Strangers to friends
Sarah Olson | Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Stranger danger. I am sure you have heard of it before. It was ingrained into many of our heads as children that strangers are bad news.
As someone unfamiliar approaches a student, she may speed up her pace. If a stranger gives a girl a compliment, she may respond shyly, if at all, and then walk away. But is that always the best response? While being cautious and aware of surroundings is important, strangers do not always have to be avoided. In fact, everyone’s best friend was once a stranger. Strangers have the potential to turn into friends.
So, I have come up with some simple ways to turn strangers into friends with the help of some of my past experiences.
1) Place yourself in a new setting.
Take initiative. Try getting coffee and then sitting in a public place alone for a bit to strike up conversation with a stranger. Read those “Week in ND” emails and select one event to attend every week. Other easy ideas are using another dorm’s workout room (bonus points for opposite gender), going to an interesting class for which you are not registered (bonus points for participating in discussion) and switching up your walking route to class (bonus points if it is freezing outside).
2) Embrace an openness to strangers.
Make an effort to smile every day at one person you do not know. Ask questions. For example, ask the waiter at a restaurant what he recommends. When checking out at the Huddle, ask the checkout person about her day. People are interesting creatures. There is always someone who knows something you do not or has an interesting story to share.
3) If you are really feeling up for the challenge…
Bold moves make an impact. Sit next to someone who is alone in the dining hall or restaurant. Try going up to someone reading a book you have read and chat about it. If you see someone without an umbrella and it is raining, consider sharing yours.
4) After all of this, tolerate rejection.
Okay, that might sound discouraging, but honestly, that is just life. Some people might not be open to new people while others may just be having an off day or be in a hurry. Try not to let rejection turn into disappointment or worse, a fear of strangers. Believe it or not, most people are kind and open, even welcoming, to a conversation.
Just remember, practice makes perfect. It is okay to let your guard down every once in awhile. You never know who will be your next best friend.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.