How do you avoid becoming the object of a perfect stranger’s attention? You’re walking down the street, standing in a queue at the store, or riding on public transport when one of those outgoing I-like-to-talk types approaches you for a bit of a chat. The thing is, you’re really not in the mood to talk, and in fact, talking to strangers isn’t quite your thing. What do you do? How to stop strangers from feeling that it’s okay to approach you?
Sometimes talking to a stranger is just not something you want to. It’s been a long day, you have a lot on your mind, or you are preparing for a test – whatever the case may be; if you don’t want to risk talking to a stranger while you are commuting, shopping, or just going about your day, you don’t have to. By using the following 14 effective avoidance strategies, you can greatly minimize the chance of a stranger approaching you to chat or even ask for advice and directions.
How to deter strangers from talking to you – 14 effective ways:
1. Wear headphones or earphones.
This is a great way to show the rest of the world that you are wrapped up in your head and not available to people. With your headphones on or earphones in, make sure that you are looking at your device or away from people so that they cannot try to get your attention. You are in your music bubble, and there’s no need for people to disturb you.
2. Make a big display of being overly involved in texting.
Lock eyes with your mobile’s screen and get typing. Catch up with your latest text buddies, answer your emails, and scroll through your social media accounts. Make it very obvious that all you are keen to do is to immerse yourself in your online world. Text away to your heart’s content.
3. Take a book to read in public when waiting/commuting.
In my opinion, reading a book in public is the ultimate “no thanks” to people who want to talk. It can be a book, magazine, or even newspaper. Just make sure that you aren’t about to finish the book mid-trip or halfway through your wait.
4. Avoid eye contact.
What you do with your eyes is important. If you usually make eye contact and greet people; stop doing that immediately! Quite often, when someone makes eye contact with you, it makes them feel like they are entitled to talk to you. Avoid eye contact at all costs. Look down, stare out the window, look away – do what you have to!
5. Stand with your back turned towards other people.
Did you know that how you stand in a public space can make a difference to how approachable people think you are? Standing with your back towards people shows them in no uncertain terms that you are not interested in chatting. It’s a “get back” stance, and it most often works.
6. Move quickly and with purpose.
Moving quickly and with purpose is a great technique because people don’t feel that they have time to get a response from you. Looking rushed or busy is fail-proof. If there are stairs to climb, bound up them. If there’s a building to get through, stride. Walk quickly to your seat on public transport and look confident about it. Sometimes, it’s when you hesitate and feel unsure that you get an air of approachability. You want to avoid that.
7. Choose a seat or position that is purposefully away from other people.
Where you choose to sit can make all of the difference. If you are sitting in a crowded room or getting onto public transport, head straight for a seat that’s away from clusters of people. Don’t sit opposite anyone and avoid eye contact while heading towards your seat. If someone chooses to sit next to you and there is a free seat elsewhere, get up and move. The message will be delivered loud and clear.
8. Place your coat, bag, or briefcase on the seat next to you.
Use your personal belongings to your benefit. The moment you take your seat in a waiting room, in public transport or in the park, place your handbag, briefcase, bag, or coat next to you so that the spot is “taken”. This will provide a clear message that you want some personal space, and hopefully, no one will be so bold as to still try to sit next to you.
9. Make phone calls and chat the entire time with friends.
Maybe it’s time to catch up with old friends…and current friends, of course. If you are on a phone call chatting to someone, you have an excuse to stand a distance from other people, and most people won’t be keen to interrupt you. Make sure that you pace a bit and avoid eye contact with other people. Keep in mind that, every once in a while, you might still get a stranger who will want to “quickly” ask you a question even though you are on the phone.
10. Use deterrent body language: hunched over with arms folded.
Body language is highly effective in all areas of our lives, and it can be used to help you with keeping strangers away. How you sit, stand, or walk can deliver a very strong message to those around you. Someone who sits slightly hunched over with folded arms and crossed legs is delivering the message of “leave me alone”. It really works.
11. Acquire a serious, focused, non-smiling facial expression.
What your facial expression looks like can be the difference between someone wanting to talk to you and someone feeling that they shouldn’t talk to you. Someone who looks cheerful and smiley is someone who appears easy to approach. If you want to avoid contact with other people, you have to look like you don’t want contact. A sour or serious expression is far less approachable than a sunny and smiling disposition. Play the “I don’t want to talk” part, and people will leave you alone.
12. Wear a cap and sunglasses.
What you wear can also tell people whether you are available to them or not. Have you ever seen someone in the subway sitting with a low cap covering their sunglasses clad eyes? That’s because they aren’t keen to be approached by strangers. It’s a great strategy and really works, especially if you use the same body language at the same time.
13. Eat something so that you’re busy.
Everybody gets hungry, and eating in public seems to be the norm these days. Use it to your advantage. Chances are that no one is going to approach you for a chat if your mouth is full and you are munching away. Take a burger, pizza, cold drink, snacks, or anything with you to eat while you wait or commute. You will probably notice that people naturally keep their distance from you when you’re eating.
14. Reciprocate conversation with short going-nowhere responses.
If someone approaches you for conversation despite your efforts to keep them at bay, you should not fully engage with them. Give them short responses that show you are not interested in a chat. One-word replies or even no replies at all work best.
These behaviors might sound a little rude or impolite, but they certainly drive the message home that you are not keen for chatting.
When a stranger wants to talk to you when you’re just not in the mood, it can be really annoying. By adopting these avoidance strategies, you can hopefully keep strangers at bay long enough to get to where you are going, reach your turn in the queue, or move on to somewhere else. Use two or more of these strategies together for the best possible results.