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?