STANFORD, CA—Citing how devastatingly uncomfortable it makes people feel, a new report released by the Stanford University Sociology Department revealed Wednesday that it’s never okay to just start talking to someone you don’t know.
The report, which analyzed numerous conversations that took place over a nine-month period from September of last year through May, states that approaching a complete and total stranger and saying “Beautiful day,” “That’s nice, where did you get that?” or “Hello” is, under no circumstance, acceptable.
In fact, the study confirmed that in 0 percent of cases do individuals ever want to be spoken to by someone they don’t know, and that it is “downright wrong” to put people who are just going about their day in the awkward position of having to be polite and feign interest in what you—an unknown intruder, essentially—are saying.
“We found that the only people it’s appropriate to talk to are friends and relatives—no one else,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Simon Gamble, told reporters, adding that dads, senior citizens, and “people who think they’re being friendly but really need to just mind their own business” are typically guilty of trying to relate to unfamiliar people. “Ninety-five percent of the time, the people being talked to experience an extreme spike in anxiety. The only thoughts going through their heads during these unwanted conversations with strangers are ‘Stop talking to me. I don’t know you. Please go away.’”
“If you feel the urge to talk to someone you don’t know, the right thing to do is suppress the impulse and just leave that individual alone,” he continued, adding that cordially smiling at someone you’ve never met is also not okay. “It doesn’t matter if you both happen to be wearing the same T-shirt.”
The report indicates that even in situations in which you might share common circumstances with a stranger—such as when you are both in a long line that doesn’t seem to be moving, or are both experiencing hot, cold, nice, or terrible weather—it is unacceptable to verbally acknowledge that reality. The appropriate thing to do, the report notes, is to face forward and keep silent.
In addition, just because you are sitting next to someone you don’t know on a bus or airplane, that doesn’t give you any right to talk to that person, even if he or she is reading a book you once read. The study goes on to state that talking to an unfamiliar person in a setting where the individual essentially can’t escape the conversation is “one of the cruelest things one human being can do to another human being.”
“Often, the person being talked to will laugh at the other’s jokes,” Gamble said. “This is always fake laughter.”
The study confirmed the following people never want to be spoken to by a stranger: people eating at the same restaurant as you; someone who is wearing a pair of shoes or a hat you like; individuals who are also waiting for the same delayed train; coworkers; a man or woman who is using a laptop you are considering buying for yourself; an individual attending the same sporting event as you; a young person who works at a job you once had years ago; and anyone who has children or pets, especially if you are a person who also has children or pets.
“If you are an outgoing individual who likes striking up conversations with strangers, you are a source of constant discomfort in this world, and have nothing to offer but anxiety and pain,” said Dr. Andrea Malcolm, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. “People don’t care that you once owned the same car or cellular phone as them, or that you loved it. They don’t care about your opinion one way or the other. They just want you to stop making their lives a living hell.”
“To them,” Malcolm continued, “you might as well be a crazy person, because why are you talking to someone you don’t even know?”
According to the report, the people who are living correctly are those who don’t want to step outside their comfort zones and relate to others.
“Your comfort zone is there for a reason,” Gamble said. “It’s so you can stay comfortable. If someone breaches that by saying hello to you, that person is the asshole, not you. Remember that.”