The Astonishing Science Behind Why You Should Be Talking to Strangers: Unveiling the Hidden Benefits!

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The Astonishing Science Behind Why You Should Be Talking to Strangers: Unveiling the Hidden Benefits!

No man is an island. This has been a popular quote for many of us. It serves as a reminder that humans are not supposed to be lonely. We are a social species that flourishes when we are interacting with other people or just with someone. So much so that psychologists today emphasize the importance of having a social life as they bring a lot of benefits, like a lesser chance of being depressed, a lesser chance of brain diseases like dementia, and even being able to regulate stress and anxiety. But despite these wondrous benefits we get from being able to socialize, why do most of us avoid social interactions with people whom we do not know?

A study by Kardas et al. (2022) found that we often misjudge our perceptions when talking to unfamiliar people. Participants in the study were divided into two groups and asked to engage in either small talk or deep conversations. They rated their expected feelings of awkwardness and connection during the conversations. Interestingly, many participants in both groups anticipated high levels of awkwardness. However, after the experiment, it was discovered that their perceptions were inaccurate. Only about half of the participants actually felt awkward during the conversations, regardless of their depth. This study shows that our avoidance of conversations, regardless of depth, is often due to misjudging how others perceive us and assuming the conversation will be awkward when it’s actually the opposite.

With these things in mind, let us discuss some of the benefits we get from having social connections:

Boosting your mood and mental health 

Studies over the years have shown that both teenagers and adults benefit from being able to socialize. Many studies that have studied how Super Agers or elderly who, despite their old age, are still healthy and happy, have pointed out that one of the main determinants for a person to remain active and happy in their old age is having a stable social life. 

Similarly, in the same study by Kardas et al. (2022), it was found that the individuals who engaged in conversations with strangers left having a lighter demeanor and/or in a happier, more relaxed state. 

Enhancing your worldview and empathy 

shaking hands, Talking to Strangers

Separation often makes us live within our minds and disallows us to consider others and view the world from a broader perspective. This often leads us to become hostile towards others because of the opinions they have, and when left unchecked, it may even pave the way for sociopathy and psychopathy. 

For this reason, we need to be out in the world. We are exposed to different opinions and perspectives which will allow us to enhance our worldview and allow us to develop an understanding of why certain groups of people, or other people in general, think and act in a certain way. This behavior allows us to empathize with people no matter who they are.

Improving cognitive function and creativity 

Contrary to common belief, it is not learning on your own, such as studying for an upcoming test, that is the best way to learn. Dr. Matthew Lieberman expresses that there are two sides of the brain: the analytical side and the side that handles social interactions. In default these two sides take turns when you do something specific, like studying or making a response to the person you are talking to. Dr. Lieberman states that whenever you are trying to learn something to teach someone else, despite its default function, the part of your brain that handles social interactions can do a better job at learning than just learning on your own or for your benefit. According to Dr. Lieberman, this phenomenon happened just after the French Revolution, when even children employed to teach other children were widely successful in their teaching careers.

It is shocking to realize that the methods that are widely used for teaching and learning are not the best ways for us to teach and learn, but evidence backs it up. Now, are we saying that you shouldn’t learn on your own? By no means, but if you are struggling to learn something new, be it for an exam or other reasons, try learning them under the light of wanting to teach them to someone else. It might just help. 

Practical Tips for Talking To Strangers 

two women talking to each other

Now that we’ve tackled the benefits of socially connecting with others, we must address one more issue. How do I actually start talking with others? 

In general, you should observe two things:

  1. The power of small talk
  2. Ability to listen

These two are the catalysts of any successful conversation, especially those that go deep. Recognizing the power of small talk gets you into conversations quicker as they are ways for you to start conversations without having to think too deeply about how you’ll start them. Their easy-to-answer nature also relieves a bit of that initial pressure of being able to respond from your conversation partner. The ability to listen is by far the most important in any conversation that you are in and is also one of the main ingredients of any good conversation, as being able to listen to someone shows them that you care about what they are saying and that the conversation is not a one-sided speech. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, as social beings, we greatly benefit from interacting with one another. These benefits have a significant impact on the quality and even the longevity of our lives. However, we often underestimate how others might perceive us when we engage in conversation, which prevents us from benefiting from these interactions. Therefore, we encourage you, the reader, to step out of your comfort zone and engage in conversations with new people. As stated in this blog post, socializing is crucial for our survival as a species. It strengthens our bonds and motivates us to work for the betterment of those we care for. The importance of socializing cannot and should not be underestimated.

three female looking at the phone

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