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Should You Talk to Strangers?

A half dozen recent studies demonstrate the power that connecting with strangers has to make us happier. Research also suggests that that talking to strangers makes us luckier.

In one study, researchers randomly assigned volunteers to talk to the strangers who sat down next to them on the train during their morning commutes. Pretty much no one thought they were going to enjoy giving up their solitude to make small talk with someone they didn’t know and would probably never see again. But guess what? The volunteers enjoyed their commutes more than the people in the study who got to read their books and finish their crossword puzzles in silence. What’s more, not a single study participant was snubbed. Other research indicates that the strangers being chatted up in public spaces similarly think they won’t want to talk, but then end up enjoying themselves.

In another study, researchers measured how much people enjoyed interacting with people they barely knew, and how much they enjoyed connecting with loved ones. Turns out that interacting with both types of people made both introverts and extroverts happier — and the more social interactions they had, the happier people were.

Finally, research shows that even just acknowledging someone else’s presence by making eye contact and smiling at them helps people feel more connected. So yes: Talking to strangers strangely makes us happy.

Take Action: See how many strangers you can interact with today. Smile at the woman you pass getting on the bus. Chat up the barista. Compliment the grocery checker.

Join the Discussion: How does talking to strangers make you feel? Inspire others in the comments!