When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You by Kio Stark
I was surprised by WHEN STRANGERS MEET. I have never read a book like this before. In a nutshell, the author encourages the reader to take small risks, and step out a little from your secure, safe world. Actually make contact with someone totally new. Why? Because it opens your life up to new encounters, new ideas--and who knows what else.
Interrupt your routine, learn new things, be exposed to new ideas. Change perspective:
"When you talk with strangers, you make beautiful and surprising interruptions in the expected narrative of your daily life. You shift perspective."
Of course, it's true, we can keep moving in the same, safe track--never risking anything, never being confronted with anything new or wacky. Yes, we can play it safe. We can stay "in a one-dimensional world, deprived of honest human connections and interruptions that awaken us."
Kio Stark pleads with the reader to step out, try something new. Look for adventure!
"There are adventures to be had here, adventures you can set out for every day of your life."
Talking to new people is good for you. It's a happy interruption--nay an "exquisite interruption" that happily takes one on a slightly different path.
Practically speaking, one should pick the occasions carefully. Of a stranger is in a hurry, then of course, that's a terrible time to start a conversation. The author provides suggestions for opening a conversation. One great way is to use a compliment. Almost everyone appreciates a compliment: "To give a compliment means that your eyes are open, you are present. You are seeing someone as an individual."
Another way to bridge the gap to another person is to ask for (or offer) help to someone in a predicament. There's something about asking for help that brings us together: "Asking for help, for me, is a surprisingly vulnerable experience, and when someone stops to take care of you, even just to help you find your way, it feels very, well, human." The author makes it a point to go out of her way to offer assistance to people looking at a map:
"When I see people puzzling over maps on street corners I always ask if they need help. Sure, it’s nice to do a good deed, but what really makes me happy is that little connection..."
All in all, Kio Stark has written a wonderful little book, full of delightful ideas. I agree with the author that cultivating encounters with strangers can be a broadening, life-enriching experience. I also agree with her that this can lead to a "more intriguing, respectful, tolerant world."
I am willing to try the ideas found in WHEN STRANGERS MEET. What have I got to lose?
Advance Review Copy courtesy of NetGalley.