Studies show: talking to strangers is good for your well-being

personal interaction and well being

Everyone knows they feel better after spending a few minutes catching up with a friend, but recent studies show that making small talk with strangers and casual acquaintances can also have a positive impact on our well-being.

The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at two different reports from 2014 that studied the effects of small talk with everyone from strangers to the barista you see every day during your coffee break. Both studies found that while we don’t create deep, long-lasting relationships with these people, taking a few minutes to look up from our phones and talk to them can make us feel better for the rest of the day.

“On days when participants had more ‘weak tie’ interactions than usual, they reported a greater sense of belonging and happiness,” WSJ reported.

How can you use this information to your advantage and increase your personal well-being a little bit each day? Try working these habits into your daily routine.

Chat During Your Commute

If you take public transportation or a cab, spend the time engaging in small talk rather than replying to emails. One of the studies reported on by the Wall Street Journal specifically studied the interactions of strangers on a train. The study found that:

“In surveys completed afterward, those who were instructed to engage in conversations with strangers reported ‘significantly more positive’ and ‘no less productive’ commutes than those who rode in solitude.”

While you may be hesitant to give up that “work” time, taking just a few minutes of your morning to talk to someone could set you up for a more positive day.

Leave the Phone

We take our phones with us everywhere; and if it’s not the buzz of a call or the ding of an email or text message, we’re tempted to check apps while we run simple errands like grabbing a cup of coffee.

To give yourself a much-needed screen break and the chance to engage in small talk, leave your phone at your desk. You’ll only be gone for a few minutes and not having a distracting device on you might just be the incentive you need to talk to the barista, another person in line or a coworker in the break room.

Grab Lunch with a Coworker

Whether you have time for a sit down lunch or are just running out to grab something, invite a coworker you don’t interact with often. We all have our work friends, but just because they’re busy doesn’t mean we need to eat alone. Before you head out for lunch take a quick walk around the office and see if anyone wants to go. This is a great opportunity to get to know new coworkers or people in other departments, particularly in larger offices.

Don’t Avoid Small Talk

Whenever you’re in a situation where a stranger or someone you don’t know is nearby – passing in a hallway, by the water cooler or printer, in the elevator – take the opportunity to say hello and ask how their day is going. This isn’t a big commitment and won’t cost you any time or productivity, but it can really make your and the other person’s day and help everyone’s well-being.

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