Moving through the discomfort of approaching someone you don’t normally interact with shouldn’t turn you into the tragically awkward Ralphie Wiggam from The Simpsons. When he tries to flirt with his brilliant schoolmate Lisa Simpson, he asks, "So, um...do you like...stuff?," in the most pathetic gambit ever.
When meeting someone new, Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of behavioral Economics at Duke University, writes, "We try to achieve a delicate balance between expressing ourselves, learning about the other person, but also not offending anyone -- favoring friendly over controversial -- even at the risk of sounding dull."
So instead, get real and ask people questions that get an interesting discussion going. Keep it friendly, know when to back off, and understand that there are often very good reasons why someone holds a certain belief or value. Use the conversation to discover viewpoints different from your own. You may find that substantive dialogue can earn you respect from colleagues you don’t know very well.