Talking to Strangers Can Improve Your Well-Being  

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Man talking to woman in wheelchair
Research has shown that engaging in conversations with strangers has many positive health benefits, including increased happiness, a strengthened sense of belonging, increased mental sharpness, a decreased sense of loneliness and isolation, and improved trust. In various studies, people who had brief conversations with their baristas or strangers during a morning commute reported having a more positive mood and a greater sense of connection than those who did not engage in conversation. Even the people who had been spoken to during the studies reported having equally positive experiences. Here are some tips on how to initiate a conversation with a stranger. Remember to keep safety in mind first and then start with eye contact and a simple smile. Introduce yourself — This is a straightforward approach and will more than likely lead to a casual conversation with the person to whom you are introducing yourself. For example, “Hi, my name is Mary. I just joined this gym and wanted to introduce myself to you.” Offer a compliment — This is an easy conversation starter. For example, “I like your shoes. Where did you get them?” Ask their opinion on something — You can use this strategy to ask just about anything. For example, if you see someone while out shopping, you could ask, “Which brand do you prefer?” Or, if you are at a restaurant and you see someone receiving their meal, you could ask, “Have you had that before? What would you recommend?” Encourage someone to talk about themselves — Ask someone about their background. For example, if a new neighbor moved in, ask them, “Where did you live before moving here?” Or, if a new co-worker joined your team, you can ask, “Where did you work before joining our team? What did you do there?” Find something in common — If you see someone wearing apparel from a school, sports team or college you are familiar with or attended, you might be able to say, “I was the quarterback of the football team at that school. Are you currently attending?” Approach your conversations with curiosity and genuine interest. Researchers at Harvard University suggest that people who ask more questions are better liked by their conversation partners. Deep conversations lead to deeper connections. When you share something about yourself with other people, they will likely feel inclined to reciprocate. As you carry on a conversation, consider sharing something you are currently working on, have recently accomplished or are looking forward to doing. Asking open-ended questions will help keep the conversation going. Remember, your friends now were at one time strangers to you. Learn more about the benefits of talking to strangers in this Blue Cross Virtual Well-BeingSM webinar. You can also sign up for future employer-focused and general interest webinars here, where you’ll find past sessions and resources. Related:
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MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association