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It burdens him that the things he says online affect how people treat him in the real. People already relate to him based on things he has said on Facebook. As Ms. You can talk or write notes. View all New York Times newsletters. There are other consequences to constant networking as well. When we are always tethered to our offices, our families, our friends — even when hiking in the woods or walking by the ocean — then solitude becomes increasingly elusive, and creative, contemplative, carefully considered thought increasingly gives way to immediate, sometimes ill-considered reactions.

At times, Ms. Tell us what you think.

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Why are humans so reluctant to communicate in public with strangers?

Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. Sign Up. You will receive emails containing news content , updates and promotions from The New York Times. You may opt-out at any time. You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. Since commuting tends to be one of the least pleasant experiences in an average person's day, spending it by talking to strangers instead of sitting in silence may be a good way to make that commute enjoyable.

And these results are hardly unique to commuter trains. The experiments were repeated on public transit, taxicabs, and in a laboratory setting and the outcoe was largely the same in all cases. Though people often predict that sitting alone would be more enjoyable than talking to strangers, the opposite almost always turned out to be true. Personality testing showed no consistent difference in terms of who was more likely to enjoy interacting with strangers, it just appears to be a social convention we all tend to follow when sitting alone.

So why are people so reluctant to talk to strangers? While some people may prefer to spend their commuting time working or engaging in other productive activities, experimental results suggest that people who connect with strangers are no less productive than the ones who sit in silence.

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One possible explanation may simply be that we stay silent because of the belief that other people are not interested in connecting. Since we see other people sitting in silence, we tend to do the same though this may vary widely across different cultures. Also, we may be afraid of the negative consequences of trying to interact with strangers, especially if the stranger is someone of a different gender or ethnic background.

Of course, some strangers may well prefer not to communicate. Female commuters are certainly likely to be suspicious of strange men attempting to strike up a conversation with them, and with good reason. Epley and Schoeder recognized that people can be reluctant to interact with strangers for a variety of reasons but are usually pleasantly surprised to discover that making the effort can be enjoyable.

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Though these conversations are, by necessity, brief since they can only last as long as the commute lasts, they can be a useful way of breaking the commuting routine as well as help you overcome the shyness that keeps us quiet. And there are other benefits to reaching out to strangers. Not only does it help us feel better about ourselves, but prosocial behaviour can help benefit other people as well. By working against the "conspiracy of silence" that seems to affect commuters on a regular basis, communicating in public can help people recognize what they have in common.

Even if we do occasionally run into people who don't feel like talking, striking up a conversation with the person next to you on a bus or train often make us more willing to try again in future. So don't be afraid to speak up when you're surrounded by strangers, it can be more enjoyable than you think.

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The people in the experiments only had to do it once. Doing that every day in every situation where we meet strangers would be exhausting for most people. In a big city we can end up sharing spaces with hundreds of new people every day. Only a very extroverted person would want to go round chatting at every chance to different strangers every day.

Nobody I know could stand that. We conserve our social energy. It's strange that you think it's strange not to talk to strangers. New research explores why many people seek out scary experiences. New research looks at the role of creativity in sustaining romantic passion. Why does sibling bullying occur and what can parents do about it? Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist.

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