2 min read

How to Make New Friends

Master the art of riding on the metro.

I was on the metro the other day, and a young guy beside me was reading a printout called 'Introduction to Advertising.'

I was intrigued, and I slyly started reading his text with him. In a few minutes, I asked him, "Are you doing an MBA?"

"No, B.Com." he said. I nodded, waiting for him to continue the conversation, but not too eagerly. He went back to his text, so I put on my earphones.

"Are you doing an MBA?" he asked me back after a few minutes. "Kind of," I said, after which I tried to explain Stoa to him, which I admit has been a bit of a challenge across age groups. He told me he had his interview with Bain & Company the next day.

"Ah okay, so let's see how good you are at guesstimates. They ask you that kind of thing, right? How many iPhone users does India have?"

We debated our approaches to the question for a while. At some point, I looked up at the metro station indicator and sure enough, I had missed my destination 4 stations ago. "Oh no, I'm sorry!" he said. "No no, this is very routine for me." I reassured him.

We shook hands, smiled at each other and I got off at the next station. I like to imagine that as I was leaving, at that precise moment, we both recognized the beauty of ephemeral relationships.

This Week's Recommendation

In adulthood, there are few 'playgrounds' where we can make friends. In daily life, we're too hesitant to go up to strangers and start conversations. Recent research shows that we imagine that fellow adults will be unwilling to talk to us if we approach them, but the opposite is likely true:

It turns out many of us wear ridiculously negative antisocial filters. Epley and his team found that people underestimate how positively others will respond when they reach out to express support. Research led by Stav Atir and Kristina Wald showed that most people underestimate how much they will learn from conversations with strangers.

In other research, people underestimated how much they would enjoy longer conversations with new acquaintances. People underestimated how much they’re going to enjoy deeper conversations compared to shallower conversations. They underestimated how much they would like the person.

What's more, it seems we're all better off when we talk to each other.

People randomly assigned to talk with a stranger enjoyed their trips consistently more than those instructed to keep to themselves. Introverts sometimes go into these situations with particularly low expectations, but both introverts and extroverts tended to enjoy conversations more than riding solo.

I'm making an effort to have more of these little interactions on the metro, and it has made my commute more exciting. I'm surrounded by interesting people with life stories of their own, and I can't wait to get to know more of them.

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