to strangers

Advice from One Overthinker to Another

Have you ever found yourself stuck in an airport and needing a pen, but the thought of talking to a stranger would falsely persuade you that you don’t need it? In these situations doubts tend to take over and drag people into the state of discomfort, shyness or even a shame for considering the idea of asking. In order to avoid or even getting rid of social anxiety, it is good to always have a complete protocol of actions for this unexpected, unwanted but very possible and almost inevitable scenario of our everyday life. Here are lessons I learned from my own experiences. Use the advice if you find yourself in a similar situation!

Don’t Make a Face of a Cat from Shrek

Sure, it can work if it’s a kind stranger. But if it is a bossy character who likes to be flattered by others, your chances of getting what you want may dramatically decrease. Simply because this person is extremely likely to start to feel a certain level of disrespect towards you, for applying this insincere technique. If you want to do things this way, you risk to become disliked even if you received the item after all. It is important to remember, that if you are classified as someone who tries to outsmart an individual in this primitive way, the process of begging for a material item will turn into a begging for a rejection.

Humor is the Best Weapon

Before you start a conversation with a complete stranger, you got to look for ways to make that person smile and laugh afterwards. Let’s say you run out of the internet and you need someone’s 3g. The person is using a phone a few feet away from you. Don’t approach from behind. S/he has to see you first, at least with peripheral vision. If the stranger wears earplugs – wave to make an eye contact.

Let’s compare your further actions to the process of building a house of cards. Yes, you can construct it fast. But if you allow yourself a bit of clumsiness you increase an additional risks. That is why it is a good idea to take your time. But you may not always have it. So let’s break down both scenarios: when you do have some extra seconds and when you don’t.

Scenario A: In the Hurry

Every responsible hiker has a first-aid kit in the bag. Yes, it cannot save from everything. But it will make that traveler more likely to get to the point B than the one who doesn’t have these things. That is why you should be guided by the same principle and have your go-to phrase for an emergency. It’s like always carrying a little bit of glue so that you could make the process of building the house of cards easier.

It has to be your original line. But if you don’t want to exercise your creative muscle you can use this one: “You see the internet is like a water in a desert. I’m not ‘thirsty’. I’m ‘dehydrated’. Could you please save my life by giving me a ‘drink’?”.

This phrase cannot be universal, as it may not always apply to the object you need. But only if you don’t think outside of the box. If you’re armed with a good phrase for an “internet need”, you may still use it when you need a pen. You just say that you know only how to persuasively to ask for internet. Use that line that has no connection to the item you need and finish it with “...so can I have your pen for a minute?”.

There’s an alternative method that you can use. But it requires you to have a specific skill. If you’re good at speed tongue-twisters, you can apply it in pretty much any situation. You can patter a long detailed and super informative explanation of why you need it.

Example: “Hi. Due to cosmic but yet not enough high speed of technological progress, the surface of the Earth still has not been fully covered with free internet. Since currently, I’m not at the space-time where my device can detect it, would you mind if I ask you to please share your 3g with me?”

If you manage to clearly(!) ramble it in about 4 seconds it will crack up most of the people. Whichever method you’re going to use, consider that your decision should be based not only on your time, but on that person’s “index of a hurry” as well. If you can tell it is high – you know what to do. If it is low – apply the following strategy.

Scenario B: Easy does it

Going back to the house of card analogy, this option is like eliminating such factors as unnecessary wind and wobbliness of the table. And by the way, it doesn’t mean, that you should get rid of the phrase that was mentioned in previous scenario. This tempo should make your speech only a little bit slower. Don’t overdo with time. But also remember that you’re not in the hurry. So speed of energized yet relaxed telemarketer should do it.

Before starting a conversation, pay attention to everything that surrounds you. You can notice things that can inspire you to make a good joke. But if you don’t see any of the hints, you can build upon the phrase that was mentioned previously.

If you have plenty of time, by no means, don’t try to become friends in order to get the item. Even the kindest people may help you out with disgust if you give them a reason to suspect that your friendliness is just a trick.

Prepare to Offer Something in Return

If you made that stranger smile and you still don’t have what you need, you may receive a classical question “what’s in there for me?.” Your answer should be simple and preferably with notes of humor. Like “I will make you laugh even harder the next time” or “I won’t bother you with that question if we swap lives right now and you will need the same thing from me”

And if you do like that person you can go further. And hit back with: “you won’t have to worry about splitting a bill for our dinner. I’ll apply the same strategy of asking on the owner of the restaurant as I successfully did it on you.”

How I Use It

Once, when I needed a conference pass I was waiting for someone with badge card to exit the building where the event took its place. It was dedicated to hematology (branch of science about blood and its diseases). When I finally saw that person with badge leaving the territory of the building, I already had a plan with two objectives:

  • Offer something in return

  • Made that person smile

I came up with the opening line I’ve made specifically for that interaction while I was waiting. I’ve said the following:

“Hi! I really want to get to this conference. Could you please give me your badge card? In return I promise to donate you my blood if you get wounded”

Of course I received the pass because I got lucky with the person. But I also was able to use my luck by combining the two elements: humor and willingness to give something in return.


talking to a stranger anxiety

About the Author

Zack Hargorve is a blogger and an editor of bookwormhub community. One of his missions is to notice interesting, unusual phenomenons and tendencies in the world of music and communication, and reporting it to a diverse scope of audience.