Thursday, 26 March 2015

Let’s talk: It's "Time to change"

Whether you are with a friend on a walk or sitting next to a stranger on a park bench make a conversation. It'll make a positive change.
Picture from
I (and not only I) encourage Londoners to talk and be more open.

I was having a coffee in Starbucks at Kings Road when a lady next to me, also having her coffee, pulled out a map of London, clearly looking for something. I thought to help her find the place. At first. Second thought was: maybe not, she will be alright. Next ones: why do I bother, she will think I treat her like ‘a tourist’ and patronising her. In the end, I didn’t speak to her. She left the coffee shop and left me thinking what would happen if I did. I missed an opportunity to talk to somebody, make them feel less alone, help them, have a chat and leave a positive memory in their mind.
On another occasion, just recently, I was reading “New African” on the tube. A man next to me was clearly reading over my shoulder. It’s usually me doing it, so I wasn’t annoyed but rather wanted to offer him to read it properly. We could then discuss the content of the article or he could even take the magazine home. I thought it would cause a funny confusion. But I did neither of these. The man got off before me and we’ve never spoken about elections in Nigeria. 

I had more chances to talk to strangers – to engage with them, to make them and myself feel better, to feel that we’re not strangers but fellow passengers, fellow wanderers or fellow human beings. There were occasions that I used – to chat with a gentleman in the doctor’s waiting room or with a lady buying a wallet, who couldn’t read if it was made of leather. Even though we rather complain about missed opportunities than rejoice over what we’ve achieved I appreciate the difference that those conversations made. That’s why I regret the ones I didn’t make. 

Talking on a purpose makes a difference and it’s not only me who encourage doing it. “1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any year. Talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult but can make a difference.” This is what those behind “Time to change” campaign say. Mental health issues are a serious problem but facing the stigma related to them can be even worse. That’s why two leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink has started campaign “Time to change”. On the website they say: “We want to empower people with mental health problems to feel confident talking about the issue without facing discrimination. And we want the three quarters of the population who know someone with a mental health problem to talk about it too”.
You'll ask: but how? I don't know how to talk to a friend of mine and you want me to talk to a stranger? About what? How to start? Both charities give you a helping hand - "Conversation Starter". It's a simple pack containing some suggestions what you could talk about to other people, whether it is a stranger or your colleague at work.
Conversation starter - part of "Time to change" campaign
Let’s talk – to people on the train, neighbours, people in the line at the post-office, our colleagues, our families and friends. How many times we just keep quiet in the office, or call our parents for 5 minutes once a month, or only text our friends. I also struggle to start a conversation and need to overcome many barriers in my mind but “Time to change” conversatin starter is great to begin with.

The initiative is praiseworthy. Whenever I talk to a stranger, even if it’s just a small talk, it brings a smile on my face and leaves a warm feeling in my heart. Think that a conversation you make with that lady in the line in a shop can be the only conversation she has that day or that it can be your only conversation. Imagine how it can change your lives. You never know when you make a friend.
Surely, you heard that anecdote about a man who was driving in a car with his wife and smiling all the time to the people in other cars and to passers-by. When asked by the wife why he had been doing that 'silly' thing, he replied that he had heard that most people who consider commiting a suicide wouldn’t do it if someone smiled to them once! If a smile can change that much, how much more a simple conversation could do.

I myself am not a great conversation starter and I always regret it. I would like to have more meaningful conversation with people around and unite not only in complaining, when train or tube is late. I would like to know if they’re really alright, what they think about certain issues and how do they feel. Let’s not ignore each other, because of different backgrounds, appearances, habits or fashion choices but let’s talk. And when is a better time than when you are on a walk. You never know who you’ll meet on your way.

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