What Is a Stranger?
When I think of a stranger I think of someone who you have never had a formal introduction and conversation with. Strangers are people who you do not know. You may have interacted with them in some ways, for instance, seeing the same barista every morning at your favourite coffee shop; however, you do not know anything about them on a personal level, therefore, they are still strangers.
How to Talk to Strangers
In James Hamblin’s article How to Talk to Strangers, it mentions how “detaching from expectations gives people an excuse to talk, to acknowledge one another’s humanity” (Hamblin, 2016). This resonates with me, as humans are used to seeing others conform to “norms”. However, when everyone conforms, no one stands out; therefore, there is no reason for anyone to interact with you.
I agree with Hamblin’s statement, as I do not like interacting with someone I don’t know unless I have to.
I find that humans tend to stick to themselves. Putting oneself out to the public can make one feel vulnerable. Fear of rejection overtakes us. Worries such as how will they react to our attempt to interact with them.
In this post, I will explain my experience talking with strangers. In this example, I spoke to others due to external forces pushing our interaction; however, I hope to reach a point where I can start a conversation to a stranger, wherever and whenever, simply because I want to.
My Experience Talking to a Stranger
This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to strangers. Since the new school semester has just begun, the majority of people in my classes are strangers to me. During one of my classes, our professor put us into groups for a group project. I was put into a group with five people who I have never met before. Since I had never met them and do not know anything about them, I would constitute them as strangers.
The first thing that our group did was introduce ourselves to each other. One by one we said our names. We had a small conversation where we went over the basics about ourselves, such as our major, what year of study we were in, and what other courses we were taking this semester. Now that I know the basics about these individuals and these individuals know the basics about me, I would move these individuals from the “strangers” category to the “acquaintance” category. If I saw them around campus, I would say hi to them. These individuals are no longer nameless people to me. Even though I do not know them well, there is something that connects us to each other.
How Did My Behaviour Change?
When we all sat down at the table, we were all fairly reserved. We did nothing more than engage in small talk. I found that we were matching the behaviour of the rest of the group as we were not sure of each others personalities yet. As we shared more about ourselves, we began to understand each other’s personalities and began to feel more comfortable removing part of the mask that covered our “true” selves. By the end of the class, a few of us were making jokes with each other. Therefore, I would say that I became more comfortable around them the longer we talked.
How Does This Differ From Online Interactions?
Online interactions can feel more effortless. You can choose to respond with a one word answer or not even respond at all if you do not want to. In real life, there is more pressure to keep conversations going. Once the conversation dies down, you cannot simply “like” their message and move on; you are in the same physical space as them, so it is harder to find a way out without seeming rude. Therefore, in person interactions tend to be more personal and creates a stronger connection than a text message can.
When it comes to interacting with a stranger online, we tend to be more skeptical about their intentions. We are more wary about what we share with strangers online. There is the threat of hackers and the concern of who could have access to our personal information. Although face to face interactions can be dangerous as well, it is easier to evaluate the situation and see if you feel safe interacting with that stranger.
Hamblin, J. (2016, August 25). How to Talk to Strangers. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/civil-inattention/497183/