The Power of Interacting and Connecting with People with Joe Keohane
From a young age, our elders teach us to distrust people we don't know. One of the most popular children's stories revolves around this idea. Little Red Riding Hood goes out to her grandma. She talks to a stranger in the form of a sly fox. She arrives at her grandma's house only to find out she's been tricked. The moral of the story is singular—strangers have wicked intentions, so you have to be wary of them. But is there credence to this?
In today's episode, we're joined by Joe Keohane, a journalist, parallel parker, and a firm believer of the goodness in humanity and strangers. He debunks the stranger danger propaganda and explains the benefits of connecting with people . Cooperation and connection are part of our nature, and also our secret to success. Joe teaches us to overcome our fear of talking to strangers and how to have more meaningful interactions with them.
Tune in to the full episode to tap into the power of connecting with strangers for self-expansion!
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Discover the benefits of engaging and connecting with people.
- Understand, on a deeper level, your fear of talking to others.
- Gain some inspiration and insights into how you can connect with strangers comfortably.
Behind Joe’s Book and the Current Social Climate
- Joe's parents like talking to strangers. Now, even in their 70s, they still make new friends.
- He found this trait interesting. Although he is not as confident as his parents, he went into journalism, which involves a lot of talking to strangers as well.
- After having a moving conversation with a cab driver, Joe realized he hasn't been connecting with people as much as he did.
- Joe thinks two factors contribute to this decrease in engagement with others: stress from work and the advent of smartphones.
- Wanting to know more, Joe spent a few years researching how we connect with people. This was the genesis of his book.
The Effects of Connecting with People
- Connecting with people is akin to self-expansion.
- When you talk to someone and have a profound connection with them, you can gain new perspectives on the world.
- Talking to someone different from you can also help you expand your viewpoints and reconsider your opinions about their race or country.
- These connections challenge preconceived ideas of the world and the people in it, which in turn alleviates prejudice and political polarization.
The Fear of Talking to Strangers
- As a child, Joe was bombarded with stranger danger propaganda. Research shows that this belief eroded an entire generation’s trust in other people.
- However, the claim that strangers pose a mortal threat is statistically baseless. In reality, more crimes are committed by people already close to the victim.
- Things like inequality, gender, race, and political orientation can make it harder to initiate connecting with people.
- People fear interacting with strangers because they don't know how to do it. Listen to the full episode to hear more about the research behind this anxiety!
- But once you begin conversing with others, it tends to go much better than you expect.
Flipping the Scripts
- When asked how we’re doing, we usually respond to others’ questions by rote. These answers are called scripts.
- Joe challenged himself to break these scripts when he interacts with others.
- To his surprise, this led to more meaningful interactions, however short. Connecting with people this way can make us feel more optimistic and trusting.
- We tend to overestimate the rejection we will experience when starting conversations with strangers. Tune in to the episode to find out about the research on the topic!
Interactions In-Person vs. On Social Media
- Social media allows you to be anonymous. You can also plan what you'll say ahead of replying.
- Meanwhile, talking to people in person is more cognitively challenging.
- However, you get mentally stronger as you start connecting with people more.
- In addition, it is our nature to communicate and collaborate with others. It is a trait that set us apart from other mammals and allowed us to form civilizations.
Dangers of Disconnecting from People
- Lack of interaction and connection is poison to society.
- The polarization that it causes further leads to entrenchment and dehumanization of other people and groups.
- Online, it's much easier to dismiss people based on their opinions. Whereas in person, we are driven to seek commonality with others.
- You can have a conversation with people with opposing views. You just have to go out there seeking to understand.
- Media platforms give us a negative perception of other people. By going out into the world and connecting with others, you can correct this pessimism.
Connecting with People in the Current Political Climate
- Joe recently spent time with an organization that helps Democrats and Republicans connect with each other.
- Being from Boston and living in New York, Joe identifies as a moderate liberal.
- His research and experiences made him less dismissive of people from the other side.
- He’s hopeful that while it will take time, we can achieve political rebuilding.
- If you hear something you don’t like, don’t be quick to dismiss or respond contemptuously. Instead, pause for a second and try to understand the other view.
The Problem with Today’s Society
- Humans are hypersocial creatures. Cooperation is in our basic human nature and the secret to success.
- But due to various factors, we have become smaller and angrier beings.
- Now that we're not fulfilling our social needs, rates of depression and loneliness are skyrocketing.
- To combat this, we need to try interacting and connecting with people.
How Joe Feels Radically Loved
- Joe’s 5-year old recently described her love for him as something that makes her heart explode.
- That’s what makes Joe radically loved.
5 Powerful Quotes
[12:28] “The main fear that people had was just a fear that they didn't know how to [interact with others].”
[16:31] “There's a raft of benefits to even having like kind of high-quality small talk with somebody. You just have to actually do it.”
[21:07] “It comes pretty natural to people once they do it. Once they get past the anxiety and once they work those muscles a little bit, it becomes second nature.
[31:01] “Instead of being reactive, act more wisely.”
[33:38] “We're wired for connection. That's the secret to the success of the species.”
Joe Keohane is a veteran journalist who’s held high-level positions in publications like Esquire, The New Yorker, Wired, and Boston Magazine. He has also contributed to writing several textbooks and a screenplay.
His life revolves around talking to people he barely knows and reporting facts and data. Fueled by curiosity, he decided to intensively research connecting with people and their value for self-expansion. This work resulted in his book, The Power of Strangers.
You can learn more about Joe on his website or connect with him through Twitter and LinkedIn.
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