Talking To Strangers On The Commute Can Improve Wellbeing And Positivity, Study Finds

As kids we're told not to talk to strangers, but as adults we need to forget that advice completely.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, chatting to a stranger on your commute can improve your overall wellbeing. And who knows, you might even make a new friend.

Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that most people think talking to a stranger during their commute will be a negative experience, but this view is misguided.

Nicholas Epley, a professor at the university, said in a statement:

“This misunderstanding is particularly unfortunate for a person’s wellbeing given that commuting is consistently reported to be one of the least pleasant experiences in the average person’s day.

"This experiment suggests that a surprising antidote for an otherwise unpleasant experience could be sitting very close by.”

The study analysed the experiences of Chicago commuters who talked to strangers, sat in solitude or did whatever felt natural to them as they commuted on a train, on a bus or in a cab.

The results found talking to a stranger was a positive experience for most and it did not affect productivity.

“This research broadly suggests that people could improve their own momentary wellbeing — and that of others,” the study says.

"By simply being more social with strangers, trying to create connections where one might otherwise choose isolation.”

We've all been there, you're knackered and you want to grab some extra shut-eye on the way into work, or you've got tons to do and you want to make a start before you get to the office. But the study found these pastimes might not be as beneficial as we think.

“Either people do not get as much done on the train sitting alone as they expect to, or forming a new connection comes to be defined as a reasonably productive use of time after having done it,” the study concludes.

So instead of avoiding all eye-contact with your fellow commuters on the train tonight, say Hi - you might be surprised by how great it feels.