Four years later, she has hosted 350 lunches with everyone from billionaires to professionals to artists, and says the experience completely changed the trajectory of her life. He quit his job, wrote a book (100 lunches with strangers) and now makes a living talking about meals with strangers.
“Each new person we meet is an opportunity to be exposed to a unique perspective and to diversify our understanding of life.”
Samuel Ma, psychologist
“Now I invite strangers to lunch anywhere, it could be the mums at school who I want to get to know a little better, or I could see a street performer and say, ‘I’d like to learn more about magic , I can take you. out for lunch?” she says.
“There were a lot of awkward silences, but now I just embrace them and carry on the conversation. My life is much more colorful now and I say yes to more things. It’s also improved my marriage—my husband and I go on new adventures and try fun activities together…and I have many more stories to share with him when we get home.”
Why foreigners matter
As important as our relatives, colleagues and old friends are to our happiness and avoiding loneliness, psychologist Samuel Ma, of the Australian Institute of Human Wellness, says meeting new people broadens our horizons.
“Each new person we meet is an opportunity to be exposed to a unique perspective and to diversify our understanding of life,” he says.
“Meeting others of a different age, gender, culture, sexual orientation or religion is important to develop empathy and social skills for future social encounters.”
Along the way, mom says we will develop our conversation skills.
“This extends to assertiveness, non-verbal behavior and our ability to actively listen,” he says.
Dr. Tim Sharp, director of happiness at The Happiness Institute, agrees that meeting new people has powerful potential for well-being.
“Maybe we hear a new opinion, learn about a new book, movie, or recipe—and that spontaneity adds a lot of value and benefits our perspective,” he says.
Whether you’re eager to ask a coworker out of work or eyeing a school parent who looks like a fun addition to your friendship, Ma says it’s normal to feel anxious when asking someone new to socialize.
“Think about what’s important to you, whether it’s developing a greater sense of interpersonal connection, improving your well-being, or broadening your social perspective,” he suggests.
“Then make a plan for that personal recovery that feels achievable, like going for a walk outside or grabbing a coffee on the way to work.”
Sharp suggests not putting too much pressure on life-changing recovery.
“It’s not necessarily about [this person] becoming your best friend, it’s just about the experience of meeting someone new or learning something new or going to a new restaurant or coffee shop,” he says.
“Ask yourself, ‘What do I have to lose?’ Even if they said no, would anything really be lost? But if they say yes, what could you gain?”
How to find new people to meet
For Chu, LinkedIn was a great starting point for finding strangers, but Ma says you can also leverage your existing network.
“Maybe we could make new connections at events through our partners, workplace or long-time family friends,” he suggests.
“We might also actively seek out environments where meeting new people is common, such as playing a social sport or volunteering in the local community.”
When it comes to asking your new contact for a one-on-one, Chu says enthusiasm goes a long way.
“If you’re positive and high-energy, people see you as more charismatic and want to spend more time with you,” she says.
There might be a few awkward moments at first, but Chu says focusing more on listening and less on speaking will improve the experience.
“The one who listens and asks questions actually controls the conversation—it’s a gift to the other person because the more they share and the more they talk, the happier they are,” she says.
“We can go deeper into the conversation with [follow-ups] like ‘Tell me more’ or ‘What do you think about this?'”
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