“Don’t talk to strangers!” “Stranger danger!”
This is what we tell our children from a young age. But at what point do we give our older selves permission to talk to ‘strangers’.
The other week I was waiting in a supermarket queue with my son. I struck up a conversation with the lady in front of me. We didn’t chat about anything significant (just something about the tasty looking cream cakes she’d bought), but I enjoyed it all the same and we both left with a smile.
Walking to our car, my son asked me “Did you know that lady?”. When I told him I didn’t, he seemed shocked…. “Why were you talking to her then!??”
This caution stays with us into adulthood and we remain reluctant to strike up conversations with strangers. But what if we were missing something great and new conversations turned out to be rather enjoyable. Better still – what if talking to strangers could benefit our personal growth and have a positive impact in the workplace?
Within our companies, there are always people we see but don’t know. There are those we know but never actually speak to and some we speak to but never truly understand.
Isn’t it worth getting to know these people a little better?
Here are just a few reasons why I believe it’s great to talk to strangers:
Find a new perspective:
If you always talk to the same people, you’ll only ever see one set of possibilities.
Talk to someone new and involve them in your thinking and it’ll reveal a whole new perspective. A stranger’s knowledge, experiences and values all offer a different outlook and allow you to approach your work with a more creative mindset. Don’t limit yourself to your usual circle of contacts and bring in some fresh ideas.
Enhance your “emotional intelligence”:
Emotional intelligence is how well you control your emotions and understand the people around you. It’s something worth aiming for since emotionally intelligent people are some of life’s most successful!
It might surprise you to know that the simple act of having an informal chat, over coffee with someone outside your innermost network, can increase your emotional intelligence.
Talking to someone you don’t yet know might require a bit of a push outside your comfort zone. But look to approach the conversation with genuine interest in the other person and you’ll quickly develop your empathy, self-awareness and social skills. I guarantee you’ll see great working relationships develop because of your efforts.
Expand your network:
Life can be dull when you mix with the same people, day in and day out. Why not look for an opportunity to chat to one new person today?
Start with a simple hello and rapport will naturally grow as you find your common ground. As relationships build over time they become hugely rewarding. But remember that generosity goes a long way – it can’t be all one-sided. It’s an exciting journey where you never quite know who you’ll meet and what might result.
And applying this in the workplace……
Business pressures mean that we get lost in the hectic nature of our work. Unfortunately, company culture often pays the price.
You hear about those great company cultures where people work together in strong, communicative teams. The common factor is widespread and open conversation.
You might think that asking someone about their weekend is a big waste of time but these ‘watercooler moments’ build bridges between people who might not otherwise have a connection. They create trust and understanding and drive a company culture where collaboration and a common purpose stand out.
So find your stranger and start with one small conversation today. See where it takes you…..