Two behavioral scientists, Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder, wrote a BBC article in June 2019.
In this article titled “The surprising benefits of talking to strangers,” they said one of these perks is, “having a conversation with a stranger on your way to work may leave you both feeling happier than you would think.”
The people who participated in the study estimated only 40% of their fellow commuters would be willing to talk. However, results showed that every person the participants talked to was very willing and happy to chat.
My personal experience has yielded the same results. While sitting in airports, if someone sits next to me, I’ll talk with them. I’ve met really nice people while doing that, and it always makes my six-hour wait a little more bearable.
Recently on my way home for Christmas, I talked with two strangers while waiting for my flight. I found out one was a very nice, young woman attending Oregon Health & Science University; she was getting back to her husband after interviewing for medical residencies. The other was a slightly overweight man, balding with a big, scraggly, graying beard. He grew up all over Oregon and worked something with computers. Walking away from those conversations improved my mood and they were both very willing to talk.
Another experiment Epley and Schroeder tested was done in waiting rooms, where they encouraged people to talk with each other. They found that those who initiate the conversation and those who listened experienced a positive outcome.
“The positive impact even seems to spread to the person you talk to,” Epley and Schroeder said.
Within the past weeks, I was sitting in the Scroll office and decided to get to know one of the school’s employees better. All I asked was, “How’s your week going?” That led to a good 10-minute conversation.
I learned about their family, children and siblings; career before coming to BYU-Idaho; and education.
After that conversation, my workday seemed more fun, and they seemed to walk away a little happier.
Socializing not only improves mood, but it’s also good for your health.
Medical News Today quotes Susan Pinker, a psychologist, who said, “Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like a vaccine, they protect you now, in the present, and well into the future, so simply […] shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.”
So, when you’re stressed with tests, homework, classes, dating, finals, work and pesky upstairs neighbors that vacuum at 10 p.m., talk to someone. It will decrease your stress.
Now, I acknowledge it can be hard to talk to strangers, but it’s where friends come from. All you have to do is initiate.