My Stranger Encounter
I had a conversation with a person during a Mural Painting Event on the Surrey Campus. This seems like the opportune moment to meet a stranger (a person who I do not know) and engage in a conversation with them.
Now for context, I have been in a co-op position for the past 5 months that actively engages with strangers and people who I do not know on a daily basis at the university. I feel like mentioning this is essential because it lowered the ‘barriers’ around approaching a person for a conversation. These barriers include the small butterflies before approaching the unknown and the daily practicing helps. After all, Nicolas (2019) states that all it would take is acknowledging the person’s presence – through a smile or greeting to break down the first hurdle. I could not agree more. In-person, a simple “hello”, a smile or nod goes a long way to positively contribute around my environment. In addition, this painting event was connected to my role. That being said, the parameters remain the same: talking to someone who I consider as a stranger.
This individual was painting a tile and I sat down next to them to also paint as well. Our attention is quite limited and quite often the attention is given to our phones as mentioned in the articles by Mod (2017) and Nicolas (2019). I made sure to put my phone away into my pocket – to direct my precious attention to the present. Our attention in the article written by mod. I made my greetings and observed what they were creating. We were able to converse, and I managed to learn a few things about the person during our painting session together.
To skip the story, I will jump straight to the Process Post topic: How does it differ from my online interactions? I will break down my observations and reflections below.
Randomness and timing is an important aspect to this. In-person would constitute the timing of the meeting, my physical presence at that location, my choice to approach, and in this case, the painting event itself. These factors also apply to the stranger I had a conversation with as well. At any point, I may have not met this stranger due to a factor being changed on both sides.
Online… the randomness is dictated by algorithms, the types of platforms/app you meet, and where you meet a stranger. Assuming we are on a platform that is built for strangers to meet in some way, the algorithms play a role (and the timing) of being on that application. An example relevant to my life is meeting strangers while playing games during matches made by the game system.
My in-person experience was blessed with the opportunity to have a common activity. We were able to talk about our paintings, our design, what we plan to do, and I learned quite a few things from him. This included background, the story behind his choice, and that opened up more questions for me to ask. We were able to have something to do while we talked, and it was quite comfortable. That being said, during my approach while attempting to start this ‘activity’, there was a bit of hesitation. I observed facial expressions, activity, if they had headphones/earbuds in, posture, and overall ‘evaluated’ who I should approach. Some of the top-level considerations were: Does it look like they’re finishing up their painting? Will my conversation delay them? Are they too focused? Are they someone who would be open to talk while painting? Or would they rather enjoy themselves?
My online experience would differ in ways where these physical ‘observations’ would not exist. Rather, let’s say the game example, it would be not considered at all. That being said, we would have much more streamlined conversations dictated by the game being played and the focus would be around that. I could ask various questions, but that also depends on how willing the other stranger wants to continue.
- Nicolas, Paul. 2019. “Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger”
- Mod, Craig. 2017. “How I Got My Attention Back.”