It’s day three of Well’s 7-Day Happiness Challenge. Click to start at the beginning Here,

Often on walks around my neighborhood, I would pass a lady and her dachshund, who barked at me like crazy. I found this troubling. One day, out of the blue, I decided to go beyond my customary consent. I asked her how I could befriend her dog.

“Oh, Petey gets upset when he sees people wearing hats,” said the woman. “It’s too tiring to tell everyone.” Because more people wear headgear in the winter, she went on, it’s a tough season for Patti.

That was enough to make me love that dachshund. Now, when I see Petey in the distance, I quickly take off my hat. It’s become a bit of a game for me. I can honestly say that my daily commute would be a lot less fun if I had never spoken to this woman.

Today’s exercise is to talk to someone you don’t know very well. Or to total strangers. Or both.

As often as you can today, “look for and notice opportunities for advancement-favorable moments,” advises Bob Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of the new book “The Good Life.”

Ask your supermarket checkout guy how his day is going. Comment on a stranger’s cute child (some people can be averse to talking about their own children).

your loose network of casual acquaintances, and even complete strangers, who are collectively known as “theweak tiesCan’t seem Important, but Brief but warm exchanges have a direct impact on happiness, Dr. Waldinger said. These types of short conversations can affect your mood and energy throughout the day, and ongoing research dating back to the 1970s Has shown that they contribute to a greater sense of well-being.

Yes, small talk can be awkward. But people like us more than expected. This is called by the researchers, In a 2018 study, A “choice difference.” “Our study shows that after people have had a conversation,” they wrote, “they are liked more than they know.”

So believe people like you and take the plunge. You may feel rejected, “although we found this is actually very rare,” said Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer in the psychology of kindness at the University of Sussex, who has conducted significant research on the positive effects of frequent casual interactions with strangers. . and familiar. “I ask people who say they were rejected, how do you know you were rejected? If someone is looking at their watch, it may be because they’re not interested.” But it could also be because they’re meeting someone in 10 minutes and they need to keep an eye on the clock.”

If you try to talk to a stranger today and actually get ignored or rebuffed, she said, “remind yourself that they don’t know you, so they’re not rejecting you on the grounds that who are you.” Most people, she added, enjoy these moments of connection, so get back on that horse and talk to someone else.

Weak ties often lead to different knowledge in our immediate social circle, said Stave Atir, assistant professor of management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. led by Dr. Atir study in 2022 This suggested that people underestimate the potential for learning from these interactions. “In our data, we often see strangers giving each other recommendations such as a new restaurant, a new band to listen to, and even a potential place of employment,” she said.

Think about a time in the last ten years when you were on an airplane or train and struck up a conversation with someone you didn’t know. Did he say something that stuck with you? Even the most fleeting connection can have an impact, said Alisha Ali, associate professor of applied psychology at New York University. “It doesn’t need to be something that appears profound to feel it deeply. You never know what a given encounter will reveal.

“I’m pretty much an introvert, but I’ve just found it a lot of fun talking to strangers,” Dr. Sandstrom said. “I once talked to someone on public transportation and learned that people can ride ostriches. Everyone has a story.

Tell us about conversations you’ve had with strangers.
what did you talk about? Share your experiences in the comments.


Each day of Well’s 7-Day Happiness Challenge, we’ll be sharing stories of meaningful friendships gathered from readers across the country. We’d love to hear from you — submit your friendship story,

Every Saturday morning for decades, Milton Ehrlich and his best friend, Mike, scoured garage sales near their homes in New Jersey, searching for books, records and antique bottles. But when Mike was in his 70s, his memory began to decline. Once, he wandered through a garage sale and got lost. The police had to find him.

Milton, now 91, determined not to lose their weekly date, instead began calling his friend every Saturday, playing her favorite 1940s music, including those by Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan. were. “Even though, by that time, Mike was having difficulty remembering what had happened yesterday, the music always moved him,” Milton said. “He could sing along to the lyrics and remember the tunes of 75-year-old music.”

The call upset both of them. When Milton’s wife passed away in 2021, after 67 years of a “happy marriage,” the weekly ritual with Mike became “one of the last close personal relationships I had in my life,” he said. His brothers died long ago, as did most of his friends. Milton and Mike exchanged only a few words between songs. For the most part, they just listened.

Milton said, “It was a way of being with an old friend of mine.” “We’d sit there, our house in a small suburban town about a mile away, each of us in our rocking chairs, connected to each other through the music of our teenage years.”

Mike died in October and with him, a library of stories—about the best places to eat in Little Italy, about clarinetist Mez Mezzoro and cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, and things you can’t do at Coney Island. I can buy it for a nickel, said Milton. He was 90 years old -Katherine Pearson

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