There has been an entire generation grown up with ‘don’t talk to strangers’, and now we find ourselves, our businesses, our ministry, our interests, and more, completely dependant on our ability to talk to strangers.
How do we now change our entire tactic from fear-based to giving the benefit-of-the-doubt in our communications?
What shifts must take place inside our own hearts and minds to welcome others even when we haven’t yet met them?
The work we do at Capturing Courage is completely dependant on this benefit-of-the-doubt kind of communication, and so if you’ll permit me I’ll try to outline a few of the shifts in my own person to enable authentic relationship with strangers.
For starters, the problem with ‘don’t talk to strangers’ is that it sets us up into a fear space. We then hold that fear space as the ‘un’welcome sign for others. And others respond to it.
If we believe all strangers are bad, are out to get us, will do us in, or take advantage of us, we will in fact find and attract this kind of person to us. After all, the thoughts we think have incredible power over our lives. It is why the Bible brings up a number of times the importance of renewing our mind.
Negative expectations will reap their full reward in our lives.
So the first step to giving the benefit-of-the-doubt in our communications with strangers is loosing the lie that strangers are bad. Painted with this broad brush stroke we don’t even have a chance. The brush must be put down.
We do this by confessing (admitting) that we have painted all strangers in this one bad light. Our judgment must be released and put down and identified for the lie that it is.
Getting rid of our overridingly negative paradigms is the first thing to do.
The next thing we can do is to become more acquanted with our own emotions and responses to life. When we are honest about our emotions, when we are familiar with hope, despair, joy, fear, passion and ambivelance, with all the spectrum between these, we are then equipped to recognize these same emotions in others.
Instead of being critical we find empathy and compassion. We are not much different from each other. As human beings we all experience the same emotions regardless of any differences in culture, socio-economic status, race, gender and more.
Differences become smaller when we are emotionally intelligent.
Becoming used to and accepting of our own emotions is the second step to benefit-of-the-doubt relationships with strangers.
Another thing that we can do is to come to an understanding that others have something for us, and we have something for others.
I’ll never forget the time I was on a bus and sitting next to an elderly man found out that he had been an archeologist who had worked all over the world. We had little time to chat but I went away from that encounter understanding afresh that people’s lives are interesting and varied. And that we are richer for inquiring and being genuinely interested in the lives that they have lived.
Recognizing the inherent value of each person, the experiences they have had and the life they have lived is another great way to engage benefit-of-the-doubt encounters with strangers.
These three things:
Putting aside judgments and belief systems that would keep strangers at bay
Becoming emotionally attuned ourselves and then empathetic with others
Valuing the experiences and lives that others have lived
All these will launch you into a world where people are friendly, strangers are interesting, and we are more alike than we ever would have guessed.
‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ has had its day – This week, make sure to talk to a stranger.
You just might be pleasanly surprised.