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Thank you for talking to strangers!

We hope that this campaign gives you greater understanding of the good that your actions have on your own well-being and on the well-being of others. Don’t forget to let us know how your connections with strangers go this week!

Check out some the FAQs below for some insight on talking to strangers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are you launching Talk To A Stranger Week in Canada?

As we exit the global pandemic and enter a world where many or our daily routines and rituals have been disrupted, like going to an office or seeing people out and about at activities, it is important for us to recognize the many opportunities that are around us to build connections and a sense of belonging each and every day. 

Researchers who have been studying the benefits of speaking to strangers have long recognized that there can be benefits to both parties when we strike up a conversation with a stranger. Benefits can include. 

  1. Increased happiness
  2. A strengthened sense of belonging
  3. Increased mental sharpness
  4. Decreased sense of loneliness and isolation
  5. Improved trust
  6. Improved empathy
  7. Greater optimism
  8. Improved mood

“Sometimes the best conversations between strangers allow the stranger to remain a stranger.” Malcolm Gladwell

How can I participate?

Any Canadian can participate, and there are two things we would like you to do.

  • Give it a try. 
  • Make eye contact with someone
  • Smile at someone
  • Nod at someone
  • Connect with a brief word of greeting
  • Start a conversation with someone
  • Take a picture with the person you connect with and share it on the GenWell social platforms. 
  • Head over to www.TalkToAStrangerWeek.org and tell us what you did to be part of the solution to building a more connected Canada for your health and happiness and the health and happiness of the person you connect with. 

“Good things happen when you meet strangers.”   Yo-Yo Ma

What if I don’t want to participate in this campaign?

There is no mandate for any Canadian to be part of this campaign. If you find the idea of talking to a stranger offensive or it creates anxiety and/or fear for you, then we suggest that you don’t participate during the week.

Our goal is to inspire greater human connection across Canada by educating Canadians about the facts around the benefits that talking to strangers can have on their health and happiness, as well as the likelihood of it having a positive response from both parties.

With this information, we believe that we can inspire Canadians to consider talking to strangers more often to improve their social health, which has a positive impact on mental and physical well-being. This action can also improve the mental and physical well-being of others and improve social cohesiveness at a population level.

“Sometimes, talking to a stranger feels better than talking to someone you know.” Unknown

Who is behind Talk To A Stranger Week?

The GenWell Project, the Canadian Human Connection Movement, has been working to educate, empower, and catalyze Canadians around the importance of human connection for their health, happiness, longevity, and the betterment of society since 2016. You can find out more about the work they do at www.GenWellProject.org.

“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know. Why is that? Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as they wish us to be.”  Carlos Ruiz Zafón

What are some simple tips to start a conversation with a stranger?
  • Say hello
  • Compliment someone 
  • Make eye contact and smile 
  • Celebrate or complain about the weather
  • Speak about a current event.
  • Strike up a conversation in a line-up
  • Ask for directions 
  • As for advice
  • Tell a joke or make light of a situation
  • Introduce yourself
  • Ask them about them, their day, why they have come here

“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” Shirley MacLaine

Where might you talk to a stranger?
  • In a line at grocery, at coffee, retail
  • Sitting in a bar or restaurant (to staff or strangers!)
  • In a classroom, workplace or high density building
  • In a waiting room or waiting for an elevator
  • At a concert, conference or event
  • Walking along the street
  • On a hike or walk 
  • In your neighbourhood
  • At a party or gathering
  • On, or while waiting for, a plane, in a train or on a bus

“I think sometimes in the focus on deep friendships and on romantic relationships, we can lose sight of how important the small connections we make

are with strangers and with people that we may encounter for just a few seconds or a few minutes, whether it’s the barista at our coffee shop or the stranger next to us on the subway.”   Vivek Murthy

What should I not do when trying to Talk To A Stranger?
  • Don’t be creepy
  • Don’t harass (if someone doesn’t want to talk, respect their wishes)
  • Don’t do it out of pity
  • Don’t hit on people
  • Don’t make it personal by asking people where are you going or where do you live? 

“We can bring positive energy into our daily lives by smiling more, talking to strangers in line, replacing handshakes with hugs, and calling our friends just to tell them we love them.” Brandon Jenner

Why are you doing a week instead of a day?

Many people are fearful of speaking to strangers, for many different reasons, fear of rejection or not knowing how to engage in a conversation, being a couple of examples.

Research from Dr. Gillian Sandstrom, suggests that when people create a habit of speaking to others for a week, they are less worried about rejection and are more confident in their ability to carry on a conversation with a stranger. We wanted to give Canadians an excuse and permission to give it a try and see just how much fun it could be for them and for the people they connect with. Who knows, a stranger today may be a friend tomorrow, a regular chat each day on the way to work, someone to learn from or someone who could support you on a bad day. 

“A good life depends on the strength of our relationships with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers.” David Lammy

Why are you doing it at this time of the year?

We decided to launch Talk To A Stranger Week at this time of the year for several reasons. 

  • The holiday season is a time when many will be out and about, providing more opportunities for people to connect, whether at a store, on the street, in a parking lot, on transportation, or doing an activity. 
  • Many are still recovering from the global pandemic, and providing people with knowledge and understanding about the many benefits that can come from speaking to strangers may inspire some more to give it a try for the first time or do it a little more often. 
  • Creating an occasion that gives Canadians an excuse and permission to Talk To A Stranger, may connect Canadians with new ideas, new cultures, laughter, passions and more. 
  • Building connection and a sense of belonging before we head into the darker, colder days of winter, can provide the supportive relationships that help us through the winter season. 
  • Raising the collective consciousness at any time during the year, about the importance of human connection for our own health and for the health of others, is a great reminder to all Canadians to take action by connecting with strangers or anyone that might benefit from your outreach.
  • By launching Talk to A Stranger Week, we give all Canadians the excuse and permission to speak to strangers this week and every day of the year. 

“Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.”

Victor Hugo

Who benefits most from Talk To A Stranger Week?

Really, we all do. 

It might be the person who is struggling due to divorce, financial pressure, illness, death of a loved one or the strained relationships of the pandemic and recognizes the importance of staying connected to combat feelings of social isolation, disconnection and loneliness and reaches out. 

It might be the person who becomes aware of the importance of their daily greetings to the people they walk by every day and begins to offer greetings as part of their daily connection to purpose in their lives.

Maybe it is the person who finds themself socially anxious, introverted, or shy on the other side of the global pandemic and leverages talking to strangers as a great starting point to start reconnecting with others. 

Whoever you are, wherever you are, Talk To A Stranger Week is intended for you. Use it to start creating some of the social interactions that were removed from our lives due to the pandemic, many of which have not returned, and that research shows us how important they are. 

“When I came to Johannesburg from the countryside, I knew nobody, but many strangers were very kind to me. I then was dragged into politics, and then, subsequently, I became a lawyer.” Nelson Mandela

Why might people not talk to strangers?
  • Because we think we and other people are too busy
  • Fear of rejection – people won’t want to talk to us
  • Fear that people will judge us (e.g., won’t find us interesting)
  • Talking to strangers will be stilted, awkward, and unpleasant
  • People don’t know the positive impact of speaking to strangers
  • Because we have been told for decades not to talk to strangers
  • Suspicion of what the intention was for the outreach
  • Too distracted to make it happen. 
  • We don’t have an excuse and permission to do so…until now.
  • We don’t see the point or didn’t realize how good it can be for both people.
  • Won’t know what to say…until now.

“Our very lives depend on the ethics of strangers, and most of us are always strangers to other people.” Bill Moyers

Isn’t talking to strangers risky?

We certainly want to encourage people to take the same type of precaution as we have been guided on for decades, about not speaking to strangers late at night, in secluded spaces or when you don’t feel comfortable in doing so. 

What we do want to do is inspire more Canadians to recognize the many people we walk by each day at work, on busy streets, at the grocery store, in your community and throughout our days, in which a simple “hello” or “how is your day going” should not bring additional risk to your safety, and the positive impact it can have your health and well-being and on that of the person you connect with.

As it relates to our kids, we know that many of them have suffered through the disconnection of the global pandemic, and we want to encourage them to participate in the campaign in safe and comfortable ways. Take this opportunity to speak to them about the right time to connect and consider the occasions when it would be okay to do so, like in your classroom or school or while walking with parents doing day-to-day activities.  We have so far to go without the need to put anyone at risk with this campaign. Our goal is to improve the skills and social health of all Canadians.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”  William Butler Yeats

What if I already talk to strangers?

Welcome to the team! Now you have even more reason to continue to be the social connector that makes you and the world a better place. 

  • Now you have an excuse to continue to do it. 
  • Over time, more people will be following your lead. 
  • Now you know that you are making a difference in the world by making others happier, and healthier and feel a greater sense of belonging.
  • Now, you can tell your kids that there is research to prove you are not just being silly. 🙂 

“I want to live in a place where strangers rush to help someone in distress.”

 Ian Mcewan

What if I am an introvert?

Connecting with others can be a challenge for some, but we hope that by providing you with an excuse to say hello or even just smile at someone, we can provide you with the opportunity to build a greater sense of connection and belonging, whether it is at work, on your street, in your community or anywhere you might go in your day. 

For some introverts, talking to strangers can be a great way to get connected without the longer-term commitment of a conversation. 

“Many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial, and that’s really a misperception. Because actually it’s just that introverts are differently social. So they would prefer to have a glass of wine with a close friend as opposed to going to a loud party full of strangers.” Susan Cain

What might go wrong, and what can I do about it?

If at any point you feel threatened, uncomfortable or unsafe with connecting with a stranger or strangers, walk away and go to a safe space or connect with someone you know to get into an uncomfortable place. If you are concerned for your safety, please call 911. 

“If a natural disaster strikes your community, reach out to your friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. Lend a helping hand.” Marsha Blackburn

What about Covid-19?

There is no question that the Covid-19 virus is still out there, as are the flu and the new RSV respiratory virus, which is causing some concern.

We encourage people to follow the protocols as laid out by your local public health office, but we also want to encourage you to continue to speak to people, because the disconnections that many have faced over the last three years have taken it’s toll. Masks are also still around, but a they don’t prevent us from saying hello and even though we may not be able to see other people’s mouths, we can often still see the smile in the eyes of another human being, and that in itself sends a positive message to those we pass by each day.

“When strangers start acting like neighbors… communities are reinvigorated.”  Ralph Nader