The Art of Talking To Strangers/When It’s Time to Throw Caution to the Wind

My daughters with cats
My daughters with cats

This weekend, I had an epiphany.

For the past twenty years, I’ve been talking to my now-grown daughters about things like stranger-danger and picking safe friends, later followed by picking a safe partner. And yes, it’s good to follow a sort of universal precaution about potential mates, given that 1 in 4 women in the United States are abused in an intimate relationship. Still, I may have gone overboard.

How can I tell, exactly?

So this weekend, when we went on a mother-daughter camping weekend, I watched their eyes widened when I began chatting up strangers. The Greek chef at local eatery who told them about life at home, and how. The berry-picker from Australia who’s living with her adult son in an old van for six months while they travel the United States.

I do it all the time when I travel. But at home, I avoid talking to strangers at all costs. I’m too busy, crankily making my way through the never-ending chore list at work and at home.

photo 1
My daughter with her cat.

We have to talk to strangers. To gain and maintain employment. To find love. To make new and interesting friendships that breathe life into our old ones. I find that when I’m vulnerable or relaxed, the better me is there, ready to chat with a stranger, ready to hear and remember their stories, ready to embrace the idea of a new adventure.

My daughters watched incredulously as I accepted the invitation to visit our new friends in their van, and I watched them relax into the conversation, where we learned about the Aussie mom’s solo travels to Iran, Syria, and Laos. Where we heard from the charming son how one travels with their mom in such a tight space without any obvious signs of hostility. We were inspired by our new friends. They’re now our Facebook friends. A travel link to Australia. Our inspiration when we’re elbowing one-another in our thimble-sized bathroom in the morning.

Today, blogger Nina at the Art of Simple Living Writes —

To start, make a point of talking to someone you’re acquainted with but don’t know very well. They’re familiar, but you still have to work to engage with them and build a relationship.

Get out of your environment

Home is cozy. It’s yours and you don’t have to talk unless you want to. But if you want to get out of your shell, you first have to get out of your environment and hang out with … other people. Scary, I know.

No really, I know.

But it’s the only way to meet people. Unless you want to start hosting dinners at your house, then go for it. But you can’t hide in the kitchen all night.

Get passionate

Would you rather talk with Emeril Lagasse about pork fat or Dave Ramsey about debt snowballs? That’s a trick question.

I would say both because of their passion about their respective topics, which draws people in (or repels them, which works out well for you in the end).

Sharing your passion with others, be it travel, cooking or simple living makes it easier for you to open up and more enjoyable for the person talking with you.

Tell a better story

One of my fears was that people would come say hi, then walk away because I was just so boring.

If you have a deep desire to come out of your shell, chances are your story might not be so hot. It’s ok. It’s never too late to change.

Life doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time, but you should definitely start sprinkling in moments of awesomeness where you can.

Take dancing lessons, learn a new language, travel, volunteer, take up a new sport, move into a school bus. Sign up for something that sounds fun but scares your pants off.

Start living your life as the amazing story that it is. Once you feel truly alive, it’s hard to hide it. Relating to others is a natural by-product.”

 Perfectly said, Nina.

Safety is important. But we need one another to allow love and safety to meet.

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