Why is it sometimes easy to open up to strangers than loved ones?
A lot of you must have had the experience of opening up to strangers, be it talking about your problems, your life goals, or sharing your deep dark secrets, or just being more yourself.
I have had this feeling quite often in recent times. One when I was planning to leave my job, the only person who knew about it was a friend I made on my trip to San Francisco. And then, when I was traveling through Europe, I met several people in front of whom it was easier to be just me without any pretense.
On one of the self-reflection days, I started wondering why it is so easy and why I don't think twice before opening up in front of the person I don't know so intimately and am able to form that inexplicable bond with. Why words and stories come out naturally while talking to a dorm-mate, to an Uber driver, to a fruit vendor, and the list is endless.
As I pondered over the topic, I came up with a few reasons that I could relate to.
We expect our loved ones to understand us and our problems, and assume that they will give the best solution or suggestion in such a case. But when this doesn’t happen, we tend to momentarily hate them (Hate is a strong word here!) and avoid having further discussions related to that topic with them.
But in the case of a stranger, we don’t really expect a perfect response from them, as a matter of fact, there is no or very little expectation that they would even understand us. At the time, we just want to talk out and maybe not expect anything in return, just a mere acknowledgment that they are listening. Just in case, if the person suggests something, we'd know deep down that the other party is not aware of the entire situation and hence it doesn't really matter if they have a positive or a negative or even a neutral response to it.
Breaking of expectations hurt, but again most of the expectations are irrelevant!
It is great to know the viewpoints of a person with a lifestyle completely different from ours or a person who has a different take on the whole situation. Sometimes an unbiased opinion given without knowing the complete story can actually turn out be more useful.
I have talked to several people lately about my blog, and long-term ideas, and for sure I have been able to receive many encouraging suggestions on how to continue working towards my goals.
Lack of context
Sure every conversation has some follow-up questions, but with a stranger, most of the times there are no follow up questions given the comfort zone. At other times, it is easier to dodge questions and change the topic or just say we are not very sure of the answer.
Basically, there is no digging of a situation or any uncomfortable conversations as there would be in case of a friend or a loved one.
The fear of being judged is one of the most prevalent fears and most of the times, it is difficult to overcome this innate quality of ours.
A stranger's opinion about us does not really matter in the long run, even if it does at the moment. We know deep down that there is a rare chance that we'll meet the person again. It is easy to ignore the judgemental comments if there are any because we have a choice to judge them back based on however illogical assumptions we have about them. We can easily end our conversation with them and be chill about the whole situation.
I remember talking to someone I met on a flight where I discussed with him my idea of leaving the tech industry and moving to arts. Incidentally, he was just a step away from offering me a job when I blabbered my plans about quitting and trying something new. And when he heard me, he was shocked and made such expressions that I had to stop talking about my big plans. But all of this didn't matter me at that point because I was happy to be able to talk myself out. That person's opinion didn't really matter that much as he didn't know the ins and outs of my life.
It is okay to sometimes listen to your heart and not the people outside!
No obligation to maintain a relationship
As I mentioned above, that sometimes when close ones fail to understand us, we start to avoid talking about the similar situations with them, in fear of judgment or a negative response.
But in the case of a stranger, there doesn't exist a relationship that can be broken. If they don't like our decisions or actions, we'd just not talk any further about the situation with them or not talk at all, without thinking about the impact on our non-existent relationship.
The end of the conversation would be the last thing to bother us.
But I'll admit it is great to have a friend who knows everything about you and you are comfortable talking about anything that goes on in your life!!