The Unexpected Benefits of Talking to Strangers

Do you talk to strangers? Branch out to form more genuine connections with the world around you.

Growing up, our parents imparted us with sage advice: “Don’t talk to strangers.” They had the very best intentions and were warning us against certain kinds of situations. But what if you took that message to heart a little too much?

In these days of seemingly endless divisions in our society, the pool of people we feel comfortable chatting up can diminish pretty quickly. What’s the pool of people that you are comfortable engaging with? Do you chat up the yogi on the mat next to you before class? What about your hairdresser? And your butcher? When was the last time you had a connection with the person serving you your Starbucks Grande Extra Foam Whatever?

I’ve been contemplating this for quite some time. And, while I’ve never been accused of being a quiet girl, I’ve definitely noticed that there are some situations where I put my guard up by default. Head down, eyes glued to my smartphone, just waiting to move on to the next moment. Sound familiar? I’m willing to bet you’re all too acquainted with the iPhone defensive stance.

Here’s the thing: When we choose to spend moments in the coffee shop, the grocery store, or on the street just waiting for something more important to happen, we are giving up our consciousness practice and we’re playing small. Consider interactions you’ve had recently that left you feeling inspired. Chances are the person you were speaking with was looking you in the eyes and listening. Giving the gift of our attention to people that we know, and those we don’t, is not only generous, it empowers us as well as the person we are talking with.

Giving the gift of our attention to people that we know, and those we don’t, is not only generous, it empowers us as well as the person we are talking with.

I’ve been putting my theory into practice in the seemingly mundane moments of my life. I ask my butcher what they would be cooking tonight, and how they’d make it. I’ve discovered some great new ways to make steak for my man this way.

I ask the cashier at the grocery store what time she’s getting off work, and if she’s ever tried this particular raw coconut water (even if I think she’s never had, or heard of, raw coconut water before).

When I’m waiting in a long line, I exchange pleasantries with the person waiting ahead of me.

Some really beautiful shifts have been happening for me. I’m having pleasant little connections throughout my day, while I run my errands, while I wait for my coffee, when I’m walking down the street. Oftentimes I feel like someone else’s day was brightened because our exchange was a moment of validation for them, or just a nice way to spend a minute or two. I’ve been feeling more present and connected in these moments not only to other people, but to my own attention.

Where in your life are you missing connectivity? Where could you add more presence and acknowledge someone else with your attention?

Photo by Christen Vidanovic. 

elizabeth-crisciElizabeth Crisci is a yoga teacher and artist in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She is the creator of Love by E, handmade gemstone mala and jewelry. She teaches in workshops, special events, and trainings in the Northeast in addition to a range of regular, weekly classes. She teaches smart and accessible yoga designed to make you feel good. She loves every minute of her work. You can find her writing and her teaching schedule on her website.