It is impossible not to give away information about yourself. The way you talk, the clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive, and even the conversations you have in public tell others who you are.
Think of all the things you can surmise about a 20-something woman who gets out of a Prius with a college parking sticker on it, wearing an OU Sooners sweatshirt, worn-out jeans and a silver necklace. She’s carrying a Coach purse, talking on an iPhone and has manicured nails.
Someone who wants to earn the trust (however brief) of a potential victim may need only to distract her a moment for a theft or assault…or might attempt to forge an “acquaintance relationship” by complimenting the target or enlisting her help.
Possible opening questions:
- Your nails are gorgeous! Where do you have them done? (Where’s that? Are they gel? Is it expensive?)
- I love your bag! My mom gave me one just like it, but zipper on the inside pocket broke immediately and I had to exchange it. Is yours okay?
- Hey, I think that guy just dinged your car door! You’d better go check. I’ll get his license plate.
- Is that an iPhone 6? I have a 5, but I’m thinking of upgrading. Do you think it’s worth it?
- Can you tell me where Murray Hall is? I’m supposed to give a speech there but they didn’t give me directions and I’m late.
- I’ll bet you get amazing gas mileage, don’t you? I’m thinking of trading…is it worth it?
- I think you dropped $20 (either pointing to where it was allegedly dropped, or holding out a bill) when you got out of your car.
- And the easiest one of all: Do you know what time it is? (You look away, at your watch or phone, giving a stranger a moment of opportunity.)
Remember, context is everything. How long have you known the person in question? How did you meet? How well do you really know him or her? Consider these things when you let someone in your personal space, your car, or open your door to them. When you engage in a conversation with someone, remember that it is a two-way street. If you feel like you’re giving a lot of answers but not learning anything yourself, it may be time to cut that conversation short.
It’s become a cliché that we “open up” to certain people and share things we generally wouldn’t: hair stylists, bartenders, seatmates on airplanes, and as a general rule, “people we’re never going to see again.” Why do we do that? Perhaps we’ve built rapport (or they have), we’re attracted to the person, our inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, or they’re a “friend of a friend.”
Watch your words. Keep your private information private, and don’t give away important information like your travel destination, hotel name or room number, children’s names, where you bank, your pets’ names, or where you went to school. It is your personal information, and your choice whether or not to share it with a stranger. Why should they care what your kids’ names are, or what grade they’re in? (Honestly, I don’t even give my own name when asked in a restaurant. The hostess or cashier doesn’t care, it amuses me, and I don’t have my name announced publicly for all to hear.)
Be careful when you encounter someone new with whom you have something in common. Just because you both share a passion for the same type of music, you’re reading the same obscure book, or you’re on a flight to the same place doesn’t mean they’re not still just a “familiar stranger.”
Listen to your intuition, and remember your context. Until next time…stay safe!