Students Staff

16 October 2015

Nervous about talking to strangers?

Woman in cafe

Thanks to our growing reliance on phones and computers the past 25 years have seen a dramatic fall in the time we spend having face-to-face conversations

With this is in mind it’s hardly surprising we are more apprehensive than ever to talk to strangers – it’s almost like we have forgotten how to talk to one another.

As part of next month’s Festival of Social Science, Dr Gillian Sandstrom, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, will be running two free workshops titled “How to talk to Strangers”. The workshops, to be held from 7pm-9pm at The Minories in Colchester High Street, will be aimed at the business community on Monday 9 November and the general public on Tuesday 10 November.

With research showing that we are happier and feel more connected to others when we have even the most fleeting of conversations with others, Dr Sandstrom is keen to offer tips to overcome the barriers that prevent people from talking to strangers.

“There are lots of fears around talking to strangers,” explains Dr Sandstrom. “There is the fear of not knowing where the conversation will go, how to end the conversation and the fear of being rejected. What these workshops will do is show how many people have these same fears and offer strategies and tips to overcome these fears.”

The highly interactive, informal workshop will help you learn how to talk to strangers through discussion of the barriers that prevent people from simply talking to each other. People taking part will learn new skills through role-play and will leave with more confidence of how to talk to strangers.

With 7.7 million people living alone, Britain was recently voted the loneliness capital of Europe. Previous research by Dr Sandstrom has shown how even brief conversations during the day can improve people’s happiness.

“These small interactions with someone on the bus or with the barista in a coffee shop are important to our wellbeing. We have opportunities to have these types of conversations every day but just don’t take them up,” added Dr Sandstrom.

The workshops are free but booking is advised.

The workshops are among more than 200 events taking place across the UK as part of the Festival of Social Science, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council to showcase some of the country’s leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives.

Other Festival events involving academics at the University of Essex include:

Measuring living standards: poverty, dynamics, persistence – Discussion about new UK research and investigation into how to measure living standards.

The State of Social Capital in Britain – Conference


Note to Editors

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email:

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