Latest data reveals those who engage in more conversations with strangers reported greater levels of life satisfaction. We share simple tips on how to reach out and feel more connected to others
Research suggests engaging in conversations with strangers has many health benefits, such as increased happiness, decreased feelings of loneliness and improved trust.
Following a study of 60,000 people, two-thirds of whom were from the UK, researchers discovered that ‘momentary interactions, greetings, and thanking one another influenced wellbeing.' The study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, sheds a fresh perspective on the subtle but significant impact of everyday social interactions.
According to the researchers, the ease and reduced anxiety in carrying out such brief conversations, as opposed to more in-depth interactions, make them more accessible to many people.
Reaching out and connecting with others can be the first step towards feeling less alone. Making changes can feel overwhelming, but there are simple ways to help you feel more connected with those around you.
If you haven't socialised in a while, meeting new people and opening up to others may feel daunting. But, you don’t have to make drastic changes to find a connection.
In a situation where you'd normally pop in your earphones, scroll through social media, or read a book, try smiling and greeting a stranger and seeing what happens. Interactions with strangers are naturally less predictable (and sometimes more awkward) than those with friends and family. Consider commenting on a shared situation when starting a conversation, including the old classics, such as the weather or traffic. From here you can move on to other, more interesting topics.
Volunteering has been shown to increase feelings of self-esteem, social connection, and well-being in people of all ages. Volunteering allows you to practise and improve your social skills by regularly meeting with people who share your interests, whilst also providing a natural sense of accomplishment and helping to develop a solid support system.
Whether connecting with a stranger in public, a new acquaintance at work or a long-time friend, being genuinely interested and asking questions is a great way to foster connections. Showing curiosity and expressing genuine interest helps to promote intimacy, whilst strengthening and building relationships. You may also consider disclosing something about yourself, which demonstrates trust and encourages reciprocation.
Extend an invitation
Remember, other people often feel nervous in social situations, even if someone may appear confident and outgoing, there's a good chance they have self-doubts. A low-pressure gesture gives you a chance to get to know someone better, this could be as simple as suggesting a dog walk in the park or asking a colleague if they want to grab lunch.
Make the most of online resources
If you’re naturally an introvert you may find it easier to find connections online and search for people with common interests. Consider joining groups about subjects you’re passionate about on Facebook, or downloading friendship apps such as Hey!, Bumble BFF or Meetup. From here, If you feel comfortable, why not consider a real-life meet-up such as a coffee date?
Remember, you’re not alone and many other people are looking for stronger social connections. The more you reach out and push yourself out of your comfort zone, the better your chances of overcoming loneliness, boosting self-confidence and enhancing your social skills.