Don’t talk to strangers.
We’ve all grown up with that philosophy. Yes, in most circumstances, it’s absolutely something to abide by, but sometimes, talking to complete strangers can be a very positive thing.
And here’s why:
The other day I was grabbing lunch from a local restaurant and they were quite busy. A gentleman who was also waiting for his food starting making small talk with me. At first, I was a little guarded, which is completely okay, because that is your body’s natural defence mechanism, but just as quickly, I realized that he was just being polite and I reciprocated the conversation. Had I been overtly standoffish, it would have just given off the wrong idea.
And that’s the thing. We’ve developed this pre-conceived notion that we should just mind our own business and never engage with people we don’t know in any given situation – whether it’s at a train or bus stop, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, or in my case at a fast-food restaurant. Depending on the situation, these are all potentially good opportunities to strike, brief, meaningful conversation. We deem someone a stranger because we don’t know them, but at the end of the day, they are a human being, with feelings, just like us. Chances are you won’t ever see them again after your brief encounter, so what’s the harm in just being polite?
In a world where we are increasingly dependent on our mobile devices, we have taken for granted the value of making face to face connections with people. You never know what kind of day a person is having. Remember, kindness is free and infectious, so striking or reciprocating in a friendly, light-hearted conversation with a stranger, then bidding them a good day with a smile could probably do wonders for them and for you.
Let me reiterate that I am not advocating that you go out and start scoping the streets for new acquaintances; all I am saying is when you have the choice between burying yourself in a game of Candy Crush or having a brief but potentially fascinating conversation with someone completely new, perhaps consider the latter. Observe the diversity around you, connect with a smile and go from there. If your efforts are unsuccessful, that is okay too. There is never a need to push.
Take a look at Humans of New York, as an example. This widely popular photo blog which recounts the lives of strangers living in the Big Apple, is a perfect example of the positivity that can come from conversing with strangers. You have to wonder how the author gets people to not only stop and talk to him, but have themselves photographed and showcased in his blog. There is definitely an art behind it.
Overall, the old saying of ‘don’t talk to strangers’ has evolved. Always follow your instincts, of course. Not every circumstance would make it a good opportunity to start talking to a stranger, so just trust your good judgement when someone extends a friendly hello.
Reciprocate. Smile. Connect.