Talk To Strangers
I was born and raised in the Midwest, actually the safest small town in Ohio according to Movoto - and at top of most other lists. Needless to say, I didn’t worry about talking to strangers, even at a young age. It wasn't necessary in my circumstances.
My first experience in NYC was December of 2010 for due diligence regarding the acquisition between Geckotech and M5 Networks. (See About Page for LinkedIn Profile). I was not excited about experience that visit - even though I had an amazing upgrade at the Trump Soho that was bigger than my Chicago apartment. (I had two bathrooms, a few TVs, and an amazing view of the Hudson river.)
Over the next few years, my role change required me to travel between Chicago and NYC weekly. Often, I felt alone in hotels. I didn’t understand why people didn’t actively engage in conversation like I was accustomed to in the Midwest. When strangers did talk to me, they were typically from out of town or the Midwest.
Most of us have heard the ‘view’ of NYC. Not having ever been to NYC, it was all I knew. On the other hand, I also make a conscious decision to refrain from judgement in personal interactions and experiences - so why would I not stick to this perspective for a new city.
Fast forward two years, I moved to NYC to the wonderful community of Hell’s Kitchen. I was fortunate to get the cutest studio across from a community garden thanks to a coworker that was moving - bonus that there was no agent fee! At this time, I had grown a complete different feeling for the city. I understood the people and the city. I learned to love NYC.
My interaction with strangers changed my view of NYC
Once I allowed myself to have an open mind, I realized the stereotype of NYC was incorrect. While most people seem to be in a rush with minimal time to chit-chat like the Midwest or South, it does not make the human instinct to love and care different than any other geographic area. Most of NYC area residents live in small apartments with constant crowds on the train, coffee shops, and pretty much every place else. People need space - but they also need social interaction!
I was now immersed in the city. I walked to work everyday from Hell’s Kitchen to Midtown. Often, on my walk, several strangers complimented me - with a kind sense of authenticity. On those days, I had a strange sense of happiness. There was a great feeling of this genuine interaction.
My Smile Test
Being from the Midwest and hearing frequently of the NYC stereotype. I had an idea - test the stranger smile response. While on my way to the office, I smiled at every person I passed. My goal was to determine the percentage of those that would return the smile.
I call it a success. While I stopped after 9th Ave due to the amount of people, I counted 60%. If all made eye contact, I am confident it would have been at least 80%.
People are authentic and genuine when you have an open mind and allow them into your life. Your smile or compliment can make a difference in someone’s day. Try it tomorrow on your subway ride!
Thoughts by Randa related to reference articles
Steffan’s Personality Blog shows the stereotypes across geographic areas.
My thoughts: Do we conform to the stereotypes that are given to us by society? I suggest we challenge all types of stereotypes - Everyone and every place deserves an authentic interaction - without previous judgement.
My thoughts: We want to be social. Why do we choose our smartphones vs real engagement with a person?
My thoughts: We tell kids not to talk to strangers. Is it because they are still authentic and vulnerable to desire social interaction with everyone? Of course the real reason is for safety.
What are your thoughts?