Do This: Talk To Strangers

… preferably in a ball pit.

I have an admitted fear of ball pits, because OMG germs, but I’d make an exception here. Soul Pancake orchestrated a touching project (dare I call it a public art installation?) encouraging grown-ups to harness their inner child, pause their days and reach out to a new friend. The result? A 5-minute break in your day that will restore your faith in humankind.

I find it interesting how, as children, socialization is a shared goal: playgrounds, ball pits, sporting events. Yet the older we get, the more we forget the importance of meeting new people and befriending strangers. Our surroundings almost encourage this – single file lines at the bank, tiny bistro tables for one. And although there’s certainly something to be said for privacy and personal space, I often wonder how much more we’d learn about our society if we’d sit at the yellow bench.

Tell me, when’s the last time you chatted with a stranger? I met the loveliest woman at the pet store yesterday!

  • I have taken it on as my personal project to smile at strangers I pass – whether in a store or on the street. It’s amazing how many people are surprised (even put off?) by this tiny act. But the ones who respond well – oh boy! it’s awesome.

    Have you seen the Soulpancake Kid President video? It’s my new guide for life.

    Let’s me and you be awesome together, eh, Erin? (Hint: we already are!)


    • @Tiffany – Dude, I love Kid President. And you’re right – some are super not open to chit-chat, but I like finding the ones who are. Except for airplanes! No idea why, but planes are no talking zone for me. ;)

  • I strike up conversations with strangers all the time, I watched my husband do it for years when I first met him then eventually got up the courage to do it myself and now I can’t be stopped. On the shuttle to the airport, at the grocery store, in random places, if there’s an observation to be made I make it outloud and people always respond back. I always walk away learning something about people!

    • @Centstational Girl – Ha, my husband is the same way; so so chatty! It’s definitely rubbed off on me. :)

  • Being new to my city I have to talk to strangers or I’ll never end up with a network of friends! Some days I feel like being a loner but when I do talk to new people, it’s so invigorating.

    Even if you never see that person again, making that connection is a delight. It is such a great way to be in the moment as you go about your day.

    • @Sandra – I’d never thought of that part of it all, but yes, it’s an EXCELLENT way to be in the moment! It’s so tempting to check your phone at the hair salon, grocery store, etc, but how much more rich might our lives be if we foster relationships instead? I’m pointing the finger at myself here. ;)

  • Public transportation is the perfect situation for this! I take the subway in LA (one of the few people) and I find that people will almost always talk to me if I’m reading a book. It’s like an open invitation to ask me what I’m reading. I’ve gotten used to it by now and enjoy the conversation or lack there of depending on the subject of what i’m reading. :)

  • Being a GRT in an undergrad dorm is the perfect cover for a introvert. I have every excuse in the book to chat up girls in the dorm, and the practice there gives me a bit more courage in every day life.

  • This is fabulous! A ball pit with no age cap – I wish I had stumbled across it. My kids practically cry when they reach the Ikea playroom age limits. One of the best qualities of my Anthropology degree is the interviewing skills. It’s so fun to connect with other humans.

  • Many people I now call my friends I met randomly, striking a chat out of the blue, during an event or a bike ride – very true.

    Profound life events have happened, and I find myself expressing my introverted self more, but very observant and not face down on my phone at all. It is very sad to see this in this video NOT happening. While riding the bus it gets tremendously quiet b/c every single person is looking down their phone during rush hour and I feel like an outsider just there, observing, wondering if they noticed that amazing morning light with the clouds as the bus flew by the busy streets of San Francisco. anyways.
    LOVED this, thanks Erin

  • multicolored balls. Wish I could set up something like that in the town I live in because I talk to everybody. People in the supermarket, library, airports and everywhere. With a smile I usually compliment women on their outfits and men too and invariably all respond. I find it great fun and it always makes people feel good about themselves. It also makes me feel good because I’ve made someone else happy. Love all your observations. Carolyn

  • The last time, I chatted with a stranger was at an Asian supermarket while buying groceries on my own. I wanted to buy a fruit and at the same time, a Trinidadian middle age lady was looking at the same fruit, so I decided to ask for her advice on how to pick a good one. She was very kind in telling me how to pick one. If we talk more to strangers, our stereotypes on others might go away.

    Great post. Thank you for sharing. This is a great blog site.

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