David and Stephen Flynn
The happy pear podcast logo
David and Stephen Flynn

The Happy Pear Podcast

Do you talk to strangers?

When you think of the word ‘stranger’, does danger come to mind?

This week we talk to the insightful Joe Keohane, a veteran journalist who has held high-level editing positions at Medium, Esquire, Entrepreneur, and Hemispheres. His writing—on everything from politics, to travel, to social science, business, and technology—has appeared in New York magazine, The Boston Globe, The New Yorker, Wired, Boston magazine, The New Republic, and several textbooks. An avid parallel parker and occasional working musician, he also won a prestigious Screenwriters Colony fellowship in 2017 for a comedy television pilot that remains, sadly, unproduced.

Episode 9 – Joe Keohane

In this episode we talk to him about his latest book; The Power of Strangers; The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World – An exploration of why we don’t talk to strangers, and the wonderful things that would happen if we did.

As some of you might know we are very vocal advocates for ‘loose social interactions’. We love talking to strangers, and any acquaintances we may come across – we simply find people fascinating! So naturally, this conversation was right up our alley.

Joe is hilarious, he realised he wasn’t the best at striking up conversations with random people so he thought he would challenge himself by finding out why, and furthermore, is this is a common thing with most people nowadays in our screen-watching world? So he found a course on the topic (that’s right, a course on ‘how to talk to strangers’) and set off to London to find out how!

“There is a really good technique I learned when I was doing this which is, don’t ask people what they do, ask them what they would like to do more of or less of, and that will get you a really interesting answer. The person might say “I am a chartered accountant” and you ask; “well what do you want to do more of”, they might say “oh ballet”, and then you exclaim “oh that’s interesting! A ballet dancing accountant, that’s unusual” … and then you are off to the races! That gets you to understanding peoples motivation and individuality. Thats the way you can break the script of boring cocktail party chatter.”

From the psychology, to the history, to the practical. Joe takes us through it all in this episode. We talk social studies, individual experiences and for a pair of extrovert-chatty-twins, we even managed to learn a lot!

“There wasn’t much difference between introverts and extroverts in the actual study. They seem to have the same experience. The extroverts are more comfortable initiating the interaction but the introverts got the same benefits from it once they started doing it. And my theory is (based on my own research), is that the skills you need to be really good at this are introvert skills. It’s listening, it’s noticing, it’s paying attention, it’s not stepping all over somebody, it’s not doing the thing that everyone does in conversations where you are just looking for a way in to talk about yourself. Those skills are invaluable. So I feel that introverts can learn from extroverts in the way that extroverts are good at going up to people. But extroverts need to learn from introverts in the way that you conduct the conversation, in the way that you learn to listen to people, and you don’t make everything about you and you ask them questions about their lives etc…”

Give the episode a listen, then go out and strike a conversation with a stranger! Go and explore! Who knows where it may take you 😉

Big love,

Dave & Steve


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Theodore Zeldin