Ahh, that was a good meal. A fine piece of venison, carrots in a vinaigrette, twice baked potatoes - the ultimate reason why you must be kind to your fellow man.
The power of human beings grows exponentially when they are in groups. Traveling alone, you simply can't have meals like this. It takes a while to stalk wild game, and put together a fire, and secure your camp. There just aren't enough hours in the day to properly clean the beast, much less prep for preservation. Rip off some choice bits, and leave the remainder to the scavengers. Hey - coyotes need to eat too. But it would be nice to claim a bit more for your effort. When you're keeping to a light load - melting butter and a bottle of vinegar just don't pack so well.
Now of course the downside is that when there are other people who depend on you, you get tied down. You accumulate stuff, stay in a central location, and don't take risks since others need you around. Not so bad if you don't enjoy the zone, but your are missing a lot if you don't.
Alone or in a group, you have to be ready to work outside your clique. Your ability to tolerate and work with a-holes is probably the defining survival trait, more so than any ability to fire a gun or swing an ax.
A good thing to do when meeting people, is establish a common ground, a shared sense. Tell them about trouble in the direction you're coming from and show a concern about their safety. If its a warm day, tell them "lets get out of this sun" and offer a water bottle. A nip of something in the old hip flask is a great icebreaker in the evening.
It is possible to reason with the aliens, but you have to time it right. Outside their mech-suits, they're the size of a dog so a giant human with a rifle as long as they are tall is not a welcome site. Its safer to approach the robots really - they're aware they have the upper hand, and don't need to shoot immediately to protect themselves. Try to look at the shoulders of the suit - if its kind of blue or green, that seems to be the normal soldiers, no color on top of the camouflage is a commander and less likely to talk. Officers try to avoid the front lines it seems - so go for the soldiers, they're less paranoid.
Also, don't try to talk if you're in California. Really, the farther you are from the West coast, the easier it is. Not all of them are working towards the same goals it seems, and the ones in the West are a nasty bunch.
But enough about them - you mustn't get too worked up about the aliens, you don't meet them that often. Just enough be a challenge when you don't need it.
Back to people. Aside from saying hello, I'm not that good with people. I try to pay my good fortune forwards and give tips to those I meet in the zone - just note what I'm dong now - but my priorities are my own, and this world is too refreshed to simply settle down into a cycle of we need more food to support more people to gather more food that seems to control so many settlements. Towns have got to have a reason to be, and a goal to work for and much of our strife is that people either can't agree to that, or chose a goal that is mutual exclusive to their neighbors.
I want to see the zone. For now, that is enough. Unless you have pie - that would be great right now.