“Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories.” – Andrew Stanton.
Below I would like to explore the 10 revelations I’ve experienced from the stories of 10 animated movies that inspired, provoked and touched me.
1. Arthur Christmas
Takeaway: You will get what you work for, not what you wish for.
In “Arthur Christmas,” unlike his brother, Steve, Arthur never aspires to be a Santa but is compassionately concerned with delivering a missing gift to little Gwen Hines, which is the core requisite to be a Santa. At the end of the film he becomes Santa. So the film’s affirmation is to work for what you believe in not just wish for it. Success will arrive when you are the least concerned about it — because you might have deserved it by then.
When Gwen Hines eagerly gets down to grab the gift under the Christmas tree from Santa.
After a quarrel amongst the Clauses as to who is going to give Gwen her gift, the family realize that Arthur is the only one who truly cares about Gwen’s feelings and he is allowed to deliver the gift.
Gwen Hines: Santa brought me the bike I wanted!
[Then as Arthur is watching little Gwen unwrapping the present in awe …]
Grand Santa: Steve, you deserve to be Santa, but Steve, I wonder if Gwen is right.
[Then Steve accepts his brother as the new Santa.]
Takeaway: Someone special will always make you special.
Many of us worry about choosing our partner, but make sure you opt for someone who inspires you, supports you and makes you feel special, not someone who drains energy out of you. Someone special will always make you special. In “Rio,” Blu is a pet and can’t fly initially, but having met Jewel he does things he couldn’t do earlier. Jewel literally transforms Blu in all ways and makes him special.
When Jewel falls out of a plane and can’t fly due to injury, Blu literally jumps out to protect her, being aware of the fact that he can’t fly.
Jewel: Blu, you are crazy. What are you doing?
Blu: I’m not gonna let you go. We are chained-to-each-other birds, remember?Advertising
[Then magic happens, Blu starts flying…]
Jewel: Blu, you are flying … you are flying!
Blu: Yeah, I’m flying, ohoooooo … I’m really flying! You are right: I’m not an ostrich, I’m not an ostrich!
3. Finding Nemo
Takeaway: Go on a quest by faith, not by sight. You will be rewarded nevertheless.
Marianne Williamson famously said, “As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.” So if you believe in something, sometimes you have to just go by faith, not by sight. Had Marlin never gone on his quest, he wouldn’t have found Nemo. Had Nemo not tried to escape from the aquarium, he wouldn’t have reached his father. Both trusted their gut instincts and defied the odds to come through, finally reaping love.
After rescuing the fish from a trap, Nemo lies still on the ocean bed while his dad, Marlin, rushes eagerly to his little son.
Somehow this subtext moment brings me tears, particularly the mere mention of Sandy Plankton. It’s not actually about Sandy Plankton, it’s all about the daring quest of Marlin against the vast and deep ocean.
Nemo: Daddy, I won’t hate you anymore.
Marlin: Oh, no, no, no. I’m so sorry, Nemo.
Marlin: Hey. Guess what?
Marlin: Sea turtles? I met one, and he was a hundred and fifty years old.
Nemo: Hundred and fifty?
Nemo: Oh. ‘Cause Sandy Plankton said that they only live to be a hundred.
Marlin: Sandy Plankton? You think I would travel the whole ocean and not know as much as Sandy Plankton? He was a hundred and fifty, not a hundred.
4. Kung Fu Panda
Takeaway: To be someone special, you just have to believe that you are special.Advertising
There is no secret to anything, it just takes belief. Once you believe that, you can make anything happen. This is how Po realizes the true meaning of his own reflection in the Dragon Scroll in “Kung Fu Panda.” Belief is everything. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen at your will and nothing can stop you.
Having lost hope from an empty Dragon Scroll, Po tries to vacate the village along with his father, Mr. Ping, while he reveals the secret ingredient of the secret soup.
Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is … nothing!
Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.
Po: Wait; wait … it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?
Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.
[Po looks at the scroll again, and sees his reflection in it.]
Po: There is no secret ingredient! [Goes to fight with Tylon.]
Takeaway: Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
There is an artist in everyone but many of us are afraid to take the leap, doubting our abilities. Nobody is entitled to become a great artist based on personal advantages and vested interests, but everyone can become an artist provided they are decisive and passionate about it. It’s all about choice, not about opportunities. If a rat could become a fine chef in “Ratatouille,” why can’t we become anything we aspire to be? You may argue that it’s just a fiction, but every fiction is a figment of someone’s imagination, inspired by truth.
When Anton Ego writes a critique about the new Chef Ratatouille defying his own conventions.
Anton Ego: The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.
Takeaway: The worst part in your life could turn out to be the best part later.Advertising
Lightning McQueen, the super race car in the film, accidentally ends up in a small town called Radiator Springs. He is desperate to win the Piston Cup Race, which is going to be held in Los Angeles in a week, but he is forced to stay in the small town until he mends the road he destroyed. However, after initial hesitation, he begins to develop a beautiful bonding with the people there and he finds something beyond Piston Cup: love and family. “Cars” had a very simple lesson to tell: sometimes the worst possible things that happen in your life could turn out to be the best ones later. You may not understand why initially, but later you realize those moments actually define you.
Mater: I knew it! I knew I made a good choice!
Lightning McQueen: In what?
Mater: My best friend. [Referring to Lightning McQueen.]
7. Despicable me
Takeaway: It’s all about family.
Family is not an important thing: it’s everything. Life is all about human bonding. Stop searching fanatically for other possessions and just find your “family.” In “Despicable Me,” Gru desperately wants to steal the moon, but in due course, after adopting three little kids for selfish gains, he paradoxically finds a love that changes his perceptions forever. He is not the same person anymore.
When Gru reads a made up story of his own to the three little kids in in a moment of retrospection.
Gru: [reading the book he wrote] One big unicorn, strong and free, thought he was happy as he could be. Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down. They made him laugh, they made him cry. He never should have said goodbye. And now he knows he can never part from those three little kittens that changed his heart.
Takeaway: We are many leaves from one tree, nobody is alone.
A lot of us worry about circumstances that demand our resilience, and we feel self-pity, telling ourselves, “I’m alone.” But for your kind information, you’re not alone. And the world out there is not as bad as you think. Whenever you are feeling alone, depressed and hopeless, don’t worry. Keep on trying and seek help from people in all the ways you can. You’ll be never left alone; actually, we all are connected.
When Nod comes to rescue Ronin while he is trying to protect the pod from dying.
Mandrake: What’s that little saying you people have? “Lots of leaves, something, something …” Very inspiring. But in the end, every leaf falls and dies alone.
[Lifts his sword to kill Ronin, but right before it hits, a leaf man sword blocks its way in the nick of time. It proves to be Nod.]
Nod: No one is alone. Not even him.Advertising
9. How to Train Your Dragon
Takeaway: Never judge others cynically.
Judging is easy but understanding is difficult, that is the reason most of us are quick to judge. Before leaping to judgment, try to understand others’ perspective. You never know what they might have been going through. In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Stoick has fixed notions based on his prejudices, but Hiccup tries to understand dragons from their perspective. Once he does that, the whole island is saved and dragons become residents. A considered understanding without judging is all we need for the betterment of our lives.
When Stoick finds out that Hiccup is actually trying to defend Toothless, his dragon.
Hiccup: I screwed up. I should have told you before now; just … take this out on me, be mad at me, but please, just don’t hurt Toothless!
Stoick: [shocked] The dragon? That’s what you’re worried about? Not the people you almost killed?
Hiccup: H-he was just protecting me! He’s not dangerous!
Stoick: They’ve killed hundreds of us!
Hiccup: And we’ve killed thousands of them! They defend themselves, that’s all! They raid us because they have to! If they don’t bring enough food back, they’ll be eaten themselves! There’s, something else on their island, Dad, it … It’s a dragon like …
10. Kung Fu Panda 2
Takeaway: Know yourself first.
It’s all about you. Carl Jung famously said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” Once you discover yourself, nothing seems to bother you, like Po in “Kung Fu Panda 2.” From the beginning of the film, Po is always searching for inner peace. Once he finds it, he can face anything in the world, even the deadly weapon he couldn’t face before. It’s a beautiful metaphor to explain that one has to fight with one’s inner demons first. Once you do that, demons from outside don’t actually matter.
The final confrontation when Po ruins everything that Shen dreamed of.
Shen: How did you find peace? I took away your parents, everything. I scarred you for life.
Po: See that’s the thing, Shen, scars heal.
Shen: No, they don’t. Wounds heal.
Po: Oh, yeah? What do scars do? They fade, I guess …
Shen: I don’t care what scars do!
Po: You should, Shen. You got to let go of the stuff from the past because it just doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.
Last Updated on January 15, 2019
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!
Table of Contents
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. Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 12 Tactics to Negotiate Better and Not Be a Pushover
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
- How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way
- How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com
|||^||Dev Psychobiol.: Adrenocortical responses to strangers in preschoolers: relations with parenting, temperament, and psychopathology.|
|||^||Psychology Today: Cortisol: Why the “Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No. 1|