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Deep conversation with strangers can have amazing results

Usually, when communicating with others, we limit ourselves to close friends and family. Talking to strangers is scary for most people; But our expectations do not always seem to be true. According to a new study, people’s expectations about interacting with strangers do not match the results of these relationships. For example, people think that deep conversation with strangers is strange and less satisfying.

More than 1,800 people took part in a series of experiments that assessed people’s expectations and outcomes in the face of superficial and in-depth conversations with strangers and acquaintances. In the first set of experiments, participants described their expectations for in-depth conversations with strangers and how they felt after the conversation. In this way, the researchers were able to compare realistic expectations and experiences. They also asked questions about vulnerabilities. For example, describe a time when you cried in front of someone else.

Based on the first set of experiments, participants may underestimate their interest in listening to strangers or their conversations; But after the conversation, they felt more connected and satisfied, contrary to expectations. The next set of experiments was based on the criterion of changing the intimacy of conversations to compare superficial conversations with in-depth conversations. At the same time, conversations between family and friends were compared to conversations with strangers.

Participants’ expectations for a deeper conversation with friends or close family were more accurate; Because they were more confident in their interest and attention. The researchers wanted to know if participants misunderstood the results of in-depth conversations with strangers. Does a deeper conversation with strangers deepen the relationship? Can expectations of interest and attention create psychological barriers to a more meaningful conversation with strangers? The authors of the article say:

Our experiment shows whether people systematically underestimate people’s attention and concern in in-depth conversations.

Participants also asked deeper questions in the face of a more considerate audience; As a result, the authors’ hypothesis is confirmed that people’s misconceptions about the sociality of others can act as a psychological barrier to deeper dialogue with strangers.

People’s general health has a profound relationship with the quality of their social relationships; Therefore, it does not seem strange that people have a strong desire to build and maintain strong relationships. Such relationships can often be reached through cordial dialogue. Survey participants reportedly sought deeper interaction in their daily lives; But if people are looking for an in-depth conversation with others, why not create one? The authors add:

The data show that underestimating the social nature of others or assuming that people are indifferent or inattentive in conversation can help to find the reason why conversations are superficial in everyday life.

Although these conversations took place in the laboratory and under supervision, the researchers believe that these findings can be extended to more familiar areas of everyday life. The authors state:

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Past research in the United States and the United Kingdom has shown that people may underestimate the tendency of strangers to engage in conversation in natural areas such as train, bus, or taxi. Our experiments are more conservative, showing that people underestimate the value of in-depth conversations in the natural realm.

Also, the authors want to know how these mentalities differ in different cultures. For example, do different cultures have different perspectives on flexibility with strangers or do they prioritize relationships within a group? So the next time you spend a lot of time together with strangers, ask them about their lives. Who knows, maybe you made a new friend.

The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition.


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