By Hannah Brooks
Some people think that having a kid slows down your game, but I’m here to scream “BULL.” My kid gives me more opportunities to talk to new people in one outing than the average person gets in an entire day.
Child-led interaction is an awesome way to connect with others, not only because it’s frickin’ cute, but because your kid takes the lead, making you the hip sidekick (#yesplease).
And before you say it, no, I’m not lazy, I’m BRILLIANT. Well, actually my kid is, but I made him so whatever. The point is, I birthed him and he helps me make new friends. Only fair, wouldn’t you say?
Not every interaction leads to a ongoing friendship, but that’s not really the point. By following my kid’s lead and interacting with the people around me, not only do I learn to be a better connecter, I give myself more chances to make new friends. At the very least, I get to enjoy a chat with a new acquaintance, even if we’re only swapping first names.
Want the moves? Here’s how my kid is the perfect ice breaker material, and how I’m 100% all over it.
The Smile and Wave
Let’s start out with the easiest one, shall we?
Most of the time, my son Weston has a smile plastered on his face. (Except when he doesn’t. Parents, can I get an amen?) Being the friendly little dude that he is, it’s pretty normal for him to flash his pearly whites and wave at a stranger.
This is the easiest way to start an interaction with someone. While he’s wilding waving, I smile at them, offer up a little chuckle and say, “Hi, how are you today?” Most of the time I get back a “Good!” or “Much better now!” Sometimes I open with a “my goodness, he’s sure your biggest fan!” There are days when it goes past intros into a real conversation, and other times it ends with that. Don’t overthink this one – just be open and friendly.
We’re talking low-hanging fruit, y’all. Take it and run.
The Walk Up
On the days I actually have the energy to chase my kid around, I’ll let him walk instead of riding in the stroller or cart. This comes with side effects, one of them being his habit of diving into people’s personal space and trying to make friends. (Don’t worry, I’m right behind him.) Sometimes I’m too exhausted to indulge, but most of the time it’s adorable.
Most strangers think it’s adorable, too. They’ll greet him with a “well, hi!” and suddenly he’s got a new bestie. (Adults, you should be taking serious notes right about now.)
That’s my cue to dive in too. “Hi, this is Weston! Wow, you sure made his day! I’m Hannah by the way.” They’ll offer up their name, and we usually start to chat about little kids or whatever else is going on. Sometimes to find new friends, you just have to act like a toddler.
My little Weston is obsessed with saying hi. To EVERYONE. And (you guessed it), it’s frickin’ GOLD I TELL YOU.
This one is so simple it’s almost ridiculous, but worth saying anyways: After your kid says hi, smile and say hi too!
I might smile, do a little laugh and say “Hi! How are you doing today?” Sometimes just being open, friendly and providing a conversation opener is all it takes.
Sometimes kids throw tantrums when you ask them to share, but other times they just walk up to strangers and try to hand them a snack. When my little man offers to share, not only do I encourage his heart, but I jump on it – it’s a great opener!
A sharing toddler is mega adorbs, and unless someone’s the devil without a heart, most people break out into a huge grin at the generosity of a tiny human.
Take credit for those manners and strike up a convo! “Oh good job sharing, buddy! Can you say hi?” Don’t just stop there, keep it going! A simple “thanks for being so sweet to him, I’m Hannah by the way” will do.
Location Location Location
Kids are maniacs when it comes to interacting with their surroundings, so capitalize on that to break the ice with those around you!
The other day I was at the playground with my son and he was all about climbing up the structure. It was a bit too big for him, so I had to do it with him. Another mom was there playing with her daughter. While we were both climbing, I mentioned something about how kids just want to scale everything. It sparked a conversation, and now whenever I see her at the park, we’re friends! I know her by name, and I can greet her little girl as she shares my son’s basketball.
Simple, wonderful, and easy peasy.
On The Struggle Bus
Unless you’re a zombie with a blank mind, you most likely remember what it was like to have a “that’s not fair” moment as a kid. We may understand now that our mom couldn’t buy us every piece of junk we whined about, but we can relate to the feels that come with the answer “not today.”
When my kid is having a hard time because I won’t do something, it often results in louder, less-than-pleasant noises. People notice. Most give a sympathetic eye, and, if I catch it, I’ll make a comment like “being 2, man, it’s a rough life.” We share a laugh, they may share a memory of their own, and we connect over a mini tantrum.
Crazy, but it works.
Jokes Are For Kids
Let’s face it, kids are weird. They do things that most people would never do in public, and they have zero shame. Sometimes it’s embarrassing, but most of the time I’m pretty jealous.
Let’s say Weston and I are out and he starts trying to take off his pants. You know, just casually sliding down the waistband like it’s nbd.
Me: Weston, leave your pants on please!
Weston: NOOO!!!! NAKED!!
Me: Everyone has to wear pants when they’re not at home. I get it, no pants are super fun, but we gotta leave them on, ok?
Lady nearby: I remember those days.
Me: My goodness, I know kids like to be naked, but really?!? Now?!
Lady and Me: *laugh and keep chatting*
Even an awkward moment can be the start of a chat. In fact, those ones are my favorite.
The Magic of a Laugh
I may be biased, but my kid’s frickin’ hilarious. He busts me up on the reg, and it’s not uncommon for him to crack up a stranger at the same time. When he does, it’s a great opportunity to connect further.
Me (walking through Target): Hey buddy, look it’s a mirror!
Weston: *excitedly squeals* YEAH!
Me: You can see yourself in it! I see me in there! Is Mommy so pretty?
Weston: *casually* No.
Me and a random lady in the isle: *laugh hysterically*
Me (to the lady): Well, looks like we have some work to do before he’s ready for a first date!
Lady: Haha, well, at least he’s honest! (conversation continues…)
Everyone’s kid is a goofball at some point – use it!
I talk to my kid nonstop. Like, he doesn’t even speak in full sentences but I have full conversations with him all day, errday. Not only is it great for his little brain, but it opens doors with the people around us.
The other day, I was in the grocery store looking at a new product and trying to decide if I wanted to try it. I was talking out loud about it to my son (like always), and a lady overheard me.
Commenting that the product was really good, she mentioned how much she liked it. I took her engagement and ran with it, and in less than 5 minutes, we were in a full conversation, names exchanged, she’d met my husband, and her number was in my phone. Weird? Nah. That’s called ninja connecting, my friend, and you can do it too.
People are bound to overhear you talking to your kid. Chances are, it’ll draw a response at some point, so don’t be afraid to pounce on it and engage.
The Confidence Boost
If you’ve never seen a toddler entranced and staring at someone doing something, let me tell you, it’s mega cute. And when you have a toddler making googly eyes at you, it’s hard not to notice.
When someone notices Weston staring, they usually say hi to him. As soon as they do, I’ll comment “he’s your biggest fan, apparently!” (referring to whatever they’re doing that got his attention). It almost always gets a laugh, and it’s a great ice breaker for a little chat.
Other times he gets offered stuff (think stickers from the grocery store or a sample from a bakery). Amid Weston’s wild squeals of delight, I’ll say “you’re literally making his whole day!” Not only does this make them feel great, it relaxes them because I’m letting them know they’re a welcome part of our day. Great ice breaker stuff, peeps.
Trust me, you got this.
If you’re looking for a magic potion that will make everyone you meet be your friend, hold up. I hate to break it to you, but that doesn’t exist.
The truth is, a lot of people you meet will have absolutely zero interest in talking to you or in becoming your friend. But, when you consistently put yourself in situations that allow you to interact with new people, your chances of raking in new buds skyrockets. I don’t know about you, but I’m all for that.
And guess what? My kid is too.
Want to be able to talk to anyone, anywhere without drawing a blank or feeling anxious? My free 36-page guide, “The Female Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Small Talk” is my gift to you, just tell me where to send it. Download it now!
Hannah Brooks, founder of The Leading Lady, empowers female entrepreneurs who struggle with social situations/social anxiety to confidently build connections and networks that allow them and their businesses to thrive. She’s a laughter addict, adventurer, and is obsessed with community. Hannah lives in Vancouver, WA with her husband Spencer and their little boy, Weston.