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Make today a talk to strangers day

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Make today a talk to strangers day

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Last year some research from Singapore highlighted the value in what they called familiar strangers.  These are the people we see regularly throughout our normal activities, but who we have no relationship with.  These are the people we see each day on the train to work or in our local supermarket each weekend.  They’re the people who provide a valuable source of social potential as neighbours or friends.

Of course, most of the time, we don’t actually talk to these people, so don’t get the true benefit of those potential relationships.  Various studies have suggested that’s not a great philosophy however.

A study by researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business earlier this summer highlighted the tremendous benefits of reaching out to those aforementioned familiar strangers.  It found that not only was the experience pleasant, it was pleasant for both side of the conversation, with both parties reporting a more enjoyable commute as a result.

Now, of course, the commute is often regarded as something not all that enjoyable.  This is something I personally disagree with, as it’s a nice time to read in relative peace, but I accept I may be an exception here.  Anything that can improve that therefore could see employees arriving to work in a much healthier frame of mind.

Central to the enjoyment was the sense of prosociality it inspired.  As the authors state in their conclusion

“Being civil toward distant others or random strangers is typically believed to benefit others—society at large or those who are befriended.

The results of our experiments, however, join a growing body of research suggesting positive consequences of prosociality for oneself.

Whether it is spending money on others versus oneself, behaving equitably rather than selfishly, or expressing gratitude versus disdain, prosociality seems not only to benefit others but also to benefit oneself.

On an increasingly crowded planet, misunderstanding the benefits of social engagement could be increasingly problematic.

At least in this respect, the hedonist who seeks happiness and the idealist who seeks civility should choose the same path.”

All of which makes projects such as Talk to me London so interesting.  It is a new project that wants to help the residents of London share stories with one another.  The project was launched with the aim of countering the perception London has as a somewhat frosty kinda place, whilst at the same time help residents and commuters get to know one another a bit better.

The fulcrum of the project will be Talk To Me London Day in August (30th), which successfully raised the cash required via a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.  The event will see Talk To Me badges handed out to participants to signal to others that they’re up for a natter.  They’re also planning various flash mob style events, such as a book club on the tube and dinner parties in the cities parks.

Maybe that’s just what’s required to get your inhibitions lowered and your conversational juices flowing.

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