LIFE

Why We All Need To Talk To Strangers More

Our world needs it.

07/12/2016 12:10 PM AEDT | Updated 07/12/2016 7:29 PM AEDT
Andreas Rentsch
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Cast your mind back to the last moment you shared with a stranger. Perhaps you were stuck in a lift at work, or on a walk during your lunch break. What became of your encounter?

You may have uttered 'hello' and offered a hand, or caught their eye and returned to your phone. Or maybe you chatted for five minutes and left feeling grateful for meeting them in the first place.

When you talk to strangers, you're making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life -- and theirs.Kio Stark

A fleeting moment can be weird or wonderful -- and it can have the power to change things.

Jasmine Sliger is a self-professed "big talker". From Colombia, she's also a cross-cultural counselling and organisational psychologist living in Australia who thinks we should all be talking more.

"An encounter with a stranger opens us up to humanity and it can connect people in profound ways," Sliger told The Huffington Post Australia.

"I think we live in a world today where there is so much fear -- whether that be of refugees or the person next to us."

And she believes this is particularly the case in Australia.

We need to grow up as a culture and be much more socially-engaged and humanistic in our approach to people. This can start in the every day.

"It even borders on paranoia. We are getting hampered by more and more by messages of fear and this leads to people creating stereotypical fears," Sliger said.

"You can't walk alone, you can't let your children out of your sight and you need to talk to them about stranger danger. Whilst I believe you need to do these things, the message can be overplayed.

"And that is detrimental to the growth of a person."

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A good place to start.

Combatting a culture of fear

This may be all and well but approaching a random stranger can be confronting or dangerous -- and, at times, it can warrant an obnoxious or unwanted response.

"We don't usually allow ourselves to be outside of our comfort zone. And it can be challenging, because we don't know what is on the other side," Sliger said.

And the process can be easier for some.

"It depends on your personality. Some have more of a natural sense of social engagement than others," Sliger said.

In a recent Ted Talk that has since gone viral, US 'stranger enthusiast' Kio Stark sums it up splendidly.

It is good to be friendly and it's good to learn when not to be, but none of that means we have to be afraid.

Sliger agrees and recommends using our senses over our fears. "You need to look at your own comfort zone and rely on your own intuition or sense of what is safe."

How to get there

"If you have a close friend who is more extroverted than you, go out with them and observe how they interact," Sliger said.

Then, start by carrying out some "social experiments".

"Begin talking to people or acknowledging them. The best place to start is to show appreciation to those who are in your service," Sliger said.

You're acknowledging that they're a human being and that you appreciate what they've done for you. Start there.

Whether that be the guy who makes your soy latte in the morning or the friendly woman at your local deli, start simply.

"By doing this, you're acknowledging that they're a human being and that you appreciate what they've done for you. Start there," Sliger said.

"We need to grow up as an Australian culture and be more humanistic in our approach to people. This can start in the every day."

Need more proof? Let Kio Stark convince you.

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