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Go ahead and talk!

Updated: Feb 14

How to converse with complete strangers – and why it’s important

Sitting in the train station, standing in line at the bank, hanging at a bar waiting for your friend to show up. Thank goodness you have your phone to keep you absorbed and to hold your gaze.

Your parent figures, after all, likely warned you about talking with strangers – even though now that you are an adult, the vast majority of people you encounter pose no danger.

What makes us afraid to interact with people we don’t know, and how can we overcome these fears?

A researcher at the University of Chicago found that commuters who talk to strangers on their way to work are happier. The study also found that people who stay mum do so because they fear disrupting another’s solitude. Wrong. Nearly 100 percent of those surveyed said they would love to engage in conversation.

When you arrive at a Mixolo event, you can be assured that most everyone is there to share in a fun experience, and is happy to chat. Our photos reflected here are "journalistic" - IRL (in real life) Mixolo strange(r) encounters at our solo-friendly events and experiences. Ex-strangers, new connections...

But how to begin?

The art of conversation can sometimes include not talking at all–but rather, listening. Ask an easy question – for example, what brought you here? And capture a detail of the response to ask a follow-up question. If all goes well, a query will then come your way.

Voila, you are conversing!

How to keep it up? Here are some tips on crafting a satisfying conversation with someone you have just met.

• Step up to small talk. We can all agree on whether the sun is shining today, and that is a great place to begin a friendly chat.

• Be curious. The best way to put another at ease is to ask questions. Pay attention to the answers, so you have fodder for follow up.

• Back away from appearing judgmental. If you hate the flower arrangement or a particular politician, keep it to yourself for now. You don’t yet know anything about the other person’s tastes or leanings.

• In other words, keep things positive. Discuss the event you are attending, tell an amusing anecdote, ask about weekend plans.

• Show kindness and interest. Smile and make eye contact.

• Extend the circle. Bonus points if you can draw another person into your conversation.

Small talk is good for your brain.

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin looked at three groups: the first was instructed to engage in small talk; the second to engage in competitive interactions and the third to not interact with others at all. Immediately following, the small talkers performed better on executive function testing.

You don’t have to delve too deep.

Another study showed that friendly interactions with acquaintances – people you may encounter every day, but aren’t close to, lead to greater overall happiness and a sense of belonging.

So, go ahead, ask whether the sun will be out tomorrow.

Our photos reflected here are "journalistic" - IRL (in real life) Mixolo strange(r) encounters at our solo-friendly events and experiences. Ex-strangers, new connections..

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