Before you cross the street, take my hand. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.- John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy, Darling Boy”
Think for a moment about your childhood and all of the small, sometimes unnoticed, maybe even embarrassing gestures your parents performed for you. You probably hated it when your mom kissed you on the playground in front of your friends, for instance. As adults, however, when we find ourselves in a stressful, sometimes unfair workaday world, we long for those reassuring acts of kindness, reminding us that someone loves us no matter what we do or what anyone else thinks of us. Here are fifteen little acts of love parents perform for their children that we miss as adults.
1. Checking for monsters
They lurked in your closet. They skulked under the bed. They went bump in the night and sent you running to your parents’ room, and it didn’t matter how many times a night Mom or Dad had to pick you up, carry you back to your room, and switch on the lights to show you that everything was safe. No matter how grown up you are now, you probably wish every now and then when you hear a noise outside your apartment that you had a parent to reassure you. Of course, you could always do what I recently did and FaceTime your dad for a virtual monster check, but I’ve been told that grown women in their 30s don’t usually do this. Who knew?
2. Giving you piggyback rides
I always used to think that if I sat on my dad’s shoulders I could touch the clouds, and I never worried about falling. Dad’s operate on some kind of superhero code of conduct; they’d never drop a girl, especially their daughter. As an adult, I sometimes find myself longing for those days if for no other reason than that they represent a time when I naively believed my parents could protect me from everything.Advertising
3. Making your school lunch
Whenever I’ve had to wake up early to prepare my lunch for work because I forgot to do it the night before like a responsible adult, I’ve really appreciated all those times my mom did it for me growing up. Not to mention the hearts she drew in my peanut butter sandwiches. Mine just don’t taste the same.
4. Letting you lick the spatula while baking
Okay, you can do this one on your own (not that I’m guilty of this, or anything), but face it, it felt so much more like a treat when Mom or Dad let you lick chocolate chip cookie dough from the spoon. Like hearts in peanut butter sandwiches, cookie dough tastes sweeter when it’s offered in love.
5. Taking care of you when you were sick
You probably heard people warn you that the first time you’d really miss your mom while away at college would be the first time you were sick. Your roommates didn’t have a problem finding miracle cures for your hangover, but nothing soothes a scratchy throat and fever like Mom’s chicken noodle soup.
6. Reading you bedtime stories
As fun as it is to curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee on a rainy Saturday, sometimes it’s not half as fun as listening to Mom or Dad read your favorite story for the tenth, or twentieth, or thirtieth time. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie remains my all-time favorite. Whether they read slowly and paused to let you stare at the pictures or gave their best Oscar-winning performances of all of the character voices, nothing matches the simple pleasure of escaping into the fictional worlds they brought to life for you.Advertising
7. Kissing your injuries
Whether it was a skinned knee, a scraped elbow, or a cut finger, there was nothing a kiss from Mom and a Mickey Mouse band aid couldn’t heal. You can’t really expect your roommate or partner to perform this loving gesture, and in any case they don’t make adult-sized Mickey Mouse band aids. I’ve looked. (Don’t judge).
8. Displaying your Kindergarten artwork for all to see
That finger-painting of the family dog wasn’t exactly a Rembrandt or Picasso. It didn’t even look like a dog as much as an abstract brown and white-speckled blob that might have resembled a living creature if you tilted your head slightly to the left. It didn’t matter though; it went on the fridge, or on Dad’s desk at work. Some parents might argue that celebrating everything your children do gives them a participation trophy mentality—the idea that they should be rewarded just for showing up. However, the truth is that it showed you that what you did mattered to them and made you feel special in a way that as adults we rarely do, especially when the work we do often goes unrecognized.
9. Redecorating your room every time you developed a new obsession
SpongeBob, Power puff Girls, Batman, Pokémon—you name it, they put up with it because they knew how important it was for you to be able to express yourself, growing through your regularly reconstructed identity. Now they have to keep up with your selfies and Facebook status updates, which change much more frequently than the SpongeBob wallpaper and are sprinkled with acronyms they don’t understand.
10. Asking you how your day was
If you talk to your parents regularly, they probably do ask you how your day was, but they can’t follow you around and pester you for an answer the way they did when you were a teenager. As much as you hated it then, you miss it now, especially if you live alone. This was your parents’ way of emphasizing the importance of communication and expressing to you that they cared about what went on in your life, and it’s one of those things we don’t miss until it’s gone.Advertising
11. Making you clean your room
Maybe on the surface this doesn’t sound like an act of love, but it is, and your parents can’t technically “make” you do anything as an adult. Sometimes I luxuriate in the liberty of not having to do my chores when I can’t be bothered. The truth forces me to admit, however, that more often than not I find myself frantically tidying the apartment at the last minute when I’m expecting houseguests, and by tidying up, I naturally mean shoving everything into the closet out of sight of said houseguests. “making” you do anything you didn’t want to do, from Saturday morning chores to homework, was your parents’ way of teaching you the value of responsibility and how to appreciate the sense of accomplishment at having fulfilled that responsibility.
12. Playing “airplane” with your spoon at the dinner table to get you to eat your vegetables
Did your parents ever make that “zoom” noise while coming at you with a spoon-full of broccoli? You have to give them credit for the ingenuity because they weren’t making you laugh for your own amusement; they had only a split-second to shove the spoon into your mouth while it was open, and as a result, you got your daily serving of necessary vitamins and minerals. You might not “miss” this in the same way you miss Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, but it’s hard not to feel a little twinge of nostalgia at the ridiculous antics she was willing to stoop to in order to get you to clean your plate.
13. Pushing you on the swings
Remember those lazy summer Saturday afternoons you spent picnicking at the park and playing on the swings, convinced that if you swung just a little higher you’d become airborne like a superhero? In those moments, there was nothing equal to the simple pleasure of feeling Mom or Dad’s hands at your back, responding to your insistent exclamations of “Higher! Higher!” with another push no matter how tired their arms became. Life was so much simpler when they propelled you forward and gave you a boost to get to where you wanted to go, but hopefully the memory can serve as a lasting reminder that they’re always behind you in everything you do.
14. Writing sick notes
We all have days when we wish our moms could write a note to get us out of that duller than ditchwater business meeting, but as adults we have to invent our own elaborately constructed plots to play hooky from work. True, you have the autonomy as an adult to decide whether or not to use up your vacation day nursing a tequila hangover, but somehow staying home and binge-watching House of Cards would feel a lot better with written parental endorsement.Advertising
15. Picking you up when you fell
This last one sums up everything it means to be a parent: supporting you in everything you do, whether learning to ride a bike or getting into your dream college. It also means encouraging you when you fall short of the mark, which everyone does from time to time because nobody is perfect. There’s nothing quite as comforting as being scooped up in a protective hug after falling from your bike, knowing that however badly it hurt, the pain would go away eventually and you’d find the strength to give it another try. Maybe your parents no longer pick you up and dust you off, but if you’re lucky, they’ve never stopped giving you the support and encouragement we all need to forge ahead in life.
Featured photo credit: Father and Daughter via pixabay.com
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|