As a part-time retail employee of two and a half years, talking and engaging with strangers has become easier and more natural for me to do. While these encounters are typically quite short and non-personal, they have allowed me to feel more comfortable talking to people outside of my “circle.” Today while I was at the mall, I was standing in line waiting to pay when I noticed a girl next to me wearing a really nice outfit. I decided to not just keep to myself and complimented her on her outfit, which started a nice conversation. Through this simple act I learned that her name was Paige, and that she too had similar goals as myself to one day work in the fashion industry. It was enlightening to meet and converse with someone with similar passions and aspirations, and doing so in person rather than online created a more personal effect.
Engaging in in-person conversations allows for you to physically see the reactions, expressions, and emotions of others; important aspects of discussion that are often missed when you are talking to someone over text or online. When I was talking to Paige today, I could see things like the genuine smile she had when I complimented her outfit, and the expression of general interest in what I was saying; enhancing our encounter. The conversation felt more genuine and there was no confusion or mis-communication.
Mis-communication can often occur when conversing online not only because you cannot see immediate reactions, but because people often change their persona when they are behind the screen. It is “easier” to talk to people online because you can hide behind your screen. You have time to think about how you want to respond, and can often say things you wouldn’t be comfortable saying in person. These disadvantages alone display the beauty and importance of in-person interaction. It’s real, genuine, allows for you to pick up on non-verbal cues and body language, and overall allows for a more meaningful connection and encounter to be made. From now on I will make more of an effort in talking to strangers, in hopes that I will have more encounters like the positive one I did today.
Would I still consider Paige to be a stranger after this interaction? Yes. Although I know her name and interest in fashion, that is the extent of our “relationship”, and is not enough to say that I know her. I would like to think that I am a stranger to someone who doesn’t know my hobbies and lifestyle, the successes and failures or the good and bad moments in my life, and even simple things like my birthday or favourite season. To truly know someone means to understand the many aspects of their life, whether they are changing or remaining the same. People who I had known for years have now become strangers to me as I only know them for their past selves, and I can say that I have become a stranger to some as well.
My task for you: take the time this week to try and talk to a stranger….you never know where a simple act or conversation could take you!
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