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How can we foster a more tolerant society? Here’s why one researcher recommends talking to strangers.
Most of us live comfortably in our bubbles, interacting with people who think and often look like us. We may sift out others who don’t fit our mold.
A long pandemic hasn’t helped: Covid has made many people wary of being around strangers, let alone talking to them. If you live in an urban area you operate by invisible rules where you pay just enough attention to a stranger, allowing each of you the space to carry on politely…and distantly. But our guest says taking the time to talk to people you don’t know can bring unexpected pleasures, and lead to more openness and tolerance.
Kio Stark is a qualitative researcher and the author of the book When Strangers Meet. She says when you engage with another person in a store, on a park bench, in line at the DMV, you are getting a peek into someone else’s world and entering into a shared humanity. You’re forging a connection that may help you see the world from another person’s perspective, even if only for a few minutes.
There are times when you may need to disengage quickly, and we talk about those too. Still, more often that not, Kio says, “a conversation with a stranger can open up your idea of who you think of as part of the society in which you live.”
Hear more on the latest episode of Let’s Find Common Ground.
Read the Episode Transcript
Kio Stark is the author of When Strangers Meet, the novel Follow Me Down and the independent learning handbook Don’t Go Back to School. She is a qualitative researcher, and writes, consults, teaches, and speaks around the world about stranger interactions, independent learning, and how people relate to technology. In other lives, Kio has worked in journalism, interactive advertising, community research, and game design. She has taught about stranger interactions and intimacy and technology and how we mistake technology for people at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.
On any given day you might find her traipsing around with a camera that holds film and if you run into her on the street, she will likely talk to you.