In a story on the BBC today, two behavioral science researchers touted surprise findings about the benefits of talking to strangers.
From their experiment surveying commuters in Chicago, Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder found the following:
- Most participants thought that talking to their neighbors on the bus or train would lead to the least pleasant commute.
- The commuters estimated that only 40% of their fellow passengers would be willing to talk to them.
It turns out, the commuters were wrong.
In fact, every participant “who actually tried to talk to a stranger found [that] the person sitting next to them was happy to chat.” (Fun fact: research suggests that we often underestimate how much a new person likes us following an initial conversation.)
Similar instances with commuters in taxis yielded similar results. The positive impacts were felt not just by the initiator, but also by the person who was approached, as well.
While few people in our digitally-driven world start conversations with total strangers, most of those on the receiving end are receptive to such overtures.
The next time you find yourself on public transport, or anywhere else with some idle time, consider striking up a conversation with the person next to you. It just make make both of your days.