I consider a stranger to be anyone that I do not know and someone who knows absolutely nothing about me. In other words, a stranger is someone I am meeting for the first time or at least someone who I have never talked to before.
As a self-identified ambivert, talking to strangers has only grown more challenging with the impact of COVID-19. Since the pandemic, I have grown into living in isolation and spending most of my time alone recharging. As an ambivert who leans more towards introversion, I was thriving living in lockdown and socially distancing myself from others. I want to say that COVID-19 has brought me into my “Grandma era”, where I spend my time indoors reading or crafting rather than going out. I have begun prioritizing rest and relaxation and have stopped overextending myself with events that don’t excite me.
So, talking to strangers is quite an uphill battle for me as someone who is not bothered by having plans all the time or experiencing FOMO. However, I enjoy talking to people and can get reenergized from conversations, but the tricky part about talking to strangers is approaching them. I consider myself friendly, but others have told me I come off as intimating from the first impression. I’m the type of person who won’t approach someone because I’m nervous and don’t want to have the weight of carrying the conversation. That being said, I am entirely open to talking to strangers if they initiate the conversation first. I love it when we discover common ground and can go off on tangents of our hobbies and interests.
The easiest way to talk to a stranger is by asking them questions. In my case, I started a conversation with a stranger at a coffee shop who was reading a book. This person was reading a book on my to-read list, so I began telling them that I was interested in reading it and asked them what they thought of it so far. They were not wearing headphones, so I saw it as an invitation to chit-chat. Erving Goffman coined the term civil inattention “we act civilized toward one another- not harming anyone or blocking their paths or shouting in an enclosed space-but also not attentive” (Hamblin, 2016). He invented the term civil inattention when he was studying people behavor as they rode up elevators in 1963 (Hamblin, 2016). I would argue that a general rule nowadays is to never engage with someone who has headphones on because it is a sign that they don’t want to be disturbed. Even so, as an introvert I am conscious of other people’s energy and whether they are in the mood to engage in a conversation. I had a great conversation with them and it made me value the humanity of talking to strangers and how much a conversation can make your day better.
Hambin, J. (2016 August 25). How to Talk to Strangers. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/civil-inattention/497183/