Friends & Family are Overrated

Why you should talk to strangers more often

“Don’t talk to strangers!”

Remember your parents’ #1 chant in your childhood? You were to strictly maintain proximity to them or their whitelist of trustworthies — everyone beyond that radius was potentially malicious.

Yet, the older you get, the universe increasingly shows you otherwise — You’re hurt most by the ones you love.

The people that raised you, friends you grew up with, those who stood by you through failures — they all seem to understand you less and less. They keep imposing their thoughts on you.

And the strangeness of strangers begin to blur in comparison.

Your parents probably have outdated ideals you must live by. The moral police among your friends probably assume the role of saviors every time you hit a speed bump — only to shove their personalized definition of success down your throat with a dose of “told you so”.

Maybe they love you beyond selfish reasons, probably want to liberate and empower you, motivate and support you. But they keep saying all the wrong things — “They just don’t fucking get it!”

You still keep going back to them, because you trust only them. Only they seem to really know you.

— “They have, for so long. Haven’t they?”
— “
You need to stop.”

It’s naive to assume someone to understand you better simply because they've known you longer.

If they do, it’s coincidental.

I’m not a very private person, and yet most of my friends don’t know me very well. They know the headlines, but they’re in the dark about how I deal with things, how my feelings work, what motivates me or kills my drive. Only very few have a decent idea of who I am and what define me.

Not for my lack of trying, but because it didn't help anyway.

An ex-girlfriend of mine and I grew distant months before we broke up. We were two people deeply attached and badly out of sync. She knew me better than anyone else did back then, and yet she could hardly figure me out.

Knowing is NOT the same as understanding

Don’t abandon your F&F

I’m not at all asking you to draw curtains on your lifelong comrades. As long as they have good intentions for you, you need to surround yourself by them. Take their support and be supportive in return.

It’s not their fault if they don’t always understand you. It’s yours to expect they should.

Open up, to someone new

You need to tear down a few walls, or at least crack a window open. There’s a world of strangers out there that feel what you feel, think how you think, live how you live or want to.

Strangers are only strangers until they are not.

By strangers I don’t mean that creep down the lane who hums while he pees at the pavement corner in the dark, wasted on a Tuesday night. I meant people that have recently come to your life and you seem to have hit it off with a good first (or third) impression, maybe had a few witty chats full of laughs — the new ones with the good vibes, or something to that effect.

Lately I've made some very good friends by abruptly and prematurely dropping some major secrets on them while they were still somewhat strangers. They had that energy that called me to open up. I responded. No regrets since.

Why does it work?

It works because it’s an expectations game.

You expect very little off it when you share with strangers. You just want to get things off your chest. They don’t expect you to tick some boxes. You come with your own boxes and tick them as you please.

Strangers don’t judge. People, in general, are good. Yes there are terrible people out there but if you curb your pessimism just a little and follow your gut (or sixth sense or whatever, if you know what I mean), you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

You can’t start fresh with lifelong friends.

But you can do that with friends you made yesterday. They make it easy for you to accept yourself, forgive yourself. And sometimes you really need that to love yourself and move forward with life, to write your story afresh, specially when the ones close to you won’t stop reminding you or your failures even when they least want to.

Strangers hand you a clean slate.

They don’t fixate on stupid mistakes you made ten years ago. They don’t hold you guilty for a fit of rage you threw with your ex-boyfriend last month. They don’t define you by the two flaws of yourself you trusted them with. They don’t hurt your pride with their prejudice.

Start with that clean slate and you’ll see how quickly accepting they are of some of your biggest regrets. Watch them construct their expectations loosely around you while accepting that you’re just as human as they are.

It’s beautiful.

Strangers don’t compete. They don’t need to have a better job, a hotter date, a bigger apartment or more followers on Instagram than you do. They take you as you are (or who you decide to be) and build up on that foundation.

You can start with the bad news. You can spill your worst when you just get to know someone. Strangers respond with green light more often than not, following which you can gradually uncover the best qualities of yourself that only make them appreciate you more.

Try.

Sometimes all people want after a phase of hardship is a fresh start — a change of place, a change of ways. Every new person you meet is your chance to a tiny little fresh start of sorts.

You don’t have to be an extrovert.

This is coming from an introvert, who enjoys time alone most days of the week, steers clear of loud parties or large gatherings, avoids small talk or listing bullet-point updates to uncles and aunts.

But we all need to interact. You’ll need to confide in people with your most sensitive truths at some point. When you do, broaden your horizon a bit and look more towards the corners.

Say a little more than “Hi!” to that person out there. You may feel a lot lighter after a while.

Hello, stranger!
If you have stories that resonate with (or oppose) what I wrote, please share. If you’re looking for a stranger to get things off your chest, I’m here.

Written by

“Sugarcoats are not in fashion” • Economist, teacher, photographer • Stockholm, Sweden • All posts: tiny.cc/22b5tz

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