I’ve gotten so many wonderful comments and emails, I wanted to share one (with his permission):
Hi “Talk to Strangers” author,
I’m writing to you right now because I want to thank you now that I can still do it (in case you delete your blog).
I had just started my fall semester in USC as an exchange student when I bumped into your blog – funnily enough by clicking on a link on The Arrogant Nation, a blog that I read for no more than a minute. After the first few posts, I immediately knew this was a great project. I was also very surprised that it was lead by an investment banker, a profession whose social relationships are usually governed by mercantile interest and reputation – an idea based on my experience of Business student and Finance Team member in a big corporation – and that rarely stirs self-critique.
This double aspect, added to the fact that I was totally new in this country, got me reading all of your posts so far. It quickly became a game that I adopted in my own everyday life.
I’ve always been a nice guy making friends easily, being nice and polite with everybody from the boss to the secretary and focusing more on true friendships than just drinking friends. But since I applied some of your habits like actually triggering conversations with random people without pre-selection, deeply listening to them and congratulating sincerely, things happened to me like that I had never experienced before:
– I met my Michelle!!!!
– I was offered free drinks and free food from merchants, crazy discounts on bus trips or pieces of art, without even asking for them, sometimes making me refuse them!
– I was offered the warmest looks, smiles and hugs from complete strangers.
– I was offered teachings on life… sometimes boring I admit!
– I was offered benedictions from beggars
– I made friends with a stranger 40 years older than me.
– I slept with the Occupy LA movement, my first citizen engagement act – after voting, right.
– I now love meeting strangers and starting conversations in the most unlikely situations. This one is just so good, because it forced me to recognize that I know nothing about so many things and that I have to get back into a child’s growth mindset. It makes life so much more interesting.
I hope it will still work back in my country. Seems that Americans are very open in the first place (“Hey how you doin’?”s systematically thrown to any stranger), making the project a little bit easier.
To conclude, I am very impressed that you can handle so many things in your life. Your work is very time consuming, but you still manage to write this blog and do all different things. I suppose that’s actually one of the reasons why you want to make the most of your free time, and enhance it through a better social life.
I also think that talking to one another could turn a mere competitive, communautarist and paranoid society into a more collaborative, inclusive, self-aware and curious one.
Thank you for having shared your learning to the public. What you did definitely did a LOT of good to many people. Probably to you too. Even your current situation is a good teaching: love needs trust and sincerity. Seems that sincerity is paradoxically harder to achieve with very close people than with strangers.