How Talking With Strangers Can Boost Your Sense Of Well-Being

Updated December 22, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Interacting with strangers can feel uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing, and even downright scary. Our friends and families are usually the most familiar faces in our lives, and it makes sense to feel the most comfortable discussing our lives, hopes, and concerns with loved ones. 

While meeting new people is nerve-wracking for many of us, conversations with strangers can offer some unexpected benefits. Read on to discover the joy, pleasure, and surprise of connecting with the strangers in your life.

Why Do We Avoid Talking To Strangers?

Naturally, interactions with strangers are far less predictable (and sometimes, more awkward) than conversations with friends and family. Some people believe that talking to strangers will be stilted and unpleasant. Others worry that strangers will not like them or be interested in talking to them, or that they simply don’t know how to start a conversation with a new person.  

Personal hang-ups and “stranger danger” aside, research suggests that our avoidance of strangers has more to do with ourselves than other people. Based on a meta-analysis of fears around strangers, people frequently doubt their conversational abilities, which may prevent them from engaging in potentially fruitful, life-giving conversations. Studies further suggest that interactions with strangers are rarely as intimidating or negative as we anticipate. In fact, people often do enjoy and benefit from social connections with strangers, despite their initial fears. 

Regarding concerns about meeting strangers safely, it’s worth noting that acquaintances, family, and friends more commonly commit violent crimes than strangers. Of course, this does not dismiss the importance of safety. Practicing caution and informing loved ones of your whereabouts is crucial when you meet new people. When we engage thoughtfully, safely, and intentionally with new people, we’re more likely to develop meaningful relationships and become more involved in our communities. 

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Social Benefits of Talking to Strangers

  1. Make New Friends

A conversation with a stranger can mark the beginning of a lifelong friendship. If you need motivation, reflect on how you met your current friends: more than likely, your friendships began with a simple conversation. 

Friendship is vital to our lifelong well-being. Through imparted experiences with friends, you can reduce feelings of loneliness, provide support through difficult times, and promote each other’s mental, physical, and emotional health. 

  1. Increase Your Sense Of Belonging

Talking with strangers can spark an immediate sense of connection. These exchanges, however brief, remind us that we’re part of a community and a larger world. 

Research supports the power of belonging: in a 2014 study, for instance, participants who interacted with strangers while buying coffee reported a deeper sense of belonging and better mood than those who didn’t talk to strangers. Whenever you’re waiting for a meal, bus, or generally mingling in public, try to view the people around you as readily available sources of happiness. 

  1. Experience Mutual Benefits

Talking to strangers isn’t simply good for you; it also benefits the stranger! Again, this phenomenon is supported by research: when a team of researchers instructed a group of people to engage in conversations with strangers on public transportation, they found that the pleasure of connection was “contagious.” The participants who were spoken to had equally positive experiences as those instructed to reach out to strangers. In moments when we’d normally choose solitude, the researchers recommend opting for a moment of connection instead.

Psychological Benefits Of Talking To Strangers

Even when the interaction is over, engaging with strangers can enhance both psychological and physical health. Here are some of the most notable, long-term benefits: 

  1. Boost Confidence

When you practice talking with strangers, you may begin to feel more confident in a range of social situations. Ideally, your experience of positive conversations with strangers will begin to outweigh the initial fear of negative interactions. This confidence can influence other areas of your life and encourage you to attempt other challenges, like trying a new hobby or speaking up at work. 

  1. Gain And Give Knowledge

Talking with a stranger is a simple way to expand your knowledge of the world and learn about other perspectives, identities, and cultures. Some researchers even claim that talking to strangers makes us smarter: in many cases, not talking to strangers prevents us from living a more informed, creative life. Research indicates that we consistently underestimate the potential to learn from strangers and acquaintances. By orienting ourselves to new people, we tend to make better decisions, think more creatively, and improve our well-being by approaching the world with a curious, open mindset. 

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How to Talk to Strangers

While talking with strangers may be a simple way to find a connection in our daily lives, it can be challenging to find the courage (and the right timing!) to connect with new people. If you’re wondering how to get started, here are some tips to unlock the power of connecting with strangers. 

  1. Start Small

There’s no pressure to ask in-depth questions or maintain an extended conversation. In general, experts recommend worrying less about the questions themselves and simply seeing where the conversation goes. In a situation where you’d normally pop in earbuds or lose yourself in a book, offer a smile and greeting to a stranger – then, see what happens.

  1. Practice Active Listening

While we’ve focused on the art of "talking" to strangers, a meaningful conversation is a matter of give and take. Focus on listening to the other person, which requires a balance of talking, pausing, and reflecting. 

  1. Be Curious

If it helps, you can keep a few questions in your back pocket, but don’t be afraid to wander and let your curiosity lead the conversation. Respect your conversation partner’s answers as well as their ability to skip a question, if they don’t feel comfortable answering. 

  1. Find Something You Have In Common

You might be in the same place or waiting at the same coffee shop, but try to dig a bit deeper and identify more meaningful similarities. The same hometown, a favorite TV show, or even travel aspirations can spark an exciting conversation.

  1. Continue The Connection

Many people appreciate the brevity and randomness of talking to strangers – and the reality that, in most cases, they’re under no obligation to speak again. 

But after some conversations, you may feel compelled to ask for a phone number, social media handle, or another form of contact to continue building the connection. Make sure that you both feel comfortable providing this information; if you’re unsure, it’s best to veer on the side of caution and keep personal details to yourself. 

At professional networking events or other public “meet-ups” where meeting strangers is a primary goal, you may feel more comfortable to provide your contact and pursue these relationships. In general, trust your intuition, respect the other person, and always prioritize safety.

How Therapy Can Help

Every friend and therapist begins as a stranger. By getting to know a therapist and developing a trusting, therapeutic relationship, you can develop strategies to meet new people, improve your existing relationships, and slowly expand your social circle.

For people with social anxiety, the thought of striking up conversations with strangers can be a major source of anxiety. Fortunately, online and in–person talk therapy is an effective treatment for people with social anxiety and related disorders. For people with social anxiety disorder, research suggests that Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) can be as effective as in-person CBT. In a 2011 study, participants with social anxiety disorder significantly improved their symptoms, and the dataset indicated that iCBT was slightly more effective in reducing social anxiety than traditional, in-person CBT. 

If anxiety is keeping you from conversing with strangers and optimizing your social life, an online therapist can help. Online platforms like BetterHelp allow you to talk to a licensed therapist about any immediate concerns from the comfort of your couch, bedroom, or another safe space. As your therapist gets to know you, they can offer personalized insights and communication strategies to help you connect with new people and strengthen your existing relationships. 


The simple decision to talk to a stranger can yield unexpected rewards. From increasing your confidence to making lifelong friendships, reaching out to new people can boost your mood and brighten another person’s day. If you’re working to improve your communication skills and fortify your social connections, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist for guidance. With their expertise and bravery, you’ll learn how to approach prospective friends with a spirit of curiosity, compassion, and confidence. 

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