So really, when was the last time you talked to a stranger on the subway?
And no, that time you were drunk coming home from the Cubs game on the Red Line doesn't count.
Now a recent research study suggests that maybe we should make the effort to talk a stranger on the subway, because it usually is a very positive experience.
Though people think that talking to a stranger during their commute will be a negative experience, they actually report greater well-being after doing so.
"This misunderstanding is particularly unfortunate for a person's well-being given that commuting is consistently reported to be one of the least pleasant experiences in the average person's day," study researcher Nicholas Epley, a professor at the university, said in a statement. "This experiment suggests that a surprising antidote for an otherwise unpleasant experience could be sitting very close by."
Talking to a stranger ended up being a positive experience, and it did not affect productivity. "Either people do not get as much done on the train sitting alone as they expect to, or forming a new connection comes to be defined as a reasonably productive use of time after having done it," the researchers wrote in the study.
So if connecting with someone is so much better than sitting by yourself, why do we negatively perceive interacting with others? Researchers found that one big reason could be that people generally think that other people have no interest in connecting, a product of behavioral norms.
Honestly, I don't see how you could get someone's attention on a subway without yanking their earbuds or covering their phone with you hand. But maybe people are so bored with Facebook and Instagram and texting that they truly are looking for another diversion.
So give it shot. Talk to that stranger squeezed into that seat next to you on the new 5000 Series train car.
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