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Start looking around you. Do they laugh? Slow down your mind and understand where your assumptions come from. All of them. The first step is to ask someone for directions. What is it for? Sit still. Are they startled? How are they responding to your presence? Have some paper and a pen handy and keep your smartphone tucked away.

If you are male or have a male appearance, be especially respectful when speaking to women and people who have a female appearance, since by default you could be seen as threatening or intrusive. Do they smile? You can enlighten your friends and readers with your observations.

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The first expedition is a warm-up to help you slow down your pace and sharpen your awareness, hone your skills at observing public behavior, and get you in the right frame of mind. The goal here is simply to observe: What are people doing?

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Taking the time to draw or write directions is a slight incursion, and this exercise is about incrementally escalating incursions. These expeditions may not all make sense in the place where you are. If they give you their phoneyou call it.

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They talk when you listen. Then be quiet.

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You can do them alone or with a partner. A surprising of people give out their phone.

Talk to strangers

Define a territory for yourself: Are you going to walk around the block? Your job is to listen. Do they seem uneasy? Where are you? I highly recommend you do this once no matter which other expeditions you might choose. Documenting experiences is a special way of processing them for yourself. These sound like easy questions. The guiding principle of these expeditions is respect for others, and every explorer should pay careful attention to their own conduct.

Their posture, their skin, their clothing? So, for example, if you conclude that someone is confident or rich, homeless or shy, a tourist or lives in the neighborhood, what told you that? Be aware, be observant, see if you can understand the micro-local assumptions talk to strsngersd public behavior and cleave to them. You can come up with your own questions too, and try out more than one.

It relies on using video or audio recording equipment you can use your smartphone to help legitimate the intrusion and give it some logic.

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If you are someone who spends the majority of your time in the minority, this experience may be as common as rain to you, and you may want to skip it. If they stop and give you directions, you ask them to draw you a map. Give people a chance to fill their own silences. If you are inspired to invent backstories for any of them, make sure to specify the details about them that inform your narrative. First, describe the setting. Take care in choosing a starting place and destination — you may have to try this a few times to find a pair that works well.

Chat with strangers

What are the most interesting features of the place? The expeditions are presented in order of increasing challenge — increased complexity, increased emotional risk, increased potential for depth of interaction. Share your notes, on your blog, your social networks, anywhere you write about your experiences. I do not wish these things for you, but if you feel them, I hope they will change the way you see the world. Remember that context matters.

Each talk to strsngersd you a method or a reason for talking to a stranger, a mechanical problem to solve. You need to appear plausibly unable to navigate without a handdrawn map or list of directions. Anything is possible. Take a walk in a populous place like a park with paths or along a city sidewalk. Take notes with your mind as you go along, and write them down when you get back. What does it take to say a simple hello to a stranger you pass on the street? The structure works like this. Over the years that I used this exercise in my classes, only one student ever actually made the call.

You should be noticeably out of place — perhaps by race, gender, ethnicity, age, ability, membership, appearance or other of difference.

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You might enjoy one of them and do it over and over. How do you get out of a conversation? The camera is both a contrivance to permit the question and a little bit of mediation that allows people to open up. This final expedition takes you into deeper, more complex territory. You want something that people can tap into in an immediate, visceral way.

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How might that interaction continue? Start recording before you pose your question. Spend one hour in a public place where you are not likely to encounter people you know. They are not. You approach someone who is not in a hurry and ask them if you can ask them a question on camera. Give yourself a reasonable territory to traverse, something that will take at least five to ten minutes.

If there is a big crowd, you can focus on just a few people if you want.

How to talk to strangers

This expedition calls for asking a stranger a disarmingly intimate question and then simply listening to what they say. Your mission is to say hello to every person you pass by. I really mean OFF. Part of the challenge here is full presence. Keep a keen awareness of the dynamics of each of these micro-interactions.

Anywhere you can linger and watch people who are not moving rapidly is perfect.

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Remember the tremendous cultural differences in expectations of eye contact and street behavior. People talk if you give them the chance to. If they draw you the map, you ask for their phone so you can call if you get lost. You can try engaging and see how that goes. Walk slowly. In pairs, you each go on separate expeditions and report back. What kinds of people are there? You can do them all in one day or spaced out over months. Turn off your devices; get off the grid.

The point is the conversation, not the recording.

Talking to strangers: what we should know about the people we don't know

From the oak tree to the far bench? Choose a place that has a reasonable density of pedestrians but not a packed pathway.

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This expedition is a sequence of requests that get successively more involved as you progress — if you are able to — through each stage. You may have a wonderful, eye-opening experience.