You’re waiting at the bus stop with a handful of other people, but none of you acknowledge the existence of the others. None of you attempt to make small talk, and actually you’re probably avoiding eye contact with these people. On campus, there are about 40,000 strangers surrounding me, I encounter quite a few strangers everyday. I’m a really shy person, so talking, in general, is not a personal strength; but, at the same time, I adore meeting new people. The problem with our society is that talking to strangers is needed, but we don’t do this often enough. Talking to strangers has a negative connotation because, as a child, we were warned against this activity. There is no reason not to talk to strangers and it’s how you meet interesting people.

Why is it not kosher to talk to strangers? Why are those premises false? The problem is that we don’t talk to strangers nearly often enough. As a young child, adults most likely cautioned you to never talk to strangers. This warning is very reasonable, there ARE predators out in the world and young children can’t defend themselves. We’ve been conditioned to b afraid of strangers. It’s the social norm to not be overly friendly to strangers, and, quite frankly, people might think that you’re a freak. A research project done at Yale University reveals to what lengths people will go to avoid sitting next to each other on a bus. These antics include rummaging through your bag, places all of your things on the other seat, staring crazily, and sitting on the aisle seat and turning your music all the way up, therefore preventing your ability to hear someone ask for the seat. In this same project, it is explained how, if you are forced to sit with a complete stranger, you try to secure the least crazy person. As people step on the bus passengers are found to mentally assess the characteristics of each person.

I want to refute these feelings and ideas because there is no reason not to talk to strangers! You are not very likely to be kidnapped by the person behind you in line for veggie burgers. You shouldn’t be afraid to initiate conversations because even if they do end up thinking that you have mental issues, you aren’t obligated to ever talk to them again. In average situations these fears are illogical, but if you want to walk down an alley at 3 in the morning to make new friends, you should reconsider. Seriously, exercise common sense.

Now that you know that there is no logical reason to be afraid of strangers, let’s look at what happens when you actually do talk to them. There are multiple benefits to talking to strangers. Obviously, talking to strangers allows you to meet new people. When I first got to college the word networking was thrown around practically every other sentence. As annoying as this was, it’s true college is a great time to network, but in order to network you have to talk to people! If the rants of elderly are to be believed, it seems as if we are becoming more distrustful of others as time progresses. They might say something like: “Back in the good old days you didn’t have to lock your house or be afraid of letting kids play outside.” They rant because it’s true! As a whole, we didn’t have to be so defensive and cautious.

The strangers that you talk to may end up being your best friend; weirder things have been known to happen. At one point and time, all of my friends here on campus were just strangers. I came to college without any of my friends accompanying me. Talking to new people can provide interesting stories. I have quite a few awkward stories that have come about from me attempting to socialize. In addition to the social benefits of associating with strangers, maybe there are also mental health benefits. There are psychological demands of conversing with strangers and I feel like these are good for us. Talking to strangers draws you out of your comfort shell. There has to be forethought to carry the conversation smoothly. You have to be able to anticipate how people will react to you and what they are going to say next.

There is a disturbing lack of interaction with strangers, when there are no sound reasons for this, but, rather, reasons to socialize with new people. We have the problem of not talking to strangers, and there is a really simple the solution to remedy it. The solution is to just talk to new people! Now, how exactly do you go about talking to strangers without being to afraid? I have no idea. I’m still working on it, if I figure out the perfect method I’ll post it.

For now, sweet dreams!


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