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10 Reasons You Should Talk to Strangers

10 Reasons You Should Talk to Strangers

‘Remember, Don’t Talk To Strangers’, my mum would always tell me before I went out to play.

There were never really any strangers on my street though. We played in a cul-de-sac. If someone you didn’t know came wandering through – the whole street would peer out of their windows like an ogre had come for a stroll through.

If I saw a stranger – even the parent of a friend from school – I would put my head down and keep walking. Strangers were the enemy, the unknown and the reason bad things happened.

For many of us, it was a golden rule of childhood. Duck, dive and avoid strangers. Saying a quick ‘Hello Mr Roberts’ before diving in to the back of the car, or turning the corner.

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Following us in to adulthood, we still don’t take the time to even acknowledge strangers. Sitting silent on train carriages, firmly fixed on our smartphones and tablets – avoiding slight eye contact.

Yet, beyond that smart phone, bestseller and awkward glance – is a world of opportunity. Countless lessons to be learned. The solutions to all of our problems and the next best friend.

Here are the 10 benefits of disobeying that golden rule, and how talking to strangers can make your life a whole lot better:

1. Faster Commutes

Talking to strangers can be the entertainment you need to pass the time on the boring commute to and from work. It’s like real life Facebook updates in front of your face. Start a conversation, about absolutely anything, and watch your commute fly by. Just make sure you don’t miss your stop.

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2. Improved Networks

Talking to strangers provides endless opportunities to enhance your own personal and professional networks. In today’s world of who you know, not what you know – the person on the bus could be your greatest asset.

3. Better Confidence

Talking to strangers can help you overcome fears and confidence issues you never thought possible. Approaching strangers, or just turning your head and talking to someone sat next you can be extremely liberating. It will take you past the crippling fear of being judged and make it routine. You’ll be amazed at how much carry over this has to other parts of your life.

4. Become More Assertive

That added confidence could also make you more assertive. The more relaxed you feel talking and sharing with someone you don’t know – the easier it is to address problem situations. Instead of saying ‘Just leave it’ when a colleague wrongs you or restaurant over charges you, you have the assertiveness to fix the problem.

5. Be A Better Listener (And Ask Better Questions)

Talking to strangers allows you to perfect two important life skills: asking questions and listening. Talking to strangers isn’t all about you talking. But about asking them questions, learning from them – and listening wholeheartedly to their answers.

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6. Create Stronger Connections with People

Talking to strangers allows you to practice connecting with people on a personal level. Asking questions, listening and appreciating the time you have with someone. In the world of social media – where we connect with more people, but see them less – this is an important skill to hone.

7. Relatable Advice

Talking to strangers allows you to draw off the experiences of others. Think of your encounters as short, living biographies. There is a lot to learn from the stories of others: their ups, downs, failures and successes. Chances are, their advice is a lot more applicable to your life.

8. Fresh Perspectives

Talking to strangers can be a kick in the backside. It can take your old views on something and completely shatter them. There is always someone out there who knows more about the subject than you, and getting their views can turn yours around in no time – thus expanding your mind, and your own knowledge.

9. Unexpected Ideas

Talking to strangers can provide you with endless inspiration for old problems and generate new ideas. Off the cuff remarks, insane social commentaries, day-to-day problems and general chitchat can be the spark you need to send your creativity in to overdrive.

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10. Random Acts of Kindness

The greatest aspect of talking to strangers is this: it gives you the power to make someone smile from ear to ear, each and every day. You are able to give out that small compliment, the piece of encouragement or buy someone a coffee – that could turn a strangers day around completely.
And, if you’re lucky – maybe someone will do the same for you one day.

Featured photo credit: Gustavo Gomes via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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