When do we start talking to strangers?

23 Apr

I made a new friend and his name is Tyler. He’s four and a half as he emphatically added because that “half”, as all kids know, is very important. I was at the gym and had just finished running on the treadmill when I noticed Tyler sitting on the floor with an iPod, near the weights, staring at me (his mother was on the elliptical so no, he wasn’t a random child left in a gym). Under normal circumstances I would have continued my run in the opposite direction given my fear of children, but I decided to put on my big girl pants, turn up my music (for fear of him talking to me) and walk toward my mini, lady weights. However, this doesn’t deter him and I see his little mouth open to something. I take out my earphones and ask, “What did you say?” (as mentioned above, not the smoothest when it comes to children). I hear him repeat, “Whose mom are you?” After awkwardly explaining to him that I am in fact nobody’s mother (he seemed a little disappointed) we ended up having a not all bad conversation about our matching iPods, his ability to recite Dr. Seuss (a very good choice), and how much he loves his mom. When I left, the little man wrapped his little arms around my knees and gave me a hug.

My encounter with Tyler got me thinking: when do we start talking to strangers ? As kids we always hear, “Don’t talk to strangers!” However, as adults if we refuse to talk to strangers we’re deemed as anti-social or socially awkward.I consider myself a social person. I can pretty much start a conversation with anyone (even a tree as someone so kindly pointed out to me), but even I’m thrown when perfect strangers try to communicate with me even if they are normal, everyday, “how’s your day going?” conversations. I’m not sure if “Don’t talk to strangers!” is still ingrained in my head or if it’s a pretty normal reaction, but as an adult it should be okay for us to start conversations with people we don’t know without thinking of it as weird or creepy, yet somehow I find that most of us don’t. Most of us do get shifty-eyed when unfamiliar people start talking to us or somewhat uncomfortable when a random person offers a random “hi”. Is this called paranoia or normal?

Perhaps this is a conversation I need to have with my new friend Tyler.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/eCaOd9

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11 Responses to “When do we start talking to strangers?”

  1. John April 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    What a cool story Kelley. Tyler sounds like a great teacher. Sometimes I think we pass on way to much fear to our kids and that continues into adulthood. Our media solidifies our resolve that the boogieman is around every corner. We need a few more Tylers in our life to shows it is not true. Great post!

    • kelleyzwong April 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Tyler was adorable. I’m usually completely awkward around kids, but he was so chatty and kept asking questions that I couldn’t help but get wrapped in. I couldn’t believe how friendly and open a 4-year-old could be with a complete stranger. I really need some tips from him.

  2. Jeremy April 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    I love random little-kid convos. The other day, during Sunday school, a 6 y/o tried to convince me that she could eat her own head off if she wanted to… She just didn’t want to…

    Thanks for the post!

    • kelleyzwong April 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      Yeah, it’s funny the things that they come up with. I tend to get nervous around kids because I’ve never really been around them so I’m not sure exactly what to say. Well, that mixed with their brutal honesty makes anything I manage to say somewhat strained.

  3. ashleycray April 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Absolutely adorable! But at the same time – why is this child sitting by the weights?? Why not a waiting room or bench or something? It scares me someone would drop a weight on him!

    But anyhow – doesn’t it make you jealous the charisma that children have to basically “network” with anyone? I miss that lack-of-shyness.

    • kelleyzwong April 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

      Haha! Rest assured Ashley, no one was using the weights at the time so Tyler was safe. And yes, I am envious of a 4-year-old’s charisma. If only I could borrow his attitude at my next networking event, I’d be set!

  4. Sumiko Maser April 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Great post Kelley! I guess kids can teach us a lot that sometimes it’s ok to spark up a conversation with anyone who looks interesting…I think I’m a lot like you though where I get creeped out often if someone tries to talk to me, in fact, I get totally caught off guard and than cant talk back half the time. Maybe I should practice some of Tyler’s moves!

    • kelleyzwong April 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      I also think for us, it’s kinda weird when people talk to us randomly because we’re female. I don’t think men are as paranoid as we are. Maybe I’m completely wrong, but most of the time I’m weirded out because a lot of what people say is strange and often unwarranted. However, I’ve made progress with Tyler and was rewarded with a little, mini hug.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When do we start talking to strangers? (via More than Words) « myprcoach - April 25, 2011

    […] I made a new friend and his name is Tyler. He’s four and a half as he emphatically added because that “half”, as all kids know, is very important. I was at the gym and had just finished running on the treadmill when I noticed Tyler sitting on the floor with an iPod, near the weights, staring at me (his mother was on the elliptical so no, he wasn’t a random child left in a gym). Under normal circumstances I would have continued my run in the oppos … Read More […]

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    […] how I failed, succeeded or learned and hope that you’ll take that into account the next time you have a conversation with a 4-year-old or consider joining […]

  3. The benefit of meeting new people « More than Words - August 16, 2011

    […] addressed talking to strangers before in a previous post.  Mr. Kelley does not agree.   He believes there’s no point in sparking conversations with […]

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