Stranger Encounter

Categories #Posiel

Process Post #1 |

In the article, “How to Talk to Strangers”, James Hamblin talks about how there are clear benefits in talking to strangers. A stranger is a person whom one does not know or who they are not familiar with. You see them everywhere, on the bus, on the streets. A stranger is known when you introduce yourself and you’re able to recognize them. Once we consider a person known, our behaviour towards them changes entirely because we are able to be more of ourselves instead of the act of “civil inattention – [to] act civilized toward one another – not harming anyone or blocking their paths or shouting in an enclosed space – but also not attentive” as Goffman describes, a Canadian sociologist ( para. 5).

I encounter strangers everyday, but I do not talk to all of them. So the other day, instead of using my “mobile order” at Starbucks, I went inside to order. I greeted the baristas and had a quick conversation with them. While having to wait for my drink allowed me to look around the cafe and observe the chatter and mingle that was happening around me. I was sitting down, doing some work when I noticed the woman beside me was looking for something. I asked her what she needed and she replied that she was looking for an outlet. I offered to switch seats with her because I had one on the other side. She thanked me and that was the outlet in starting a conversation. She asked where I got my coat and I replied, our conversation continued. A stranger encounter in real life is much different than online interactions for many reasons. When I talk to someone online, I do not always know or understand what they’re trying to communicate because I am unable to witness their body language and facial expressions but interacting with someone in person feels more rewarding and makes my day a bit happier. You can say a phrase a million ways in person and they would all be different on the way you say it, but online it may come across uninterpreted. Kio Stark writes that “a stranger – encounter is “an exquisite interruption” to whatever expectations you had about your day” and that is why engaging with a stranger means something interesting might happen. You also start “feeling connected to [your] neighbourhood” (para. 9).

A simple act, just saying “hello” to a stranger, can change our behaviour towards them. It can make our ordinary day into something memorable or exciting. A simple act can change the situation and open endless connections and opportunities.