Our moms always told us not to talk to strangers when we were little – and, of course, it was good advice, for obvious reasons. But this kind of stuck with many of us in adulthood, and now we don't take the time to even acknowledge the people around us. We sit silently on our commute to work, avoiding eye contact and hiding behind our smartphones. But talking to strangers can actually bring you lots of benefits.
Having to wait in line or commuting to work can be a real bore. Sparking up a conversation with a person near you can make the time fly faster. It's like having real-life Facebook updates! And don't worry: you aren't committed to ever speaking to that person again, so if the conversation goes poorly, no biggie! At least you'll have a fun story to tell your friends.
Talking to strangers is a great opportunity to perfect two essential social skills: asking questions and being a good listener. When interacting with someone, many of us end up too focused speaking ourselves, pretty much ignoring what the other has to say. True communication is about asking the right questions, actively and wholeheartedly listening to the answers, and learning from them.
Talking to strangers considerably improves your chances to enhance your personal and professional network. The person next to you on the bus or the one you start a conversation with when walking your dog might one day become your best friend or spouse. Or they may be the one to finally offer you the job of your dreams. In today's world, who you know is often what matters, not what you know – so the random stranger you talk to on your way to work could become your greatest asset.
There is always someone out there who'll know more about a topic than you do, and listening to their perspective can completely change your views on that subject, expanding your horizons.
Talking to strangers can generate unexpected ideas and provide you with endless inspiration for old issues. Social commentaries, off the cuff remarks, everyday problems and simple chitchat may be that spark you needed to get your creativity rolling or find the solution to a problem that's been bugging you.
If you're a rather shy person, like I am, starting a conversation with a stranger sounds like hell on earth. But it's actually exactly what you need! It will help you overcome your fears and self-confidence issues in a way you never thought possible. Just approaching someone new and asking a simple question can be so liberating! If you make a habit out of it, you will get past your fear of being judged and enjoy an incredible boost of confidence. And you will be amazed at how this new-found confidence and feeling of freedom will "leak" into other parts of your life as well!
That improved self-confidence we talked about earlier will also help you become more assertive. The more you get used to speaking and sharing with strangers and the more relaxed you get about it, the easier it will be to address problems in your day-to-day life. Instead of accepting to do your coworker's tasks for the 100th time, you will finally have the courage to (gracefully) say "No". How does that sound?
Finally, the greatest thing about interacting with strangers is that a simple gesture like a smile, a small compliment or a word of encouragement could turn their day around completely. Isn't it the most incredible feeling in the world - knowing that you have this superpower to make someone smile in just a few seconds?
Taking a chance and interacting with people you don't know can really change your life – and theirs - for the better. Of course, precautions are in order – accepting to go for a walk through a dark alley with a random guy you found on the Internet may not be the wisest idea. So, do you think you'll start being more open to speaking with strangers?
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