“When we talk to strangers, we shift our perceptions on who counts as human. And as Kio Stark, author of the upcoming TED Book When Strangers Meet, says, “Seeing someone as an individual is a political act.” Stark wants you to try talking to more people you don’t know. She personally loves speaking to strangers: she makes eye contact in the street, says hello, listens. One day in New York when an old man told her not to stand on a storm drain because she “might disappear,” she thought it was silly — but she stepped off. And they had a moment.
In many parts of the world we’re taught not to trust strangers. “Instead of using our perceptions and making choices,” she says, “We rely on this category of ‘stranger.’” But, says Stark, there are two great benefits to talking to strangers: first, it brings a special form of closeness we can’t get from friends and family, because there are no consequences; and second, we often expect loved ones to read our minds, and with strangers we have to tell the whole story to be understood. It’s a practice all of us should take on.”
We speak to strangers, lots of them can now be counted as our friends, and it’s bloody marvellous the things you learn, the fun you can have, and the surprise adventures they can take you on. Try it. Join someone else’s table, introduce yourself, and buckle up.