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strangers

Most of us were warned as children never to talk to strangers. But recent research finds that for adults, there may be significant emotional benefits to doing just that.

Two social scientists recently conducted studies in New York City, investigating the psychological effects of brief interactions with strangers. They asked participants to talk to people they sat beside on the subway, or exchange pleasantries with the barista while ordering coffee. They then queried them on the outcome.

The results showed overwhelmingly that friendly connections with strangers make people feel better.

The researchers surmise that we repress our grumpiness and present a better face to people we don’t know. We also feel better about ourselves when we treat others well. Similar studies show that even fleeting eye contact has a positive effect on well-being.

So, the next time you’re rushing through the coffee shop, slow down. A chat with the counterperson might give you more of a lift than your drink.

Illustration by: Jude Buffum

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