The past couple of weeks I have noticed a topic that keeps popping up in conversation. The idea that society as a whole is not too keen on talking to strangers, face to face. Whether that be when looking for a love interest or saying hello to the person you made eye contact with at the grocery store. I know that I have fallen captive to this way of thinking time and time again. You just spent the day dealing with people at work and can’t shoulder another hello. Or you’re unsure if the person who just smiled at you wants to ask for something and you don’t want to awkwardly have to decline. Whatever the reason is. I get it, I’ve been there. But, I’m here to tell you that something magical can happen if we just say hello.
With the new year, came a shift in my mindset. I have been talking to strangers and every time it feels as though what they have to say is exactly what I need to hear. Sometimes I initiate these conversations. I say hello or ask them a question. Other times I get approached, often times by older people, but oh, how I love their stories. People are fascinating and when we refuse to look up, we miss all that they have to share. A beautiful example of a times I was approached was at the beginning of March. I was in the Minneapolis airport headed for Phoenix. It was early and I was tapping away at my computer trying to get some work done before we had to board. For a moment I glanced up and made eye contact with a lady, that was enough for her to sit next to me. I went back to clicking away at my keyboard, which was not enough to deter her from striking up a conversation. Which I’m glad. We began to talk about everything and nothing at the same time. Before I knew it, I had closed my computer and was fully immersed in the conversation. It came time to board and she offered to save me a seat next to her if I would like and of course I accepted. We shared reading materials, snacks, but most importantly stories on that early morning flight.
It’s incredible the things you can learn from conversations with strangers. They know nothing about you. They don’t have any preconceived expectations that come with looking at a profile online. This is not a dis against online dating or internet friendships. I am in a beautiful relationship that started online. Online connections are just as valid as any other. But there is a difference in the way of conversation. The first is that you don’t typically know the persons name until later in the conversation, if at all. For those of us who have names whose spelling may not match the pronunciation (i.e. my pronunciation of Haley is “Hal-lee”) this is a godsend. They also don’t see a perfectly curated “About Me” section so the conversation usually stems from what they can see and that alone. Strangers ask questions that make me think. I feel as though often times when I converse with a stranger, I learn something about myself that I didn’t 100% realize. One that I didn’t realize until their question struck the right chord. If you want to get really good at answering unexpected questions, talk to strangers. It’s perfect practice for job interviews and first dates. When talking to strangers there are also no stakes in the conversation. You most likely will never see this person again so you can talk naturally, without overthinking what you are going to say next. It is good for us to talk freely from time to time. If you do really hit it off, you can share your contact information and a new friendship is in the making.
I was recently at a coffee shop when a mother and daughter sat near me and caught my attention. They reminded me of the relationship that I have with my mother. The shop was roasting coffee and they seemed interested in the process, so I asked them if they wanted to know more information about it. I worked 2 years as a barista and coffee roaster, but that is a story for another time They said they did and that was my in to a conversation. We talked about all sorts of things from horseback riding, to sailing, to being new residents of our town. The conversation flowed with such ease and grace. When the conversation ended, we exchanged contact information and went on our ways, but the feeling after that exchange was magic. We could all use a little magic from time to time.
All of this is to say, take out the headphones, look up from the screen, and smile at a stranger every once in a while. If talking isn’t you strong point this is a beautiful way to get more comfortable. We do not need to live in an individualistic society. Make connections, it will help everybody feel a little less alone. If you aren’t convinced it is a magical activity let me write the reasons clearly.
8 Reasons talking to Strangers is Magic
1.There are no stakes in the conversation.
2.The are no preconceived notions or expectations.
3.They ask questions you don’t always get asked.
4.Conversation speeds up time if you are waiting for something
5.It is great practice for interviews and first dates.
6.It is an opportunity for a new friendship.
7.There is a feeling of connection.
8.They always seem to say something that you need to hear.