I remember the days prior to smartphones when you could walk up to a random person and emerge into a meaningful conversation. Talking to strangers is becoming more of a pain with all the progression in “social” media. More and more people are taking preference to online interaction and not real personal communication.
What percentage of your conversations consist of a “Hey, how are you?… Good, yourself… Fine, thank you… silence…” followed by both people departing their own ways? Even this is better than nothing, nevertheless, there is no purpose behind that meet. The art of conversation is lost on so many people… and I’m speaking of real conversation, not a Facebook chat.
However, I don’t believe that social media and technology are to blame entirely. Disliking strangers is a normal chapter of childhood development. From a young age, we have been taught to avoid unfamiliar faces, we have been taught to fear “stranger danger”. As much as I agree that children should not be taking candy from strangers, I equally believe that conversing with new people is amazing!
Elevated feelings of happiness and belonging
New studies suggest that conversing with a total stranger can make you happier and establish a larger feeling of belonging. Research by Dr. Gillian Sandstrom discovered that many people believed that interaction with strangers would be uncomfortable and awkward, but in fact, the participants were proven wrong and had the opposite experience! In this study, Sandstrom’s findings suggested that any interaction no matter how small had a large positive impact on a person’s over all well-being! Even little interactions such as speaking to someone in the line of Starbucks or making small talk with fellow classmates resulted in a boosted sense of self-purpose and feeling of happiness for the participants. Isolation is not in human nature! We thrive on interaction with others! The average person becomes depressed if left in solitude for too long, accordingly it makes a lot of sense that our brains feel rewarded by social interaction!
Gain confidence and self-esteem
If you consider yourself a shy type of person, starting a spontaneous conversation with anyone let alone a stranger is rather exhausting. The worst case scenario in approaching a stranger would result in an awkward conversation. Chances are, you will most likely never see that person again. You can overcome this fear of being judged by others and turn it into a routine. This will boost your self-confidence and you will be amazed how much this will carry over to other parts of your life! You will soon realize how easy and amusing it really is! People who engage in more conversations have a higher chance to close deals and business negotiations as well. Business has become less about what you know, and more about who you know. By interacting with more strangers, you are boosting your self-esteem! This newfound confidence can be especially beneficial in your professional world!
Gain a new Perspective
Many of us tend to surround ourselves with like minded people. This is conventionally a great thing! However, there is also a drawback. When you surround yourself with people that have all the same beliefs as you, you are more inclined to stay within your comfort zone. Instead of wrestling with difficult questions, you settle for the answers that everybody around you is giving. Republicans aren’t likely to hear new perspectives if they are always around other Republicans. When you converse with strangers you gain a new perspective on many topics. The views of a stranger can enlighten you with wonderful new opinions you would have never experienced with your friends. What I love about the art of conversation is the listening aspect. I always seem to learn something new and intriguing when talking to strangers.
Everyone was once a stranger
Imagine how different your life would be without your best friend or your gym buddy. These people were all strangers at some point. It wasn’t until the countless conversations later that your acquaintance blossomed into the amazing friendship it is today! If we objectively treat strangers as probable future friends, our whole world unfolds to new possibilities. The girl of your dreams could be one of those strangers. Your dream job could be connected with that guy passing by. Everybody has their own unique story to tell and we shouldn’t deny ourselves that experience. Talk to the person sitting next to you on the bus, say hello to your neighbor walking his dog! You might just make their day!
The more conversations, the better
With the same principle of going to the gym, boosting your social skills takes repetition and consistency. If you hit the gym twice, chances are you won’t have the same aesthetics as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Likewise, the first conversation you have with a stranger will not lead to a lifelong friendship. The more interactions you have with people, the easier it will become to strike up a meaningful and entertaining conversation!
DON’T take it personally
Occasionally some people do not want to talk. As friendly as your intentions may be, if someone has headphones in, or if they’re reading, they probably do not want to be disturbed. Furthermore, some people may not make it so evident they do not want to converse. If you approach a stranger being completely sociable and they do not seem at all eager to continue the conversation… Do not take it personally. They are probably having a bad day or simply do not want to talk to other people for various reasons. If they choose to reject your conversation, then they lost the opportunity to connect with a delightful person. Do not let these people cause you grief. Continue to search for more people to converse with!
What to say?
Even for the most approachable people, a conversation can become awkward. It is sometimes challenging to think of what to say to a person you know nothing about. However, you can use this to your advantage! This just means the conversation topics are endless! You could talk about: current hobbies, travel plans, work/school, past experiences (where they grew up), future plans, etc. I like to find some sort of common ground when trying to talk to someone new. I once recognized a T-shirt from an undiscovered artist worn by a stranger walking through the park. After he verified that my hunch was right, we ended up talking about music for hours! I still keep in close contact with him today!
When most people find themselves left in solitude, their instinct tells them to reach for their pockets or purses. Dissociate themselves from the outside world and stare blankly down at their smartphones. It is an unfortunate image that we can all visualize in our heads vividly because we see it every day. Take a moment to put your phone down, and look up. The person next to you has something your smartphone can not give you.