As I have mentioned in a previous post, people confide in me in random situations, people who barely know me and total strangers. I think of myself as a very approachable person and I am genuinely interested in learning about new people, so I enjoy these kinds of interactions. As I have got older though, I have realised that this is really unusual behaviour; most adults are not interested in getting to know new people.
Working in the tailor-made travel industry means I spend a lot of time writing about the really authentic experiences travellers can have around the world, and time and again the most popular ones are those that enable them to interact with local people and learn a new culture. So why doesn’t this apply when we are at home in the U.K.? Why, as adults when we are in our own country, do we immerse ourselves in a book or our smartphones, when abroad we would be open to new people?
I am not sure it is a cultural thing, my theory is that as adults we all put enormous walls around ourselves because we don’t want to be the one sharing about ourselves. When we are in a new country we can ask lots of questions, have a conversation with someone and feel like we are learning something, but back home it would be a two-way dialogue, we might be asked about our lives, what we like, where we work etc. and that is something most adults aren’t open to.
Being someone that does have random conversations with people, I often get remarks like ‘I wouldn’t have given that person the time of day.’ Or ‘I just pretend I don’t speak English or I am really busy’, like I am crazy for opening myself up to new people for a brief conversation. It is also easy to mistake these interactions for flirtation, but that has very rarely been the case. I don’t however, have time to talk to time wasters, there is a big difference between a meaningful conversation with someone and a creep!
Some of the most fascinating people I have met have been in the most obscure situations, if you only allow yourself to interact with people you kind of ‘know’ at work or a group you have joined, you are shutting yourself off from most of the world, from people who are entirely different from you. If you constantly think everyone has an agenda or you put your walls up and don’t get past the small talk phase you will miss so many opportunities. I am someone with social anxiety with certain types of people, I literally can’t have conversations about how much I spend on my car/my rent/how much I earn, these conversations end pretty quickly, I like to talk about books, politics, passions and laugh, what I have found is that people who you can have real conversations with don’t come along very often, so when they do, let them in, if only for a brief conversation.
Read my blog about a girl I met on a plane in India here.