Talking to strangers makes us happier

So, if you travel on the London Underground there is an unspoken rule that you must never make eye contact with strangers let alone speak to anyone. The commuters generally look miserable, like cattle on the way to a cull. The only time that changes is on the last few Tubes in the evening and later in the week, when post work imbibing has rendered the stoic British aloofness defunct and lively banter fills the train carriages. 

In my naiveté I always assumed that it was purely the booze talking, but recent research suggests that there may be another reason. Seems that we are just social and actually enjoy social interaction with others. Yes there may be some nutters that we perhaps wish we hadn’t started a conversation with, but generally it is better than sitting there staring at the floor.

The really interesting thing is that the control group, believed that talking to strangers would make them far less happy. Where does this fear of talking to strangers come from? Is it from those people on the plane that force you to talk to them even though you would rather be sleeping? You know the one stat don’t pick up on social cues?

If you think about it though, for the most part, the people that tend to talk to you in public tend to be normal happy people. Are they happy because they talk to strangers? 

Having grown up in a small town, where one basically greets everyone and often has chats with strangers, I have noticed that there is a inverse proportion of friendliness to population density. If you live in an apartment, you scurry from your car to the front door trying not to look up. If you live in a townhome you wave to the neighbors as you drive into the garage. If you live in a house with some space, you stop to chat to the neighbor. If you live in Outback Australia, anyone you see is instantly your best friend and you are invited to the wedding/christening/wake all within the first 2 minutes of conversation.

Will the ever burgeoning population drive us from our natural desire to seek social contact? Can communities be planed to encourage more interaction and make people happier? Regardless…. take a chance, talk to a stranger today and every day!

 

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