The Importance of Talking to strangers

Alexander Pasha
4 min readJul 14, 2022


I have, on a couple of occasions recently found myself on a train or in a coffee shop minding my own business when a stranger comes over and strikes up a conversation. I don’t know what it is about my face or whatever but this never ends up how every one told me it would as a kid: nobody has tried to lure me back to their flat for any diabolic rituals and nobody has tried to take advantage of me or my money. I think it keeps happening because I don’t like to use my headphones when I’m doing work or reading because I find the music distracting. These conversations are also distractions but they are welcome ones. They are almost certainly a better use of time than whatever email I was drafting.

In one recent conversation on a train, a recently homeless gulf war veteran who had just found housing was trying to explain to a confused looking teenager why although he was black, he was against open borders and voted for UKIP. Although I would happen to disagree with him on that point we were able to strike up a conversation where he could share the experiences which led him to that belief. How he felt abandoned by the British state when he left the army and didn’t get the support he needed, how he became homeless and started using, and then how he got clean and found his girlfriend who he was on his way to meet. When we got bored of the politics and life stories he asked me for some tips for his date and I obliged and we had a good laugh.

More recently, I was in a coffee shop where an older man with many tattoos who went by the name of ‘Stitch’ after the Disney character was with his teen daughter who had more than a passing resemblance to Lilo. He saw my laptop and wanted some advice on which MacBook to get for his daughter who was soon to start a creative media degree. we then got onto talking about ’80s computer hardware and programming, and then ended up on survivalism. He turned to me with a stony look and said “If you want to survive in the wild you need a good pair of Boots, which you have”–gesturing at my Doc Marten Brogues– “a good raincoat, and an axe. The axe is the most important thing, the axe will save your life.”

I now kinda wanna buy an axe, in a non-murdery way of course.

I find these conversations are happening more frequently, which is a good thing because every time I find myself becoming a little more empathetic, a little more open and willing to see people how they see themselves, rather than what I might project onto them.

In some of the more recent ones, I have become the instigator. I overhear an interesting conversation between strangers and I want in so I go over and ask a question. I don’t even get any funny looks when I’m the one to go over, most people I find are happy to talk to anyone about something they care about. Thats because even if they talk in an obsessive, slightly eccentric way, people who have interesting conversations are interesting to talk to. The conversation with the veteran on the train was one such conversation.

In a world full of shuttered, bourgeois ‘journalists’ telling us that the world is so fractured and so polarised that no-one can be trusted and that people of a different social class or background are out to get you, the most liberating thing is to talk to those people and realise that they are not. To realise that people are people who do good things sometimes and bad things sometimes and that you are one of them too. That is how you repair the rifts in the world.

Don’t ‘call them out’ with your opinion or make chesty judgements with your ego: exhibit your curiosity, sit back and listen to their life story. Ask questions, make jokes, but treat each other as equals. It will make you into a better person, and better people use their privilege to work more effectively to the benefits of others.

TL:DR if an old geezer wants to give you their life story and you can make the time, stfu and let them speak!

P.S. Most people will be interested to hear your perspective too, my interest in AI often adds interesting spice to conversations, but only give it when it is asked for. Nobody needs more young, middle class people who read Medium droning on about their inner hopes and fears without anybody asking them for them because that is what Medium is for!



Alexander Pasha

I’m interested in Computers and Politics, though I sometimes talk about other things too.