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DO Talk to Strangers

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It’s the admonition we all received

from the time we were children:

“Don’t talk to strangers!”

But if you’re an adult now,

perhaps it’s time to reconsider,

given the findings of a recent study

by University of Chicago Booth School

of Business Professor Nicholas Epley.

“Mistakenly Seeking Solitude”

In “Mistakenly Seeking Solitude,” an article

published recently in The Journal of Experimental

Psychology: General, Epley and his co-author,

Juliana Schroder, concluded that we humans

underestimate the positive power of social


That is, we think that interacting with people

we don’t know isn’t going to enrich our lives

as much as it actually does when we do it.

The Nuts and Bolts

Epley studied train commuters in the city of

Chicago, and found that those who were asked

to talk to strangers sitting next to them (as

opposed to sitting in solitude or doing whatever

they normally did on their commute) reported

“greater well-being” even though they had

predicted that talked to strangers would lead

to the exact opposite experience.

The Take Away

You might, after surveying the unique

circumstances of your environment, try

a little harder to make contact with the

people around you who are strangers

to you now.

They might, as the saying goes, just be

“friends you haven’t met yet.”

Even if they remain strangers, the

interaction may be well worth it to

your quality of life.


One Response to “DO Talk to Strangers”

  • Carol Frome:

    Hi Anita,

    I have many times spoken with strangers. I also talk to wait staff in restaurants. After throwing a bit of banter back and forth with a waiter once, my astonished brother who was with me, said, do you always talk to the waiter? Yes! I said.

    Spontaneous jokes in a safe environment about some minor predicament or even just a bit of eye contact and a smile are ways of connecting with each other’s humanity. Talking to a stranger has often given me a distinct lift. And judging by their demeanor, I know the exchange was equally rewarding for the strangers. I highly recommend it!

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