“I get nervous at conferences,” author Kio Stark told Convene when we interviewed her earlier this winter about her book, When Strangers Meet: How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You. “I try really hard to introduce myself to people when I’m in a one-on-one situation or there’s not that many people,” said Stark, who teaches graduate classes in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University.
In her book, Stark drew lessons about how and why people talk to one another, including people they don’t know, from diverse fields. This one comes from urban planners. She writes:
“[An] easy way to start a conversation is by tossing out casual observations about the shared space you’re inhabiting. This is such a slam-dunk method that it sometimes even guides urban development. In their efforts to revive faltering parks and plazas or to construct successful new public spaces, city planners and urban thinkers want their public spaces to be hotbeds of interaction between strangers. They talk about this as a social good. One of their most intriguing strategies is to create points of triangulation.
“It’s deceptively simple. Interactions between strangers increase when there is something to talk about, something to make an observation about, a third thing to close the triangle between the two people who don’t know each other. Good public spaces have public art, busking musicians and performers, and food, as well as good places to sit like benches and shallow steps.”
Excerpted from When Strangers Meet: How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You, by Kio Stark. Published by TED Books.