Strangers are often associated with unknown danger and we are taught from a young age not to talk to them, avoid eye contact and do our best not to engage in any social interactions unless absolutely necessary.
Kio Stark, author of When Strangers Meet, has done extensive research into the emotional and political dimensions of stranger interactions and the complex dynamics how people relate to each other in public places. Her findings support the claim that engaging in small social interactions with strangers provides a unique kind of social intimacy.
Being able to engage people in small talk on a day to day basis is a great way to boost the feeling that one belongs in a community and that can easily be achieved by saying hello to someone on the street or the bus, commenting on something you have in common, ie being on the same train, or even simply acknowledging the other person and smiling at them.
Stark also offers a simpler way to start conversations with a stranger, using a compliment as a way to engage; her example being complimenting their shoes. You can also pick out anything else on the other person that you like, if you are genuinely interested in the item even better as this can spark an entire conversation about something you may have in common. This is a very important technique when you are actively trying to make new friends too. Complimenting someone makes them instantly predisposed to like you, and, especially when you are part of a crowd, you become ‘the friendly one who liked my shoes’.
In some cases, you can even find yourself in a situation where you share something more private with a stranger, the loss of a loved one, a big problem that you are currently trying to solve or any other deep and honest thought you might have. It is common in this situation for the other person to share a similar experience of theirs, creating a connection.
While you can easily rely on the freedom of never having to see this person again, in a lot of cases, sharing something intimate can lead to a longer discussion and become the start of a new friendship. Discussions that help you get to know how another person thinks about matters that are important to you become a much more solid base to build a friendship on than your average ‘where are you from’ or ‘what do you do’ questions.
Not talking to strangers means missing out on all those small everyday interactions and their fleeting intimacy and in turn missing out on a huge part of connections with other people that you would otherwise have. Stark recommends making the effort to talk to someone next time you are out and we definitely agree with that. As the leader in friends making, citysocializer has always supported talking to people on every chance you get and is actively promoting social interactions in every social situation.
We also encourage you to use the skills you learn from talking to strangers when meeting new people for the first time, they are also technically strangers, and finding a way to create a connection with them. If we all make an effort to talk to each other, we increase the chances to make new friends in our day to day life and make sure there are less strangers out there. It’s a win-win situation.