My husband and I have an ongoing debate on whether or not not you should talk to people you don’t know in public situations. This could be like service staff in a restaurant, people waiting in line with you at WalMart, fellow patients in a waiting room. He thinks if you talk at all, it should be brief and to the point, Generally he feels like you should mind your own business. I don’t initiate conversation, but I also don’t shut people down. What is proper etiquette in these situations?
To Talk or Not to Talk
I love this question. Recently, I moved from the East Coast back to Indiana. One of the things that I noticed immediately was how many random people talked to me or asked me my opinion in public places. I have been privy to people’s medical problems, family arguments, money woes, alcohol preferences and much more just by being caught in a long fast food line. While I think being friendly is a glue that holds our fragile society together, I also know that over sharing can be overwhelming to the person on the receiving end. My thought is what if you are the only person who listens to that stranger today? Maybe my listening ear and understanding smile might be a bright point in their day. However, when it gets too personal you don’t have to listen. Politely find an excuse to duck out. You are not obliged to be a therapist, a parent or a close friend. You mainly just need to be as friendly as you can be and take it all into perspective. And if you are an over-sharer, remember that there is a line that you shouldn’t cross when it comes to speaking to a stranger. I think asking whether they prefer boxes or briefs while standing in the men’s underwear aisle is a good starting point.
Stay friendly, but not too friendly.