Hello, Stranger (on the subway)

In this interesting NYTimes article, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton posits that a gleeful day and a bland one can often be attributed to the random conversations that you encounter with strangers. In a city like New York, I can't tell you how many times I've sat in packed subway cars silent as a pin drop. The only sound was the train chugging across the Queens express track, ricocheting us home in a jiffy. It can be disconcerting, even a lonely affair.

Those moments where strangers have talked to me added a delightful twist to my day. Like the lady who started commenting on a hobo's performance on the Shuttle at Grand Central, both us laughing later about his silly hand gestures. I had never met her and she had never met me. And yet we had a moment.

It's not limited to trains either. I've been at a Flushing Starbucks and overheard a conversation regarding bitcoin. Being the tech nerd I am, I jumped head on into the conversation. We talked for a good 15 minutes on the future of bitcoin. It was cool just to connect on that level.

I'd take it a step further and say it doesn't have to apply to strangers. With "close friends" like the ones we have on Facebook, you often run into a quiet interlude. They'll see your status posts, they'll like them, they'll comment once in a while too. But that's it. It's been too long, you don't even think of striking up a conversation now. What if they think I want something from them? What if they don't have time to talk? What if I'm bothering them?

You are really creating your own fear. Breaking the ice is an IM box away, tapping on one's shoulder, smiling wide and saying, "Hey, how's everything going? How is your day? Tell me your story."

You'd be surprised how effective that is.

Reposted from my Facebook.

Ashraf Ali