In National Conversation Week, we invited 40 strangers to explore, using our conversation menu, the serendipity of neophilia – or in other words, the wonderful surprises that arise from new conversations with strangers. And here’s what happened…
At the end of the evening, someone announced:
“I usually probably would’ve avoided a lot of you!”
And a sound of knowing laughter rippled the room.
Only 2 and half-hours earlier we’d been total strangers. We’d each arrived knowing (mostly) no one and possibly had had similar thoughts run through our own minds.
Yet despite our biases (conscious or not), we witnessed around the second course that it was difficult to draw everyone away from their conversations.
Maybe it was because of the brilliant questions (evidently!) or maybe it was something deeper… that people were discovering the empowering joy that comes from skipping the small talk and stepping outside their comfort zone in order to connect with the world around them.
Unlearning the Advice: “Don’t talk to strangers”
I believe we need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable - but it’s hard to when the world daily presents us with unpredictability that shakes our stability.
From a young age we’re told, “don’t talk to strangers” and it’s a warning that unconsciously seeps into our being and shapes our interactions with the world.
Instead of being exciting doors to unlock, strangers are unknowns to be avoided; unidentifiable bodies that threaten to challenge and disrupt the world around us.
So rather than going to greet the unknown, we alternatively retreat and search for islands of predictability that confirm our beliefs and make us feel safe.
But I wonder, who ever grew from predictability?
Diversity Helps Us Grow
Studies have shown that exposing yourself to diversity expands your thinking: it challenges your biases, widens your understanding, creates more empathy and unleashes creativity.
Of course it can feel vulnerable or be difficult for the ego to challenge its beliefs, but when we become willing to embrace the unknown we open ourselves up to an array of wonderful possibilities.
And that’s exactly what we did at our March event, Trigger Conversations on the Serendipity of Neophilia.
The Serendipity of Neophilia
‘Neophilia’ is a lover of the new – the kind of person that would swap repeating their elevator pitch for novelty, change and discovery any day.
It’s the mindset we (the Trigger team) try and approach the world with everyday. We believe there’s magic in the mundane, we just have to look for it. And when we go looking, we often engineer serendipity too.
Serendipity is the art of making discoveries by accident. Whilst we can’t plan these moments, we can develop the conditions for them to evolve by opening our eyes to the unexpected.
Everyone is interesting. Yet too often we walk around expecting others to prove it to us. But it’s not up to them to prove it you – it’s up to you to find it in them.
And it’s by approaching the world with this open-mind that you can start to shake up the mundane everyday and find new serendipitous excitements anywhere – because it’s everywhere.
40 strangers who discovered that when you skip small talk and have meaningful conversations with strangers, it can lead you to:
· Discover a new idea
· Have a fresh perspective
· Reflect and reshape how you see the world
· Connect deeply with someone new
· Discover you are more similar than you are different
· Turn a mundane Thursday night into something magic
· And ultimately, remind you that you belong, everywhere
Oh, and curious what was on the menu? Here’s a taster…
- Light Tummy Ticklers -
Talk about a characteristic of yourself you most appreciate.
- Getting Heavier -
What is something you enjoy now that you never used to?
- Deep Conversation -
Is there a value or principal you don’t currently hold that could substantially change your life and the lives of others around you?
- Controversial Conversation -
Do you feel the world is heading in a generally positive, or generally negative direction?
- Nourishing Conversation -
What kind of people would you like to meet more of?
- Sweet and Delightful -
How have you surprised yourself this year?
- Games! -
Take turns to say things you have never said out loud before, true or made up!
- Reflective & Revitalising -
What insight from this evening would you most like to take action on?