The only thing standing between two strangers is something to talk about
Sometimes, two people with little else in common can forge an unlikely bond upon discovery of a common friend, having both lived in the same area of the country, or even having attended the same event. A shared connection can make two people go from complete indifference towards each other to utter glee and talking like old friends.
These two strangers became friends thanks to a wildly obscure common acquaintance
Total strangers Mitch and Aaron were seated next to each other on a long flight from Minneapolis to San Diego. The two exchanged pleasantries as they took their seats.
“Heading to the cat clothing convention too?” asked Mitch, noticing Aaron’s lanyard tucked inside his shirt.
Aaron tugged his lanyard out from under his jacket. “Nah, pornography marketing expo,” he said, holding up his badge.
Mitch couldn’t help but notice the company name on Aaron’s badge. “B. Cradmoor Adult, Inc.?” he asked, reading aloud while shoving his carry-on bag under his seat.
“Yeah,” Aaron began. “I know, it’s not the most dignifying line of work for a family man, but it—”
“That isn’t Bert Cradmoor, is it?” Mitch interrupted.
“Yeah, Bert Cradmoor, he’s the founder and CEO,” Aaron replied, suddenly intrigued. “You know him?”
“Know him?” Mitch exclaimed. “His drunk-ass dad Sonny and I used to haul garbage together back in the 70s when I was working my way through med school! Bert was just a baby back then!”
“Yes, Sonny! That’s his dad!” Aaron replied. “Oh my God, small world!”
“Wow, that’s unbelievable!” Mitch exclaimed. “To think that sack of shit’s son grew up to become a successful business owner. Unreal!”
The two spent the entirety of the long flight reminiscing about their obscure connection—the infant son of someone Mitch briefly worked alongside four decades ago was now the boss of the person sitting next to him on an airplane. Mitch’s conversation points were extremely fuzzy at best—he barely knew Sonny Cradmoor in the 70s. And Aaron only knew Sonny by name, based off a few stories told to him by his porn magnate boss. Yet for nearly four hours, the two laughed jovially, recalling stories.
“Bert told me the story of how his dad stole a monkey from the zoo, you ever hear that one?” Aaron asked, barely able to contain his giggling.
Mitch nearly did a spit take as he banged his fist recklessly on the seat in front of him. “Yes! Yes! The newspaper headline read Monkey Business! Our co-worker Brownie drove the getaway car and drove straight into the ravine!”
Eventually the conversation shifted to their personal lives. Business cards were exchanged. The two vowed to get drinks together at some point during their overlapping conventions. And it was all bound by that inane common bond.
How can you find a common connection with a stranger with whom you have little to talk about?
- The easiest and greatest way to form a bond is geographical—where the person is from. The average American should be able to make a connection to any US state. Whether you live there now, lived there at one time, know someone who lives there, have visited there, intend to visit there, or even know someone who has visited there, the possibilities to make a connection are endless! Sometimes it’s as far-fetched as “Nebraska huh? My wife’s cousin goes bird-watching in western Nebraska every winter. Says it’s beautiful territory out there.”
- Furthermore, if you can zero in on a person you both know as a result of the geographical connection, you’re likely to hit it off. “You’re from Iowa? My college roommate was from a town called Garner, Iowa.” “No shit! I know a lot of people from Garner! You know the Mulefaces?” “Yes! Sammy Muleface, that was my roommate’s uncle! Owns the barber shop!” “Oh my God, small world!”
- Last names are tougher, but as we saw above, a surefire way to zero-in on a common connection. The more unusual the last name, the likelier a connection. “Beardlicker… you wouldn’t be related to Carmine Beardlicker would you?” “Yes! That’s my great aunt!”
- Career, studies, or line of work are great common denominators. Whereas there are millions of surnames, there are fewer categories of work. Whether you’re in the same industry or even competing companies, it’s not tough to find similarities in common with any stranger.
- Learn the person’s favorite things. Sports teams, TV shows, and taste in music are great items to rally around. “I like your frilly Bon Jovi leather jacket! I saw them in concert back in ’87. They put on a hell of a show.”
- Try to ascertain if you and the other person had been in the same place at the same time, for instance you both attended the 2011 World Series, or both happened to be at the Munich Oktoberfest in 1998.
- Picking up on things like accents, mannerisms, and habits are at the top of anyone’s list. “Excuse me, but do I detect a northern Michigan accent? My dad grew up in the Upper Peninsula!”
- If you can’t find a common bond in conversation, sometimes it’s all about the visuals. If you happen to have the same hair style, are wearing the same blouse, are walking the same breed of dog, or are eating the same pita wrap, “samesies” are a great bond. “Yeah man, Schlotzky’s French Dip for the win! Been eating these my whole life. You’re a man of good taste.”
In rare cases, two individuals can even bond over common illnesses, malformations, past crimes committed, political agenda, and even a common hatred! Get creative, because odds are you can find a common connection with every single person shopping in the same Costco as you at any given moment.
My Hot Take
I enjoy meeting fellow South Dakotans because I can almost always find a common connection. Either I know someone from their town or they know someone from mine; it almost never fails. Some of the common acquaintances are real stretches, of course.