Headphones on, phone in hand, eyes looking at anything but another person—that probably sums up your morning commute if you’re one of millions of Americans who brave public transportation. Even if you’ve got an hour-long trek to work, talking to strangers is most likely not how you plan to entertain yourself. However, new research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business says you should reconsider your stance on morning chatter.
The study suggests that when you strike up a conversation with a stranger, chances are they won’t really mind. Researchers asked commuter train and public bus riders to talk to a stranger, to sit in solitude, or to go about their commute as they normally would. They were then asked to fill out a survey about how they felt about social engagement versus isolation. The researchers found that study participants not only underestimated other peoples’ interest in talking, but also found connecting with others to be a positive experience.
Though chatting with strangers doesn’t have as profound of an effect on mental health as engaging with friends, these findings still emphasize the importance of social connection. Rather than sit in solitude, try small-talking with your fellow commuters on your next ride to work. Who knows what kind of interesting stories they might have to tell.
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