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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Talk to strangers

Posted March 30

From the time we are old enough to speak, our parents tell us not to talk to strangers. This is still good advice, well, sort of...

The other day we were in a restaurant and I struck up a conversation with the owner. We talked about the success of her business and how her daughters, like my younger one, had been dancers when they were little. It was a lovely conversation in which I learned a lot about the history of one of my favorite restaurants.

"Mom, did you know that lady?" My daughter asked.

"No, sweetie, I just met her," I replied.

"Then why did you talk to her for such a long time?"

"Because she was nice, and interesting."

For years my children have made fun of me for talking to what they say are "random people."

To be frank, I am a collector of people and their stories. I was an introvert by nature who was nurtured by extroverts. My parents taught me that speaking to strangers was often an opportunity to learn something new. And while its important to exercise caution, I think it's also important for us to model curiosity and a genuine interest in the people and world around us to our children. I believe this interest is what led me to journalism.

The other day I was at the UPS store where I met a woman who had made bookmarks and was mailing them to her friends in California where she used to live. She explained that she had found pressed leaves in an old book that belonged to a beautiful tree indigenous to California. She affixed them between sheets of clear plastic and then cut them into strips.

As I engaged with her, I chuckled inside thinking this was exactly the kind of encounter my daughters would roll their eyes at. I was genuinely interested in her story, and immediately Googled the name of the tree after meeting her to learn more about it. But even more than that, it made me realize that sometimes not speaking to a stranger is a missed opportunity ...

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here Mondays.

5 Comments

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  • jpittard2 Apr 1, 7:02 a.m.

    My father was the type of man who could carry on a conversation with anyone and usually did! At restaurants, he would chat with the waitress, at the post office, the worker behind the counter-just enough that he did keep anyone waiting. He was always respectful of everyone he came into contact with including those who did not deserve it. As he was dying of cancer, he had a steady stream of people coming in to talk to him. It was an amazing way to return the favor.

  • Amomoftwo Mar 31, 9:30 p.m.

    My children say the same thing about me and my "random people" conversations. This past week I served on jury duty and with a fellow prospect for 4 hours while we waited to be called....she was a lovely lady and I genuinely enjoyed all of her stories and tips about being a good mother and good mother in law! I hope she felt the same about me!

  • Obamacare returns again Mar 31, 1:20 p.m.

    I generally try to avoid eye contact with others when out in public. I find most people to be self serving hypocrites.

  • Killian Mar 31, 10:29 a.m.

    I'm generally on the flip side of this. For whatever reason, people start telling me about their lives while I'm in line at a store, etc.

    I once offered to get some Gatorade off of a high shelf for an elderly woman, as I'm pretty tall. She thanked me, I replied, "You're welcome", and turned to go on my way.

    She then went on to tell me that she needed it for her husband, who was having a colonoscopy the next day, and that he needed to drink the laxative stuff, but also stay hydrated, and he liked the orange Gatorade the best. Had I ever had a colonoscopy? Because I really should if I haven't. Although, I look pretty young, so maybe I don't need one yet. How old am I? Married? Kids?

    It just goes on and on. I have no clue why people feel the need to exchange life stories with me, but I generally try to just be polite and escape.

  • thewayitis Mar 30, 10:39 p.m.

    Amanda,

    I love this post! Sometimes it is easier not to talk to strangers, but the rewards can be great when we step outside our shell. I often look back fondly over my life, and remember people (strangers!) who were very kind to me. People I never would have met if I hadn't decided to talk to a stranger. Thank you for the reminder.