For a long time, talking to people I didn’t know freaked me out.
I thought this problem would fix itself when I got to college, but it didn’t—I mostly clung to my existing friends (most of whom were from high school) and relied on them to introduce me to new people. My social life never felt like something I was in control of and although I wanted to make new friends, I just didn’t know how. So I didn’t do anything, and as a result my personal, professional, and dating lives began to suffer.
Eventually, I started to obsess over this problem I had with social anxiety around new people. Some of the tips I found online were helpful, many others worthless, but eventually I started to get a handle on things.
But when I moved to a city where I knew only one person, all this anxiety around meeting new people returned. I knew making friends took time, but I was impatient. Frustrated with the slow progress, I started to wonder:
What would happen to my social skills if I forced myself to try and start conversations with a ridiculous number of people in a single month?
That was the basis for 90 Strangers In 30 Days, a social experiment where I forced myself to try and talk to at least three people I didn’t know, every day, for 30 days. The idea terrified me, but I figured if anything was going to bust me out of my social shell once and for all, this would be it.
As I tried the idea out, I recorded all of my ‘data’—such as the person’s demographic, where and how I started the conversation, and what we talked about—in a spreadsheet. Everything went better than expected, and at the end of the month I had talked with 118 people I didn’t know. The best part was that after the first few days it really wasn’t that hard and actually was a lot of fun, two things I never thought could true about talking to strangers.
Just for fun, I then wrote a blog post about my five biggest takeaways from the project and also decided to share the experiment with the r/socialskills board on reddit.
Expecting little if any attention at all, my project was soon on the front page of the entire site, receiving over a hundred comments from people telling me they were inspired by my post, that they wanted to know more, and that they even planned to do their own versions of my experiment.
Years later, I still receive messages from people asking me my advice on how they can improve their social skills. Others tell me they did their own version of 90 Strangers, some even going as far to say that it changed their life. Even after all this time, the post remains one of the most popular ever on r/socialskills, which has over 290,000 subscribers.
In November 2016, I was even invited to give a TEDx Talk about my little idea:
It was clear to me this was an issue people needed wanted help with, a message they needed to hear, and an idea that I should do more with.
That’s why I have written (and am currently shopping to publishers) a guidebook that will help you go from social zero to hero by offering real, actionable, social skill tips that will help you talk to your own set of 90 Strangers with ease.
Updates on that will be available as they come, but to improve your social skills right now you don’t need a book. Instead, take a look at the original 90 Strangers In 30 Days content, download and print the free blank conversation log, then start becoming the socially-stronger person you’ve always wanted to become by doing the experiment yourself:
- Introductory post — explains the background of 90 Strangers In 30 Days and the rules I created for the experiment
- Project recap and FAQ — a breakdown of my data, observations, as well as some answers to common questions about 90S
- 5 Big Takeaways — what I learned most from my original 90 Strangers trial run
- My original conversation log — each of my 118 interactions
- reddit post
- Sticky Lips and a Loose Memory — a retrospective on the TEDx Talk I was lucky enough to give about 90SI30D
- More Frequently Asked Questions — lengthier answers to common questions I’ve received since doing the experiment
The following summer I also did a similar experiment called 90 Compliments In 30 Days which can be found here.
90 Strangers In 30 Days won’t magically turn you into a social butterfly. But it will show you that social skills are just that–a skill–and that through deliberate practice and repetition, one you can be well on your way to mastering in just one month.
Want to try 90 Strangers In 30 Days for yourself?