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10 Simple Daily Practices That Can Help You See A Bigger World

10 Simple Daily Practices That Can Help You See A Bigger World

Have you ever just sat, got out of your own thoughts, and observed the world around you—the world for what it actually is and what it has to offer? This world is so big, so vast, and so replete with marvels that one can continue to be amazed every day. However, the world is only as big as you allow your perception to define it. It is only as big as you make conscious efforts to come out of our shells and observe.

We humans go through so much daily and have to do so many things that we forget to look around us, to just sit down and view nature as it is, and observe what is going on in our surroundings. Here are 10 simple daily practices that are fun, practical, and useful and help you see a bigger world.

1. Look up from your smartphones, take off your headphones

Our use of technology immensely limits our awareness of life around us. Engaged with the glowing screens in front of us, instead of the people and the environment around us, we often fail to notice what is going on in our surroundings and miss out simple joys of life. A whole new world exists beyond that glowing screen, but it requires from us to look around and experience all that it has to offer. The effects of the changing seasons, the aesthetics of a venue you are dining at, and a talented street performer beneath the park bridge are just some of the few things that you may find when you start observing. Similarly, while travelling in a vehicle or walking, you can observe better and listen to interesting conversations and sounds around you if you do not have your ears plugged. Therefore, one of the most important daily practices for seeing the bigger world is to limit your use of headphones and smartphones when you step outside.

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2. Don’t take the same path to or from school/work

On your walk or drive to or from school/work, take a different path each day. You’ll be amazed at how much you discover when you do so! It is very easy to follow the same path daily, but what’s the point in that? You will see different patterns, different people, different architecture, different street art etc. when you keep changing your path and observe keenly on your way.

3. Close your eyes and listen to your surroundings

Stop and listen to the sounds of the natural environment around you–the chirping, whistling and singing of the birds, the buzzing of bees, rustling of tree leaves, and the various sounds of the city, all may bring new information to you. Train your ears to listen for new things and notice different sounds.

4. Observe and talk to people around you

From jogging in the park to the line in the café, there are countless opportunities to meet new people and talk to them, but we have to be looking around and observing them in order to notice and take advantage of the opportunity. Observing and talking to people is another of the simple daily practices that can help you see the bigger world and expand your worldview as people share their experiences with you.

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5. Challenge yourself to pay attention to new things

Keeping a look out for new things is easier said than done. You cannot just plan that you will start observing the world more from today and expect that it happens too. Instead you might be able to produce better results when you challenge yourself to do so. For example, you can assign yourself a scavenger hunt, i.e. select something for you to look for during your walk or anytime you are out during the day. This could be anything, security cameras, orange flowers, people with headphones or anything. You can also challenge yourself to take a photo of a unique thing every day or with different challenges each day for keeping it interesting.

6. Sit in a public place and journal

Take out a few minutes to sit in a public place, such as a bus station, a park, a shopping mall, etc. Observe the people around and record details about them, such as how they are dressed, the expressions they are wearing on their faces, etc. Note the details and write about whatever comes to your mind or about the way the scene made you feel. This will also help you find out new things around you that you never noticed before.

7. Consume entertainment actively

While watching a movie or listening to a song, we are often tempted to zone out. But thinking about what the director of a movie was trying to get at when he/she added a particular aspect in the story or what the song’s lyrics actually mean may be another of the important simple daily practices to make you see the bigger world and practice observation.

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8. Get lost—explore the streets and alleys you have never been to before

When you have free time, get outside and explore places you have never been to before. You may discover a new café or restaurant, different new street performers, another breed of dogs that you never knew about, or a new way back to home. You become so mindful of your surroundings when you explore new streets and alleys.

9. Analyse what you see or read, and ask questions

When you observe your surroundings or read something, stop and question your thoughts. Start asking as much questions as you can, which will help you think critically. This also helps in boosting your skills of deduction and observation in general, while also expanding your knowledge about the world.

10. Make connections between what you see and the knowledge you have

For seeing a bigger world, your daily practices also need to include connecting your previous knowledge to what you see or observe. For example, you see a child having trouble in reading. You know this could be related to vision problems or it may be dyslexia so you look for symptoms of both and make a deduction on the basis of the ones that are found more prominently in the child. In this way you will be able to learn more and enhance your knowledge in general.

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Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Mehwish A. Wahid

Writer and Researcher

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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