Your Happiness: Talk to Strangers!
by Wendy, Retirement Enthusiast
Talk to strangers
I love this article from National Public Radio on "Want to feel happier today? Try talking to a stranger."
Most of us (this total introvert included) do anything to avoid a conversation with a stranger. What does society do, instead of polite chatter? We often pull out our trusty cell phones and pretend to be busy -- unapproachable.
WHY do we do that? Really sad. Really rather silly as very few are really THAT busy.
Cell phone gazing is a habit. It's even worse with younger generations who truly don't do well with face to face conversations. I know I seriously want to break this habit, as the admitted introvert, my phone has become my security blanket. It is!
A Canadian Psychologist asked people to go and get a cup of coffee in a busy coffee shop. Half went in and out quickly, the other half had a quick conversation with the cashier. They still got out quickly but chatted a moment over the transaction, I do this ALL the time.
Today, at Krogers getting groceries, and the woman in back of me had 6-8 large milks in her basket. I asked, "do you love milk?" She replied, "I'm making cheese, I make my own, like feta cheese." I was impressed, told her so, we were both smiling.
I also saw a girl push her dad to make him walk faster (on his phone, of course) as they walked in the parking lot. When I saw them inside, I mentioned it, laughing, "so cute!" The girl smiled, and the Dad thought about it for a sec then said "yes, she did!"
The psychologist suggests those who chatted a bit left the coffee shop in a better mood and had a better sense of community. Whether they strike up a short conversation at a dog park, shopping, in the parking lot, whatever -- it often brings a smile to someone's face (maybe both). Just sharing life for that brief moment.
Do you remember, a few years ago, when it was my thing to find stranded seniors in the grocery store parking lot in the winter? Sometimes, I'd park and find their car (while they stood with groceries). Other times, few groceries, so I loaded them into my trunk, got the senior into my car and drove them to their car... often on the completely opposite side of the parking lot! It was freezing out, they were "lost" and it took me all of five minutes to get them safe and secure back in their own vehicle. A few brief moments of interaction helped both the senior and felt good to my soul.
This post is not about Wendy -- I simply wanted to show a few examples of what an introvert can do, in a flash of time, to help and/or engage someone.
Some people have social anxiety. They really prefer to live life alone. But do they really or is it simply fear of rejection? Oddly enough these brief interactions are fun, pleasant, no obligations, just a quick pick-me-up on life. I love to comment on what someone is wearing, what they are buying, or even what just happened to me (something silly).
Personally, I don't need a long conversation. I don't care for an anxiety-producing lunch where you might feel a moment of silence is awkward. Yep, I'm weird, but if you've been around this site for a bit, you already knew that! GRIN!
I Love brief moments of connection where we can both walk away with a lighter heart. No one likes feeling invisible -- and especially as seniors, we often do feel invisible.
A brief smile, eye contact, and a nod, or a few simple words and a laugh -- that's all it takes to make someone's day better. They (and even you) may not realize it was that one tiny conversation that neither of you remembers -- but it can make a difference!
The Germans even have a term for it — wie Luft behandeln, which means "to be looked at as though air." Yuck -- I make it my daily mission, where ever I roam, to add a little random chatter to someone's day! I look for those opportunities, me playing the extravert for a brief moment in time!
Loneliness is a big deal with many seniors, admitted or not. Make it your mission to spread a tiny bit of happiness where you go. Put the cell phone away -- and look at people, smile, make a small comment. It's ok.
I'm not saying do this with everyone you run into -- I am saying that these small connections are what makes our worlds go round. Stay connected!
You have a voice, use it to compliment and engage people, if only for a few brief moments.
This will help your mood, and theirs too!