Go to contents

Feeling friendly to a stranger

Posted September. 24, 2022 07:27,   

Updated September. 24, 2022 07:27


It surely is one of the most overwhelming book titles I've encountered this year. The author says you should make the first move and "talk to a stranger" when it would feel uncomfortable even to be talked to by a stranger. I don't even tell my kids to talk to strangers first. I just know that I would never be able to do what the author recommends even if what he says is completely right and convincing.

The writer must have predicted reactions such as I had. As a freelance journalist operating in the U.S., he says the conversation with a stranger is not just a way of life but a survival strategy. He even says that humanity has evolved by welcoming, communicating, and building relationships with strangers. At this point when he invokes our great forefathers, it's hard not to reconsider what he has to say.

It is challenging to talk to someone you don't know in a society where people are busy staring into their smartphones in the subway and elsewhere. You might even be wrongfully accused of being a pervert or a crazy person. The author, however, insists that if you look into that stranger's eyes, find petty stuff in common, and successfully make a conversation, then a "whole new world" will unfold in front of you, just like in a movie. The author believes that deep down, everyone wants to be talked to.

The book's publisher may disagree, but if you are busy, you can skip Parts 1 and 2 and just read Part 3 to get the gist. Despite numerous appealing sentences, the first two parts have no distinct conclusions so that you may think, "so what?" Part 3, however, contains the author's anecdotal experiences of talking to strangers. They are pretty helpful as they offer you the tips and right "skills" to strike a successful conversation with a stranger. The author has a knack for making you laugh at first and then inspiring you right on with those anecdotes.

As I said, even though what the author says is convincing, it may be difficult to implement immediately. The world would be perfect if everything were so easy to follow. Still, those passers-by you encounter on the bus or on the street may feel different once you finish the book. At the end of the day, we are all lonely individuals isolated on each of our own islands. One day, I will talk to a stranger first, with the help of propranolol, of course.

Yang-Hwan Jung ray@donga.com