Anxiety-oriented relating is a behavioral strategy that comes from living in a hostile environment, such as a dysfunctional family, a bad school, or a prison. It involves controlling interaction with others to avoid conflict and danger. It can include minimizing verbal communication, avoiding eye contact, suppressing the feeling and display of emotions, and maintaining a rigid facial mask.
Psychologists may call this “avoidant personality disorder” but it’s simply a rational response to being around people who are likely to attack you with little of no provocation. You can’t avoid an attack without any provocation, but if you make yourself as low-profile as possible you avoid drawing attention to yourself.
The typical attitude toward this is that it’s stupid, and you should just get over it. The truth is as an adult you don’t really need it, but untraining yourself is not that easy.
Talking to strange people is pretty difficult for me, but I have been trying it a bit recently with good results. I make an offhand comment that doesn’t require any response, really, but usually people give me a response and a bit more.
I’m not sure what the normal strategy is, or even what exactly to call it, but relation-oriented relating is the best I can come up with. You assume the person is not a threat, and you can relate to them on at least a casual level. I want to try this a little more and then work up to cold approaches.