One of our first lessons in life is on stranger danger, and rightly so – as a child you obviously need to learn to say no to strangers and potential dangers.
……..but I feel this without a doubt is continued into adulthood, at least in the U.K. where people don’t say hello to others in the street, on public transport or in a coffee shop. Maybe this is why London is said to be one of the loneliest cities in the world?
But this New Year one of my resolutions (I know, I know, some people can’t stand NY resolutions but I love them) was to join at least 3 local social groups. The gym didn’t count it had to be something where you actually talk to new people.
I’m not a shy person and I love people so I was happy to go along alone and introduce myself but my biggest problem was finding them! How did I seek out these groups?
Whilst googling hiking groups in Sussex U.K. I came across a site called Meetup, it made me download the app (which meant I very nearly backed out because I find that annoying!) but once I had the free app, had input my location and interests, it came up with a plethora of social groups – of every type! Exercise, food, female only, mixed sex, pets, colouring in groups (not even joking). I chose my first one for coffee and lunch and off I went.
So off I went and it just so happened to be most other people’s first ‘meetup’ too.
What I introduced myself to that day was may more than what I expected, right there and then it gave me an insight to 36 other people’s minds and views.
– What about if you have nothing to talk about?
Well, when there are 37 strangers with;
Different opinions, beliefs, religions, upbringings, interests, ages, relationships, sexuality, cultures, from different cities, countries…….
The conversations you find yourself in are endless. From the obvious to the obscurely wonderful.
So for the last 4 months I’ve been going to all types of ‘meetups’ and met some fantastic and interesting people. However much I love the friends I’ve had since I was a teenager, if we have a conversation, I know what their response will be or opinion on the subject, I get to hear new views and different ways of looking at a situation.
I also feel that with the situation we’ve found ourselves in now where face to face contact is becoming less and less with social media etc, it is healthy for people/friends/strangers to engage in face to face communication. I do believe it gives you skills that without can hold you back in other areas of your life. Public speaking, reading people and bouncing off of their personalities – the list goes on!
When I explained the app to a friend his response was “so you just go along and meet strangers?” Well, the lovliest thing has when these strangers become friends, when something happens in your day and you think “oh I must tell so and so that” – so and so who you didn’t even know 4 months ago.
I feel we’re missing out on so many potential friendships (and relationships actually!) because it is not in our culture to talk to strangers. It’s seen as weird, creepy and yes even dangerous. One guy I met on a hiking group said he try’s to talk to 6 strangers a day (why not 5 I don’t know) but good for him! He’s brave enough to set himself this challenge and with this he is combatting his potential loneliness and in a way ignorance.
Apart from rejuvenating my curiosity and allowing this insight into other people’s worlds, the other side of the coin was that a lot of my friends are settled down on the outskirts of the city. So I actually made my NY’s resolution in the first place because despite having plenty of friends I spent the last month of 2016 rather lonely, no one in the city centre to go grab a bite to eat with.
But most people who use the app are new/ish to the area. If this simple app has given me, someone who has lived here their entire life a renewed energy I genuinely believe it could be a real life line for someone brand new to a city.
Maybe we should all take a leaf out of ‘talking to 6 strangers a day man’. Set a challenge of one a day, because that girl who gets on your bus every morning could be the most interesting person you’ve met, or even the love of your life!
Let’s do it! – SAY YES TO STRANGERS!