THE iKiFit BLOG

DO Talk to Strangers!

Saturday, August 23, 2014
One of the things I’ve always admired about my Dad is his willingness and ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime.When I was a child this was sometimes irritating, because of course I had better things to do than wait around listening to boring adult talk. But as the years went by I appreciated his attitude more and more. Not only was it interesting to connect with new people - and surprisingly often led to exciting developments - I learned some profound life lessons. It dawned on me that everyone wants to be liked, trusted and valued, but often hold back because they are afraid!
  
Growing up in a small country town it was normal to know and talk to everyone, but as I started to travel to other towns and then cities I realised that we are trained to NOT engage with strangers - not just from fear, but from a basic misconception ;- Others look, speak and dress differently, therefore they ARE different - and may well be dangerous. We’re taught to be afraid. And the media does nothing to change this – quite the reverse in fact. All news outlets know that bad news sells better than good and as a result 87% of information we encounter on an average day is negative. Yes, it’s been researched!

The bad news is brought to us from all over the world - but we internalise it and as a result, view our surrounds with a fear vastly disproportionate to our local reality. We hear a news story about someone approached by a “man in a white van” and fear there are predators in every street. The reality is there is on average one, that’s 1, successful child abduction in Australia every year. That means the odds of YOUR child being taken is 1 in 6,000,000. Yes, one in six million. But our perception is that it’s almost certain if we let our child walk around the block.We’re bombarded nightly with crime shows and find ourselves believing that every suburb harbours at least one garden variety murderer, and every second one a deranged serial killer.

Ask people if they think we’re safer now than our forebears were 50, 100, 200, 500 years ago and they reply ‘No, today’s world is more dangerous’. The reverse is true. We live twice as long on average than we did 100 years ago, not just because of better medicine and OH&S. Murder rates in all of the western world have steadily, consistently and constantly dropped for the past 700 years - from around 80 per 100,000 per year to less than 3. That’s 3,000% less chance of being murdered in our beds – or anywhere else.

We all “know” that city people won’t engage with strangers. But - using my dad as inspiration - I always make a point of striking up conversations – on public transport, in the street, at cafe’s, anywhere - with strangers. Occasionally I’ll encounter initial suspicion, but almost always am answered with enthusiasm, kindness and interest. Some people are overwhelmed that someone makes the effort to be friendly.

I remember an incident when I was 15, sitting in a public lounge watching people walk in the door. It dawned on me that they were just like me..a bit shy, unconfident and not wanting to stand out. Just like me they were all scared - of stranger danger, rejection, criticism. And just like me they wanted to be liked, to be treated as if they were interesting - and they wanted to meet and engage with interesting people.

One time, a friend and I were trying to get to China town in Sydney, late at night in a taxi. The driver had no clue so we got out in a dark street in a seedy suburb in disgust. We had no idea where we were but saw a group of men about our age hanging around some cars outside a run-down pub. They looked scary to us. Big, tattooed, shaved heads---which in those days was something only “thugs and sailors” did. They watched us as cautiously as we felt about them, but we walked up with apologetic smiles, telling them we were from the country and lost. 10 minutes later they dropped us outside a restaurant in China town they recommended, with thanks, smiles and handshakes all ‘round.

Of course, there ARE people ‘out there’ who will take advantage if we let them, but the overwhelming majority of strangers are just like us. Caring, friendly, interesting people who want to be respected and trusted. Just like us. People who want to live meaningful, loving lives - who may be someone who’ll have a positive impact on our lives. Somebody special we just don’t know yet.

All the best, 

Kim.



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