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Communicate with a Stranger • Build Trust • Change Your World

Posted by on April 9, 2017 in Relationships, Secrets of Effective Communication, Stories of Transformation | 2 comments

Chaos Creates Opportunity • Talk to a Stranger • Gary • Two Questions • A Mile of Smiles

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. So many of my newsletters are about the essential nature of what it means to truly communicate. Sorry folks, we’re at a turning point in ourCommunicate change the world country and in our world where true, heart-based communication is crucial. Of course we need to be clear about our own vision and values. But more importantly, we need to gather the courage along with the skills to talk to a stranger and to bridge the divide. And it’s a BIG one.

Every time I find an example of crossing that chasm successfully, I add it to my “hope chest”.  Sounds corny? Do you need one too?. Trust me, you do.

I listened to one of my favorite PBS programs this morning–On Being– another treasure for my hope chest. Listen to “Repairing the Breach” with Heather McGhee of Demos and Matt Kibbe of Free the People.

Why do you need a hope chest?

I’m an activist now as well as a Hand Analyst and see the divide widening. Early this year, I saw 1000’s upon 1000’s of eager folks of all ages out marching and making phone calls and showing up at meetings. Now it’s April and I see them dropping by the wayside out of despair, overwhelm, you name it…. I suspect the rallies and marches will still be big. If you’re numbed by despair, what can you do as an individual to create civil society where democracy and equality can flourish?

Guess what? This activism thing I’m talking about isn’t just about politics, its about humanity and connection and courage. About better relationships and mental health.  And how you communicate. And hope.

 

Five short stories about courage and how to communicate

How about making a promise to your self to engage and talk to someone who looks, thinks and acts differently? Fill your “hope chest” with great stories. Here are 5 short stories to start you off:

1. Chaos Creates Opportunity

I do a workshop called Four Ways to Find the One You’re Looking For. It’s designed for those who are trying to find healthy relationships. #3 of the 4 is – Practice Vulnerability with a Stranger.  In a nutshell, here is what I say: One of the foundations of a good relationship is trust! The powerful people who run our world want us to be afraid of others, especially if they do not look like us or are of a different religion or political persuasion. From fear and chaos comes opportunity. It is up to us to create the opportunity for talk with a stranger…to heal and to increase trust. And, yes, this will aid in finding a partner!

TRY THIS: Walk down a busy street and notice the number of people who look down or away; the number who look troubled or angry. You might be one of them at times!! Now, risk a smile or a friendly greeting, and note how powerful you are in transforming this stranger. You be the source for heart and you’ll feel better about yourself and will have touched the life of another. Keep doing this and you’ll become a magnate for healthy relationships.

 

 2. Why You Should Talk to Strangers

This comes from the research of Kio Stark. She has made a research project of #1.  Check it out:

3. Gary

This was a story on the “On Being” episode – Repairing the Breach from above. Gary is a self-proclaimed racist and he wants to change. What he does is amazing. He strikes up a conversation with people who didn’t look and at times feels uncomfortable around. He then measures his reaction. He’s rewiring his brain. You can too.

4. Two Questions

Again from this same episode. Krista Tibbet, the host of On Being, had her two guests answer these questions. Powerful indeed. May even shift your ability to talk to the “other side”. Question one: What do you appreciate about the position of those in opposition to your beliefs? Question 2: What concerns you most about your “side”?

5. A Mile of Smiles

And this is the simplest, easiest one you can start today. This comes from a challenge to the employees of a hospital in my state. They first measured the width of an average smile and then went out to get a mile of smiles. Each employee brought back the number of smiles they elicited from strangers and recorded them on their Mile of Smiles chart. Many said they were transformed by this small gesture and I suspect those who smiled back were too! Can you enroll your community or group in this fun project? If  you do, let me know how it goes.

 

May you thrive as you step out to bridge the divide,

~ Janet

2 Comments

  1. Hi Janet,
    Love this post! With your blessing I would love to use the content in my Interpersonal Skills class. Our students are so accustomed to staring at their phones while in public that the thought of initiating contact – particularly with a stranger – is quite foreign to them. These suggestions offer a powerful antidote to the feelings of anger, sadness, and overwhelm that many people are feeling in the face of shifting world politics. These feelings threaten to disconnect us but these suggestions remind us how easy and important it is to look for opportunities to connect. Thanks so much!

    • Elaine: I would be honored if you used these ideas in your class. This is hard stuff but crucial these days. Don’t have the reference, but according to Krista Tibbet, host of On Being”, empathy has gone down drastically since the use (I’ll say overuse) of devices that take us away from each other. Miss you. ~ Janet

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