Bar Tender/ Night Porter/ Aspiring Writer/ Part time philosopher,

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Could we make more of an effort to interact with each other in our day to day lives? Why and why not?

I think we can all remember the lesson that we were all taught when we were younger; "Never talk to strangers!" - The lesson was an important one that aimed to protect us from the dangerous hidden characters in our society. But as we all grow up at what point should we, if at all, break out of that habit of not talking to strangers (if that is even the reason behind the habit or not is not the question.
The question is; could we make more of an effort to interact with each other in public, without feeling intrusive or odd, and to what degree? I for one think that maybe a little more openess to talking and being talked to would not do us any harm; would be rather beneficial actually.
Or is it just right that we keep ourselves to ourselves and politely respect each others public privacy?

  • Jul 4 2012: There are many reasons why we might not talk to strangers: Childhood training and past experience, local culture, and just the fact that many of us are busy with our own lives and do not take the time.

    Approaching strangers is a skill that must be learned through experience. Fritizie's advice about how to go about it is very good. Observe people. Just by looking you can sometimes get an idea whether someone might be open to conversation. Or you might realize that you have something in common. I sometimes start with a question, like Hello, do you know of any good restaurants around here. The person's reaction can provide you with a lot of information about the person right up front.

    If people put you off with their reply or body language, do not push; just learn what you can from the exchange and move on.

    Should we all do more of this? I don't like questions like that. I talk to strangers, but that does not mean others necessarily should.
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    Jun 26 2012: What, David, is your experience with this? Do you walk up and talk to strangers? Why or why not?

    I am an introvert, but I talk to strangers all the time- people I have never seen before or whose names I don't know. It's part of neighborliness.

    People are sometimes surprised when you do this, but I am trying to remember any time I got a bad response to this. I can't.

    To be fair, I am a middle-aged woman, so my physical presence would not intimidate anyone.
    • Jun 26 2012: Maybe it is just me who is unwilling to open conversation with strangers given the right circumstance. Not to say that I never talk to strangers. But maybe i just don't recognise those chances of opportunity enough.

      It is encouraging to think that you have never had a bad response and that there are people like yourself who can talk to strangers all the time. My ex was also very good at that and I had always wandered why she found it so easy and what it was that was holding me back.

      But that word "neighborliness" is closer to what I am trying to touch upon. Are we losing neighborliness perhaps?

      Anyway your positve experiences with talking to strangers will hopefully motivate me to interact a little more. After all i can not get the world to talk but I may as well try it myself.
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        Jun 26 2012: I wasn't kidding when I said this can be easier for a middle aged woman. I might add that I went to Berkeley at a time when people hugged perfect strangers on the street and handed each other flowers:)

        If you decide to try talking to people, (not hugging them and handiing them flowers!), I would suggest a few common sense measures to make success very likely. First, I wouldn't walk up to a woman much younger than yourself. Particularly if you are a great big guy, don't come up to someone suddenly or from behind.

        An elderly couple or elderly person is a wonderful opportunity to say a nice word. I often compliment an elderly lady with something like, 'That's a beautiful color on you."

        People you can genuinely compliment on something they are doing is great. The gardener in the park, the bus driver, the checker at the grocery store...
        They are always doing something commendable.Obviously if you have a dog, this opens the door to lots of conversations in the park or on the street. I cannot leave my house in nice weather without someone wanting to pet my dog or take her picture with a phone.
    • Jun 26 2012: p.s. what i am advocating is that there should be more people like yourself or maybe the question is should there or why are there not?
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    Jun 25 2012: The advice not to talk to strangers is that kids shouldn't talk to strangers when they are not supervised by a trusted adult. The advice never was that adults shouldn't talk to strangers.
    Some people are shy about talking to strangers and others not, but most of us can tell whether someone wants privacy in the moment or might be amenable to quick interaction. Someone running to catch a bus is a bad bet for conversation. Someone at the bus stop looking around- maybe. Someone with headphones in - no. Someone reading a book in a cafe or writing- probably no. Someone gazing into someone's eyes across a table in candlelight- no. Someone walking a slow moving dog- probably.
    • Jun 25 2012: I think in hindshight the example of not talking to strangers lesson was a bad one. But what i was touching upon there is maybe that lesson never leaves us so it becomes part of our nature? Maybe a better question is do we have time in our lives to make conversation with one another, or at least a nod of recogntion or a friendly hello? Must we really be that closed off from each other? But like you said you have to have good judgement sot then in those specific circumstances where conversation might be accepted, why don't we engage?