Why You Should Reach Out and Touch Someone
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein that contends sometimes a stranger – not a loved one – can significantly improve your day by having a pleasant encounter that creates a connection and provides feelings of satisfaction. There are many reasons for it. It can improve your mood, show you can get out of your comfort zone and reach out to others, increase happiness, and provide other emotional support. I write about this in my book and show how random acts of kindness, such as reaching out to another person to improve their lives, can enhance one’s well-being.
Gillian Sandstrom, a psychologist and senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex in England, studied the interactions between strangers. Her research shows moods improve after an unplanned conversation, others are grateful for having someone care enough to strike up a conversation, and other people will like them more when they talk for the first time.
In the study, Sandstrom asked participants to talk to at least one stranger a day for five days, 99 percent said they found at least one of the conversations pleasantly surprising, and 82 percent said they learned something from the encounter.
Multiple research shows it doesn’t have to be a passing stranger to feel the positive effects of the conversation. It can be a friend, a family member, members of a community group and so on. These kinds of conversations enhance emotional and physical health and can lead to a longer life.
In the Wall Street Journal article, Bernstein provides 10 tips to connect with strangers, some of which are: be willing to come out of your comfort zone; chat up someone you see regularly; ask something about that person; ask for their help; focus on common interests; listen to what they have to say; and do it again.
I’m convinced that the benefits of striking up a conversation with a stranger, passing acquaintance, casual friend, and family members occurs in part because we have become so disconnected as a society because of our reliance on social networking to make connections with others that the experience of someone actually talking to us face-to-face is an unexpected, delightful surprise. We might say: Here is a person who cares enough about me and my feelings to get to know me better.
Another reason the benefits are greater is the declining level of civility in society. We see it virtually every where we turn, in the media, on the news, and sometimes in personal interactions. The personal touch provides a counterpoint to the anonymous, sometimes cold communication many of us have become used to online.
We need to find new ways to communicate with each other to advance the cause of civility in society. We need to reach out to others, show that we care, strike up a conversation, and even learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
I don’t know how much more our society can take of rude behavior, thoughtless comments, offensive language, and indifference before we fall apart at the seam. We’re headed down the proverbial ethical slippery slope and when we reach rock bottom, our moral compasses will crash.