‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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