Sometimes talking to others, in the store, in your neighborhood or just in your daily commute, is often a challenge. Most of us have grown up with our parents telling us NOT to talk to strangers. Although it is essential in keeping your children safe, it does tend to isolate us as adults. Researchers have found that face-to-face communication integrates non-verbal cues and involves better turn-taking behaviors, pivotal during social interactions.
Author Kio Stark, a stranger enthusiast (first time I have ever heard of that title), indicates this lack of communication between strangers has evolved over time. She has written a popular book entitled “When Strangers Meet: How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You.” In her book she identifies some of the social obstacles concerning talking to strangers, the benefits and a plan you can use to improve your opportunities. Some people just naturally “never meet a stranger.”
At some point or another, everyone is a stranger. When you eventually start a conversation and get to know someone, then you call this person an acquaintance that eventually can lead to becoming a friend. This is a very important thing to do as an adult. Building bridges by talking to others will forge a connection. These acquaintances might be of a different gender, different walks of life or even different cultures that can open up new ideas or help us make new connections with old ones.
A survey of commuters was held by researchers, who found they usually underestimated how willing others are to talk with them. Making the first move to talk with someone made others more willing to socialize. Another study was conducted which left participants in a room where some were instructed to engage in conversation and others were asked to refrain. Those that engaged in conversation enjoyed their wait more opposed to those who waited in silence.
Connections develop networks and confidence, and end with a more enjoyable journey. It isn’t always about what you know, but rather who you know. Starting a conversation with a stranger may net you connections for business, a referral for a great roofer, the name of a new restaurant or even a great joke you may wish to share with someone else. That person next to you might be a really great asset.
Practice the skills you might find useful in other situations with people you may never see again. Build up your confidence to speak with strangers and you become more assertive and might have the resolution to speak up and share your ideas at the next business meeting.
In a crowd of people, remaining anonymous while still acknowledging the presence of strangers, indicates you are not seeking interaction, but also have no hostile intentions.
This is a description of civil inattention. Research does support interactions with strangers. Those who get to know and trust their neighbors are less likely to have a heart attack than those who have strained relationships with those living in the same neighborhood.
Eric Kim, Ph.D, a psychologist named “top 30 thinker under the age of 30,” conducted a study of adults living in rural, suburban and urban areas for 4 years. Those with a weak social cohesion had a 67% greater chance of a heart attack than those who said their social cohesion with neighbors was strong. Get out there and enrich your life. Others have a great deal to offer and we probably have a lot to give in return as well.
-Dr Fredda Branyon