Talking to Strangers with Joe Keohane

Joe Keohane, a veteran journalist who has held high-level editing positions at Medium, Esquire, Entrepreneur, and Hemispheres is the author of The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting In a Suspicious World.

To offer your own advice, call Zak @ 844-935-BEST


JOE: My name's Joe Keohane. I'm the author of the new book, The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting In a Suspicious World.

ZAK: We've all gotten rusty talking to strangers because of COVID but also because of our phones and because of where we are as a culture. The thing that I like to do with this show is give people something they can try today. So, give me a strategy for getting back in to where it's not gonna overwhelm and feel like we have to go be friends with the world.

JOE: First know that everybody is anxious. Everybody was anxious about talking to strangers before this for a lot of reasons I get into in the book and everyone's especially anxious now because we've been in the hole for a year. So, start easy. Start with a waiter or waitress. Talk to somebody that's at a coffee shop in a structured, public place where your roles are clear, right. You're not just sneaking up on someone on the street which I would not advise people to do. And there's a really cool technique that I learned from a woman named Georgie Nightingall who's this communications expert in London. I took a class with her where she taught people how to talk to strangers and she was very keen and very good at it. The idea that she had was, it involved scripts. So, when we have an interaction with someone at a corner store, right, you go in and say, how you doing? And the person says good, how are you and you say, good, thanks. And that's it. You've put no effort into it. There's no curiosity being exercised. It's just a way to recognize that you're standing there, right? Cause it would be weird not to say anything but you don't want to put any effort into it. So, that's a script and we use those all the time to converse cognitive load and things like that. When you find yourself in a situation like that and someone asks you a scripted question, give them a specific answer. So, what Georgie advised and what she always does and this is brilliant and I do it all the time. When someone says, how you doing? Georgie says, ehhhh, 7 our 10. So now you're off script. You're in uncharted territory. The person's gonna be alert now being like, ok, something different is happening here. I have to dial in. I have to pay attention. And then Georgie will say, how are you doing today? And now she's modeled something and they follow her lead because it's rude if they don't. This is how we communicate. They'll say, oh, pretty good. I'm about 8 out of 10. And then she'd say, what'll take to get you to a 9 today? And then they'll be like, my mother's not been feeling well. Maybe I'll go see her later. Maybe she'll be feeling better.

JOE: When you get to that point, you get a glimmer of the other person. You get a glimmer of the depth and complexity of another person you would never register as a human being. People in service positions are often dehumanized. But, just a little trick like that is super useful and super easy and it's really funny and people I find are often kind of delighted by it. It's playful. It's audacious. You do that stuff enough, it leads to a little interaction and you'll feel good after you do it.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

See for privacy and opt-out information.

2356 232