Strike a conversation
Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman sees elevators as microcosms of society, where strangers meet and then quickly look away. Goffman calls this civil inattention in urban spaces — the act of giving brief attention to others — is the most common behaviour among strangers. The norm for strangers is to not talk to each other.
Start the conversation with a greeting. A simple ‘hello, how are you?’ will do. This is a simple sentence, but it has a social meaning: I see you there and acknowledge you. With strangers, we are detached from having any expectations, and that gives us an excuse to talk, and be more humane.
Show interest in their narrative
Every unknown person you meet has a story to tell. They will enrich your life experiences. Kio Stark says, “These are unexpected pleasures, genuine emotional connections, and are liberating moments.” According to research, people often feel more comfortable being honest and open about their inner selves with strangers than they do with their friends and their families.
Did you know that in Egypt it’s customary to invite a stranger asking for direction, for a cup of coffee? Give compliments to strangers, and see how the quality of your own life changes. Talking to unknown people showcases your own vulnerablity as well – you tell them something about yourself, and listen to them.
Living in modern cities can be overwhelming. Taking a break from your own life and its problems, and listening to the story of a stranger, can go on to make you patient and understanding; and it also breaks the monotony of life. People you don’t know can transform you because strangers can challenge your belief system as they look at you with a completely different perspective; with no baggage, unlike your friends and family.
To top it all, talking to new people every day keeps your mind young and alert.