Talk To The Barista - Everyday Empathy and The Strength of Weak Ties

Multiple studies have found that if we want to create/extend our social/professional spheres we should strike up a conversation with our neighbor, the woman behind us in the check-out line, and the woman sitting next to us on the bus.

We all dream of having that handful of dear friends to grow up and then old with. We want those shared laughs and tears. We want to know that we have someone who has a sofa we and our 3 unruly kids could crash on in the event of a nasty divorce. Someone to whom we can, slowly or quickly, reveal ourselves.

There’s something about having a woman (other than Mom) love us that makes us feel fierce, sane, and safe. Solid friendships between women can be the difference between life and death.

But we all need the other kind of friendships too. That’s why I’ll talk to anyone and everyone about anything. It mortifies my kids, but f**k them, because the  weak social ties  we have with the barista, cashier, customer, shop owner, hairdresser and postal carrier are what makes us feel part of a community and humans need that. "Micro"   friendships increase our ability to empathise with other humans and provide insight into our own biases. We feel less lonely when we engage - even on the most superficial/casual level - with the people we encounter in the course of living our everyday lives.

Illustration by Mónica Andino

Illustration by Mónica Andino

The best way to get a job is to make all kinds of friends with all kinds of people. I dislike the word “networking” because it implies, at least to some extent, that there are ulterior/selfish motives for a warm smile and banal chat. But it is true that the more acquaintances, weak ties, and micro friendships we cultivate the more successful we will be in procuring employment, housing, and romance.

If casual conversation with semi-strangers/weak ties makes you nervous remember that people (#NotAllPeople) desperately want/need to talk to other people. The  psychology department at Harvard University did a study and found that when we talk about ourselves we feel the same neural contentment as when we have a good meal. If you offer people the choice between getting cold hard cash or having an opportunity to speak to someone who will show up, shut up and listen, they’ll choose to mini-monologue almost every time.

People will pay by the hour to tell their story, i.e. therapy.

“Amazing hat! Where’d you find it?”, “Are you as bored as I am?”, “Are those your kids?”, “What breed is your dog?” are a few of my favorite conversation starters but not everyone gives a shit about dogs so find your own thing. And when you can’t think of one clever, funny, or friendly thing to say you have my permission to comment on the weather. You’re welcome.

Article by VERVE Founder & CFO (Chief Feminist Operative) Anna Quick-Palmer

More blogs by Anna