This relationship can be the most ambiguous or is the relationship that we rarely know that we are a part of. Whether it is the people we pass in the hallways of OLu or the people we might sit next to on planes, are constantly surrounded by strangers. The word stranger was derived from the Latin word extraneus which translates to unfamiliar or foreign meaning that the people around us are new and unfamiliar.
If you look in your daily routine or lifestyle, it can be easy to say that out of all the relationships we are a part of, the strangers we interact with have the least effect on our life. Knowing this, why is it important to have healthy relationships with strangers and do the relationships we have with strangers even really matter?
Simply put, yes I believe these relationships are important. When I was researching the relationships we have with strangers I was hit with the deep and impactful message that at some point or another, people are all strangers. Aside from our families, at one point even our closest friends were strangers to us. If we never would have considered our relationship to them as strangers and made an effort to get to know them beyond that point then it is very unlikely that the friendship would have occurred.
For this reason, I believe that the relationship we have with strangers is important in that it not only helps us expand our horizons and meet new people, but is often how we create new and long-lasting friendships with the people around us. In this article, I want to share the information about relationships with strangers that I was able to find, as well as discuss how sometimes even our closest friends will sometimes become strangers. I also would like to say that my intent in writing this is not to say go run up and try to be friends with the first stranger you see because even though the idea is nice, the truth is we live in a broken and evil world so your safety is more important. Instead, I hope that through this you can become aware of the different ways strangers have impacted your own life personally and how you can have those same positive effects on those around you.
Why talking with Strangers is beneficial
First, let’s start by discussing the different benefits of talking to those around us that might have on us. To begin, it can make us feel more human, meaning that through the brief interactions we have with other people, we gain affirmation that we are alive and that we are heard. Several sociological studies have also shown that strangers sometimes will understand us or what we are going through more than our family or friends might do in that there is little to no bias present. Talking with others can also help lessen and alleviate fear in that by taking the time to talk to the people around you, you are developing and growing in your empathic abilities by learning more about the people around you. This will affect the way you feel or think about different issues in that now you can see the issue through not just one, but multiple perspectives.
How to talk with Strangers
When talking with strangers it is usually important to start the conversation right away. In the same way, you usually wouldn’t be open to talking with a stranger immediately, if no one makes the first move the conversation is likely to not happen. When asking a question to start the conversation it is important to make contact and wait for an answer in that the silence and eye contact show that you genuinely care. While you may be ready to talk and share it is important that the other individual feels the same way too; a strategy for helping with this is sharing a personal story about yourself in that through this you are establishing trust and encouraging the other individual to open up more. However, it is very important to read the body language of the other individual in the first 10 seconds of the conversation and to make a decision on whether or not to keep going.
These skills not only apply to when we think we might be surrounded by strangers such as on a train or an airplane, but these skills can be applied to our everyday school setting. It is very unlikely that we will know everyone who is around us at any given point during the school day, so taking the time to talk to the person next to us waiting in line in the cafe or sitting next to us in daily gathering can help give us a better idea on the perspective of the people around us while making new friends along the way.
Friends becoming Strangers
While it is true that our closest friends are often strangers to us first, sometimes this can play out in reverse in our lives in that our friends will sometimes become strangers to us. The two main reasons for this is that one, we change as people, and two, we hurt each other.
First, as teenagers, we are experiencing vast amounts of change daily as we process through who we are now and who we want to be in the future as we live on our own as adults. Sometimes this process will cause us to simply not connect with our friends and the people around us in the same way we used to. While this change can often be hard, it is important to realize that there is nothing wrong with this happening and that it is important to respect each other and where each of your lives is headed. This does not mean that when we change we have to get rid of all of our friends and find new ones, but simply to expect not all your relationships to last forever.
The second main reason for friends becoming strangers is often due to hurting one another. This can be through words or actions, but in every friendship there usually will come a time where one friend is hurt by another. By holding onto grudges and toxic feelings, the problem can boil up to the point where the friendship quickly ends and you and the other individual are back to being strangers. However, these situations provide an opportunity to learn about ourselves as people and grow in communicating how we feel or view a certain issue. It is also very important to not blame yourself for something that as a friend, it is important to respect: the choices and decisions of the other individual.
In respect to all relationships, but especially those in which you feel like you and your friends are slowly becoming strangers the most important thing you can do is take action. If you want that relationship to continue or if you want to put an end to problems or growing conflict it is important to make a decision now. No one can control or change the past, but we all can change the present and even affect the future. We simply need to make a choice.
As always, linked below are all of the articles I used to help write this piece if you are interested in doing further research. Hopefully, through this, you were able to learn more about the existence of a relationship with strangers, how it affects our everyday lives, and how we can positively impact those around us.
Abed, Robbie. “3 Tactics to Build Better Relationships with Strangers.” Inc.com. Inc., August 31, 2018. https://www.inc.com/robbie-abed/3-tactics-to-build-better-relationships-with-strangers.html.
Bielski, Zosia, and Zosia Bielski. “Why Talking to Strangers Is Very, Very Good for You.” The Globe and Mail. Phillip Crawley, November 12, 2017. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/why-talking-to-strangers-is-very-very-good-foryou/article31987336/.
Jazaieri, Hooria. “Why We Give to Neighbors, Not Strangers.” Greater Good. University of California Berkeley, December 23, 2013. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_we_give_to_neighbors_not_strangers.
Martino, Joe. “Why Do Our Best Friends Become Strangers?” Astute News, WordPress, 5 Mar. 2018, astutenews.com/2018/03/06/why-do-our-best-friends-become-strangers/.
Richards, Rodney. “Why Do We Think of People as Strangers?” BahaiTeachings.org, May 24, 2017. https://bahaiteachings.org/think-people-strangers.
Photo Credits: Adi Goldstein on Unsplash (Background)