Each of us has a network of casual acquaintances and even near-strangers we encounter in our daily lives. We might not think of these as relationships, but it turns out that conversing with people with whom we cross paths has wide-ranging benefits.
According to Dr. Bob Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard and author of the book The Good Life, “brief but warm exchanges have a direct effect on happiness.” These kinds of seemingly trivial interactions can impact mood and energy throughout the day. And ongoing research initiated in the 1970s has shown “weak ties” contribute to a greater sense of well-being.
Talking to those we hardly know may feel awkward, even daunting. But research shows that after people have conversations, they are liked more than they realize. Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer in the psychology of kindness at the University of Sussex, who has led pivotal research on the positive effects of having frequent casual interactions with strangers and acquaintances, advises not to be put off even if, once in a while, you appear to get rebuffed. Sure, someone might be late for an appointment and cut your dialogue short; even so, “remind yourself that they don’t know you, so they’re not rejecting you based on who you are.”
If you get back on the horse and talk to someone else, you might even learn something. Pretty much everyone has a good story, not to mention a recommendation for a new neighborhood restaurant. The fellow tenant on the elevator, the guy at the coffee shop, the fellow dog-walker all have the ability to “make your day.” Give them a chance, and see how you feel.
When is the last time you struck up a conversation with someone you hardly knew? How did it go? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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