Anxious about talking to new people? Listen to 6 Minute English


Neil: Hello. This is 6 Minute English and I’m Neil. Joining me for our discussion is Georgina. Georgina: Hello! Neil: Now, Georgina, you’re a chatty, sociable kind of person, aren’t you? Georgina: Well, yes, I think so. Neil: But would you go up to a stranger and strike up a conversation? Georgina: That might be going too far – if you don’t know them, what are you going to start talking about? Neil: A good question. But maybe you should – because in this programme we’re looking at how talking to strangers might actually be good for you! But first, let me talk to you about today’s question. I’d like you to answer this. To make conversation we need words – so according to the Oxford English dictionary, approximately how many words are in use in the English language? Is it… a) 171,146; b) 271,146 or c) 371,146? Georgina: We use a lot of words in English, but not 371,000 – so I’ll go for a) 171,146. Neil: OK. Well, as always I will reveal the answer later in the programme. Now, let’s continue our conversation about having conversations with strangers! Many of us spend part of every day surrounded by strangers, whether on our commute to work, sitting in a park or cafe, or visiting the supermarket. Georgina: But we rarely reach out and talk to them because we fear it would make us both feel uncomfortable – or awkward. And Gillian Sandstrom, social psychologist from Essex University in the UK, can explain why. Here she is speaking on BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind programme… Gillian Sandstrom: We kind of underestimate, we have this negative voice in our head that’s telling us “I shouldn’t have said that, why did I do that? I said that story better last time”. But the other person doesn’t know any of that and they’re probably – you know, they might be anticipating that they won’t have a positive conversation and then they do. And they think, wow, that person was amazing. So we walk round with this fear that the other person isn’t going to be interested in talking to us. Georgina: Fascinating stuff. So we have a negative voice in our head telling us about all the bad things that might happen. We basically underestimate ourselves. Neil: To underestimate means to think that something is smaller or less important than it really is. We worry that what we say won’t be interesting or important enough. Georgina: Ah, but the other person doesn’t know that. They’re also anticipating – or guessing – the outcome. They’re thinking that if they have a conversation, it won’t go well. But of course, when strangers do talk to each other it normally goes well. Neil: Yes, it’s just fear that is stopping us. But if we get over that fear, and get chatting, people might actually like us – and we might make new friends. Georgina: Another reason why you should pluck up the courage to talk to strangers is that it’s good for our health! Neil: ‘Pluck up the courage’ – that’s a good phrase, Georgina, meaning force yourself to do something that you’re scared about and… research by the University of Chicago found we may often underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others for both our own and others’ wellbeing. Georgina: And connecting here means starting or having a good relationship with someone. So the research found that, for example, having a conversation with a stranger on your way to work may leave you both feeling happier than you would think. Neil: Gillian Sandstrom also spoke about her research and the power of talking to strangers on the You and Yours programme. Listen out for the word ‘connected’ – Gillian Sandstrom: What we’ve shown in the research is that it’s really good for your mood. So people are in a better mood after they reach out and have a conversation, however minimal, and the other thing that the research has shown is that just makes people feel more connected to each other. Neil: There you go! Talking to strangers is good for our mood – and mood means the way we feel. It’s good for our mental health – and we might discover people actually like us! And even if we’re an introvert – a person who prefers to be alone rather than with other people – experiments have shown that talking to others can make us happier. Georgina: The problem remains, Neil, that when speaking to someone new, what do you talk about? Neil: How about some interesting facts – like approximately how many words are in use in the English language? Which is what I asked you earlier. Is it? a) 171,146; b) 271,146 or c) 371,146? What did you say, Georgina? Georgina: I said 171,146. Was I right? Neil: Spot on, Georgina. Well done! Yes, there are an estimated 171,146 words currently in use in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary – plus many more obsolete words. Georgina: I shall pick a few of them and make conversation with someone on the Tube later, but not before we recap some of the vocabulary we’ve explained. Neil: Yes – so we highlighted six words, starting with underestimate which is to think that something is smaller or less important than it really is. Georgina: Anticipating means guessing or expecting a certain outcome. I anticipate this programme to be 6 minutes long! Neil: That’s a given! Next, we mentioned the phrase to pluck up the courage, meaning to force yourself to do something that you’re scared or nervous about. Georgina: When you connect with someone, it means you start or have a good relationship with someone. I think we’ve connected on this programme, Neil! Neil: Absolutely, Georgina. And that’s put me in a good mood – mood means the way we feel. Georgina: And finally, an introvert is a person who prefers to spend time on their own. Neil: Thanks, Georgina. Well, that’s our conversation over, but you can hear more from us on our website and on our app. Goodbye! Georgina: Bye!

29 thoughts on “Anxious about talking to new people? Listen to 6 Minute English”

  1. Apparently, anxiety can be helpful to us! There's even an evolutionary cause! Find out how and why in this 6 Minute English: Anxiety and evolution: Has anxiety been good for humans?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mQkGyApBX0&list=PLcetZ6gSk96-FECmH9l7Vlx5VDigvgZpt&index=34&

  2. My boss never underestimate my ideas.

    Since my team delivered the projects before the deadlines, I am anticipating to get a good hike from my employer.

    Finally, I plucked out all the courage to ask a paid leave to my manager.

    I love to connect with my colleagues.

    I want to experience how it feels as an introvert. 🙂

    Thanks BBC learning English. 💗

  3. oh! a week ago during an hour flight i could not talk to a stranger . a couple of time i gathered courage to initiate conversation but faild , because the stranger was a girl.

  4. I think it becomes difficult to talk with strangers since everyone keep using cell phone and pretending not seeing each other!

  5. I think this might be culture difference. In korea, if someone starts conversation with stranger, usually we think he or she is swindler…

  6. We have a tradition connecting to British. We recognise their gestures unknowingly anything apart from that annoy us.

  7. Hi guys. The question is not how many words are being used in the English language, but it is how many words or expresions should anyone learn to speak it fluently?
    I think if I spend my life learning new vocabulary, I won't finish.
    For me I'm not an extrovert and I think it is impolite to start a conversation with people whom you don't know.
    Last month I was returning home by bus and my coworker was sitting beside me. We were discussing the cost of his farm and suddenly, a person sitting in front of us started talking about the case, then we stopped talking until we got off the bus.

  8. My mind tells me that I am an introvert but sometimes when I reach out to new people , it goes smoothly
    On the other hand , when I reach out to people I knew in the past like old friends , it doesn't work 🙃

  9. I underestimated the positive impact on working with my friends, but I had to pluck up the courage to finish the works.

  10. How to make small talk or to get to know a stranger or to make a new friend:
    Firstly, smile 🙂
    Then, ask some questions.
    After that, compliment his or her.
    Finally, you have to be confident, not arrogant, I mean you have to be humble.
    To sum up: smile, ask, compliment, be humble.

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