10 Reasons You Should Talk to Strangers

painting people street walking keith doles
(c) Keith Doles

Spontaneous interaction with people we don’t know and may see only once in our life can be a simple and warm pleasure. The trick is to step graciously over the social custom of street indifference, like a red-shoed woman over a murky puddle, and speak.

It’s such a pity to walk past everyone with our headphones on, too engrossed in our thoughts to notice anything but the uncommon. Sure, we all have days when we can’t be bothered, but let’s not make street indifference a custom. After all, all those strangers that surround us evolved with us from the same primordial cell.

Talking to strangers is good because:

  • It acknowledges their presence, which today, in our super-busy world can cheer people up
  • It can start something beautiful
  • It pushes us gently out of our comfort zone
  • We may meet them again sometime, like on a sinking ship, and if there’s just one or two more place in their floating boat and a dozen of us luckless ones drowning in the water, they’ll probably remember us and guess who’ll get the life ring?
  • We can make new friends this way (I did)
  • We can even find love this way (I did once)
  • It promotes genuine human interaction
  • It makes us more daring
  • It’s good for the brain – have a short exchange with a complete stranger once and you’ll see how well you feel after
  • We give something of us to someone who may give something of them in return, even if it’s just a smile

Maybe I’m making this sound more easy than it is. I’m excedinly shy myself and interacting with others is a daily challenge for me. My first instinct is usually to hide into my comfortable solitude and pass by unnoticed and unheard. It’s not every day that the conditions are right for us to interact with strangers.

But there are times when we are in a good mood, and circumstances bring us close to someone, a complete stranger that we wouldn’t mind talking to, whether it’s a bearded gentleman or a girl who seems to have been sprinkled with fairy dust – in a line, in a shop staring at the same product as us, on a park bench reading a book we’ve read – and we may feel the urge to say something that can cross that little great social distance between our bodies.

It could be an innocent remark, a question, or “only” a smile. Don’t keep it to yourself. Express it. The worst that can happen is for them to pretend they didn’t hear. The best that can happen is the beginning of something warm and wonderful. A simple and genuine human interaction, born not out of necessity, like most of our everyday interactions are, but out of sheer inspiration.

Should we talk to strangers? Or should we pass them by?

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16 thoughts on “10 Reasons You Should Talk to Strangers

  1. “It acknowledges their presence, which today, in our super-busy world can cheer people up.” This one works for me.
    Try it also when you are in some kind of trouble or problem and talking to strangers will refresh your brain.

  2. I really liked this post because this is something I would like to do more often. I always feel too shy or awkward to do it, but your reasons are certainly encouraging. You are right, it could make someone’s day, if not our own, and is a great way to make friends. One of my closest friends is my closest friend because she dared to speak to me on a bus. So weird, right?

  3. As Tennessee Williams’ Blanche DeBois said, “I’ve always depended upon the kindness of strangers.”

    I agree with speaking to strangers…that is when the occasion allows it. One of my favorite places is the cashier line at the local grocery. And hey, sometimes I’m the stranger being spoken to! It’s a wonderful experience. And like others above, my best friend down the street is a result of my speaking to a stranger.

    I think, and this is a completely non-researched opinion, that there may be an unconscious affinity that draws one person to speak to another–a total stranger. One senses a being of a similar nature, perhaps. I don’t know. I can also say I’ve can’t recall speaking to any stranger and receiving a negative response-maybe nothing more than a smile or a nod- but never anything overtly mean.

    Great post Vincent, thank you!

    1. Thoughtful post as always, Paul. I do agree about the unconscious affinity. It’s a complex process no doubt, but it’s there. I have heard, for example, that when we chose our partners, we tend to subconsciously pick those with certain immune system characteristics that complement ours; we don’t know it consciously, but our body does. Similar background radars and checking and comparison systems could govern other social interactions as well.

  4. I have read your blog posts some time now, as a stranger, and today I pressed follow, as a friend. I think daring to contact strangers is one of the best things we can do for our personal health and for the health of this planet. It shows us that we are all humans and that finally no one is a stranger, just another aspect of ourselves. Have a splendid weekend, my friend.

  5. I’m a born extrovert (ENFP, if that means anything to you), I find this a very easy practice and I am always talking to strangers wherever I go. I like this post, you’ve got many great reasons here.. I think a smile or kind word could make a huge difference in someone’s life, you never know how you’re helping them just by acknowledging them!

      1. I’m beginning to understand introverts a bit better.. we’re all women, but one, here where I work and we’ve done personality tests, etc. In an effort to learn to work together properly.. quite interesting really. My husband and both boys are introverted so I’m learning lol

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