When Was the Last Time You Talked To A Stranger?
Start writing a post
Student Life

When Was the Last Time You Talked To A Stranger?

Choosing to stay silent because of fear

When Was the Last Time You Talked To A Stranger?

I patiently waited at the crosswalk, and bounded across the street when the security guard motioned for me to go. I threw a quick “Thank you!” in his direction before I continued on to run a timely errand at the children’s hospital. When I returned, I strolled across the street when he motioned, and as I did so he said hi to me. I smiled politely and said hi back as I finished crossing, but after a few steps I turned around and asked him, “What’s your name?”

He replied that his name was Ivan, and asked my name. As I turned to walk away again, he called out, “Thank you for asking me my name. Have a fabulous day!”

After responding with a resounding, “You’re welcome, Ivan! I hope you have a fabulous day too!”, I felt puzzled. Ivan is a pleasant and wonderful person, yet the fact that he thanked me for requesting his name suggests that people rarely ask. Why don’t more people take a few seconds to talk to him?

And then, I remembered I don’t talk to everyone whose path I cross. There are people I see every day whose names I don’t know. I love instantly connecting with people, but that said, I don’t always introduce myself to strangers.

The word “stranger,” in of itself, presents a barrier that must be overcome in order to reach the level of acquaintance, and then friend. “Stranger” sounds foreign, different. According to thesaurus.com, synonyms for stranger include alien, foreigner, intruder, and outsider, words that don’t exactly have positive connotations.

And, there’s the question of familiarity. When you see the same janitor every day at a library and you introduce yourself, are you really introducing yourself to a stranger? What about an acquaintance introducing you to someone you’ve never met before? How about accepting a friend request on social media from someone you’ve never heard of, but who apparently shares 327 mutual friends? Are these people really strangers? Are there different levels of strangers? Does having a university in common blur these lines?

In short, the answer is clear: until you determine otherwise, these people are strangers. And even with people you think you know well, it’s important to be safe. Our parents were right when they warned us about “stranger danger,” as we were more vulnerable as young children than we are as legal adults (whoa wait what how am I 18-years-old). And, unfortunately, we’re still at risk. But, the distinguishing factor is safety. If someone makes you uncomfortable, you are not obligated to talk to them. Sometimes being nice and open to everyone you meet is dangerous, and the hazard and risk often depend on the situation. This is the regrettable reality in which we live, and until every single person feels safe 100% of the time, we have to watch out for ourselves and for each other.

But, more often than not, we run into benevolent strangers. The checker at a grocery store. The receptionist at the doctor's office. The custodial staff in our dorms. While we are unfamiliar with these people, most are not dangerous. Yet, we often choose to ignore them. I cannot count the number of times I’ve wanted to strike up conversation with someone near me, but instead chose to remain silent.

Why is this?

Occasionally, the answer is fatigue, or busyness, or other reasons that practically prevent us from conversing. But, sometimes we choose to not engage because we are fearful. We fear not knowing what to say. We fear awkwardness, and we fear being perceived incorrectly. We fear bothering other people and we fear confrontation. We fear rejection.

Fear is central to how we act, and how we don’t act. Nowadays, life is so much more than simply surviving, and while fear keeps us safe, it can also inhibit us. Meant to be a mechanism to promote caution, fear has become a source of remorse. Lewis Carroll worded it well: “In the end… we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

I bring this up not to encourage you to upheave fear completely, but rather to make you aware of the social fear of rejection that many of us possess. Some people do not experience this fear at all, but most people do. Maybe addressing the fear of rejection by talking to strangers can help us target other fears in our lives. Failure. Intimacy. The unknown. Loneliness. Pain. Spiders.

But, maybe it won’t. I hope that this article will inspire you to attempt to chat with people you don’t know on a regular basis. If not, I hope the next time you encounter a non-threatening stranger and decide to not speak to them, you can critically analyze why. You don’t need to justify your actions; your decisions are your own. If you have a fear of rejection and want to overcome it, however, you need to be honest with yourself so you can recognize when it exists.

Talking to strangers can be incredibly rewarding. I encourage you to spend 16 minutes watching this phenomenal short film; it reminds me that a short conversation can go a long way.

From Your Site Articles
Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Life Is Messy

Finding who you are in your 20s

Life Is Messy

I am 25 years old and just now learning who I am. When I separated from my husband I was terrified of what would follow. I did not know who I was outside of a relationship, nor did I know how to be on my own. It was scary, and I was so lost. I spent months discovering who I was, and what I wanted to be. I am still searching as I believe we never truly know who we are even when we "grow up". I came to the realization that I had been hiding a part of myself for my entire life. Coming out was not easy, growing up in the church made it scary, and hard. I was told growing up that being anything but straight was such a sin, and that i would spent my life in hell because of it. I came out to my parents when I was 25 years old. I picked up the phone and called my mom, and uttered the words "I'm queer" through tears. I knew my parents would be supportive, but that didn't make it any easier for me to vulnerable and raw. Since then, I have slowly started being more authentic in who I am, and not hide parts of me just because of people's shitty opinions.

Keep Reading... Show less

Ask Your BFF These 20 Questions To See If They Know You As Well As You THINK That They Do

Ask your best friend these basic questions to see just how well they know you.

Ask Your BFF These 20 Questions To See If They Know You As Well As You THINK That They Do

My best friend has been in my life since we were 3 years old, now that we are adults now, I'd like to ask her these questions to see how well she knows me.

Keep Reading... Show less

Alone At The Met

I survive a day alone in NYC.

Wikimedia Commons

It was six in the evening. I was sitting in the courtyard of a Renaissance-era Italian villa, glancing around at the statues, most notably one of a boy removing a thorn from his foot. Despite the supposedly relaxing setting, I was incredibly anxious. My phone was at less than 5 percent battery, and once it died I would be completely disconnected from my family and peers, alone in one of the largest art museums in the country.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

College 101: How To Ease The Back To School Blues

Getting back into the school groove when you just can't seem to let go of summer.

Beyond The States

With fall classes just beginning, many of us find ourselves struck with summer withdrawals. Especially for those who refrained from taking courses over the summer, it can be quite difficult to get back in the swing of things. Fortunately, there are various ways to help make the transition back to college as smooth as possible.

Keep Reading... Show less
Dating Apps

We Met At A Bar

Salvage what you can; if you can't, it's alright to walk away.

We Met At A Bar
Anne Waldon

We met at a bar.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments