Living in a society packed with strangers from all around the world, it’s no surprise that meeting people can change your life profoundly. You can run into someone new around any corner, and that person could change your path in extraordinary ways.
For some, however, interacting with new people can be intimidating. But embracing a connection doesn’t have to mean jumping into the unknown; you can dip your toe in by going out with someone new for a brief coffee. Whether you’re moving to another town or just reaching out to someone new for a chat, there have been many stories that show that one person can have an unexpected, positive impact on another’s life.
Meeting someone can open your eyes to an extensive range of benefits, even changing your outlook on the world. There are many positives to getting out there, from being inspired and building confidence to learning about new cultures. So meeting someone new can completely change your life for the better.
Finding someone who will inspire you is just one of the reasons to get out there and start a conversation with someone you’re unfamiliar with. These people we encounter are often our teachers or mentors in life—those who leave us with a new outlook.
The person who inspired Brianna Gunning the most (Gunning, 2016) was her Theatre Director and Speech teacher, Ms. Smith. Feeling overwhelmed by her studies, Brianna was ready to give up Stage Management. Ms. Smith, who saw possibilities for Brianna, encouraged her to keep going and push through the hard times. By just believing in her potential and telling her not to give up, Ms. Smith was able to teach Brianna that one can always learn something in tough times.
Research has shown that when we spend time with people who have positive attitudes, our own attitude improves as well. We now know that positive or negative emotions from the people around us can affect our subconscious. A study by the Royal Society of Open Science (Robert W. Eyre, 2017) revealed that emotions can be spread through social groups. The report found that people who were feeling bad were likely to affect their friends’ moods negatively too, with both parties recording feeling similar emotions. So if we seek out and communicate with people who have optimistic, inspiring mentalities, this can catalyze positive change in the way we think.
For Brianna, the supportive and positive mentality she learned from interacting with Ms. Smith allowed her to keep going and subsequently pushed her through life. Meeting someone who inspires you is going to change your life, leading you to adopt a better mindset.
Meeting someone new can help you develop hobbies and shape your interests. Every new person has skills to be shared — you can meet and learn from new people through clubs, volunteer groups, or church attendance.
Another example of a great place to connect with new people is in a support group for specific audiences and interests. When Lisa Morrissey met and befriended Diana Stefaniak (Dahl, 2008) in a Family Readiness Group, her life changed for the better. The support group, a place of comfort for military families, became a haven in which the two could lean on each other. Lisa and Diana became inseparable, hanging out whilst their other halves were away from home. When Lisa’s husband passed away, Diana was there to hold her hand and help her through the hard times. Lisa has said that she “couldn’t have functioned without Diana”, and this all came about thanks to the women’s decision to reach out to new people through this interest-based group. If they had not been brought together through this support group, Lisa and Diana may never have had such a meaningful friendship.
In today’s world of social media, it’s easier than ever to find someone with similar passions. Video calling has also been initiating intimate new connections. The company VideoSocialize is bringing groups together in online “mixers” on topics such as board games and golf, as well as career-centric conversations about areas like writing and coding. This makes it even easier to find someone who can change your life.
New skills learned from new friends and relationships can be a catalyst for changing your lifestyle. Take it from Lisa and Diana, who became lifelong friends through their shared identity as military wives. By intentionally crossing paths with others who have similar goals, you may find a new connection – someone who positively impacts your life.
They say opportunity comes to those who seek it. Meeting someone new opens up chances for new career prospects, particularly if you’re networking with industry contacts. By introducing yourself to someone new, you could be opening the door to a chance to further your career.
One example of how reaching out to someone new can lead to future success is the story of the researcher Kelsey Hodge-Hanson (Hodge-Hanson, 2020). Originally pursuing an aim to become a professor in academia, Kelsey realized and regretted that she hadn’t explored other possible career options outside of lab work. In a busy schedule filled with seminars and the lab, she felt she had no chance or time to meet new people. Feeling deflated, Kelsey reached out to a medical writer for a coffee and some advice to get started in medical writing. She thought the only way to move forward in a new career would be to obtain advice from someone new. Within two months, Kelsey had landed her dream job at a medical communications agency alongside the woman with whom she had originally gone for coffee. If Kelsey had never stepped out of her comfort zone and gone for a simple chat with that person, she may have found herself perpetually going around in circles in the lab.
In this world of technology, it’s possible to network with anyone, anywhere, and so get your foot in the door of a particular industry. All you need to do is have a little bit of confidence in order to reach out to someone new. By putting yourself out there, you’re instantly opening doors to career prospects. Kelsey was able to find a completely new career path simply by meeting someone new, and it changed her working situation positively and completely. Being brave enough to speak to someone new will open up new industry connections.
Putting yourself out there to socialize in a novel situation allows you to build confidence and self-esteem naturally. There’s no doubt that the more people you meet, the more confident you get: as The American Psychological Association found, there is a correlation between positive social relationships and self-esteem (American Psychological Association, 2019). With stronger support systems and acceptance from those around you, you’re more likely to feel confident in your self-worth.
We can see this confidence boost demonstrated in the story of two pen pals. Maria Montgomery wrote about how two young pen pals living in two very different countries – one in Kenya and one in Sweden – encouraged each other to have confidence (Montgomery, 2017). After the Swedish girl saw an ad in a magazine that a young girl in Kenya was seeking out a pen pal, the two girls started writing to each other. Throughout their youth, they stayed in touch, sending each other gifts and promising each other they’d eventually meet up. The girl from Sweden spent her life traveling and going around the world on exciting adventures, while the Kenyan girl lived her pen pal’s adventurous life vicariously.
In the whirlwind of life, the two eventually lost track of each other. However, after searching on Facebook for years, impeded by the fact that their names had changed, they finally found each other and exchanged messages. The Kenyan woman had moved to Seattle after being inspired to travel by her pen pal, and the two agreed to meet up for coffee in the city. When they met, the Kenyan woman’s husband was grateful to meet the pen pal, confessing, “Thank you. Without you, my wife would never have left Kenya. I would never have met her.” After this, the two stayed in contact and were friends for life.
The Kenyan woman would never have had the confidence to get out and explore if her pen pal had not shown her the breadth of the world. The decision to answer a magazine ad changed these women’s lives. Over the years of support and connection, both women built up the confidence to travel the world – enough even to seek each other out again.
By embracing vulnerability and exposing yourself to more connections, you can develop a greater sense of confidence and empowerment. The more social events you experience, the easier it gets to start a conversation or go out of the way to get to know someone. These new people can show you your more confident self.
Everybody comes from a different background, so when you meet someone new, they could introduce you to a culture you may never have seen before. In large, multicultural cities like London or New York, it’s easy to run into people who may not have had the same upbringing as you. Meeting someone from a different background can open your eyes to the lively diversity of the world.
Spending time with people from different cultures can also help you develop new skills, including learning languages or traditions. Many people seek out enlightening experiences by traveling abroad, leaving behind prejudices, and becoming open to new value systems.
One story which shows how experiencing culture through someone new can be life-changing comes from journalist and writer Otto English. Otto spent a year abroad in Bandung when he was 18, far from his home back in the UK (English, 2020). After having conversations about everything from religions to Japanese martial arts to favorite bands, he became attached to his host family. Crying upon his departure, English realised that the adventure of experiencing a new culture for a year had completely transformed his perspective. His understanding of different societies changed his life for the better, opening his eyes to the reality of the world and creating life-long friends.
The opportunity to meet someone new from a completely different culture immediately exposes you to new ideas, which could change your outlook on life. This enlightenment often helps people to understand the complexity of the world, and can even change perceptions.
It goes without saying that you’re more likely to have a stronger sense of empathy with friends than with strangers. Empathy means you not only consider, but also understand someone else’s feelings – you’re able to put yourself in their shoes.
We can strengthen our empathetic reactions by learning to be comfortable when observing someone else’s emotions. It’s scientifically proven that strong relationships and empathy are connected (Davis, 1987); it is even being reported that empathy is linked to living a longer life.
Clelia Mattana, a writer, told her story of building empathy after traveling around the world solo and meeting new people (Mattana, n.d.). When Clelia went traveling, she bumped into many different people from whom she learned that every person is unique. One particular moment she recalls was when, on a party island in Thailand, she met many other backpackers who were there to drink, party, and have a good time. When she met “D”, as she calls him, she thought he too was one of these “drunk lame backpackers”. However, after spending time with him, discussing life and traveling, she realized that he was more than just a backpacker – he was a complex person with deep feelings. They spent the night connecting and comforting each other. Clelia saw that everyone has their own story, and you can’t judge a book by its cover. She took this experience to heart and carries this understanding with her, becoming more compassionate to those she meets abroad and at home.
Simply by meeting one person who opened her eyes, Clelia kicked her habit of judging people before she really knew them. By interacting with new people, we can strengthen our empathy.
Don’t hold back when seeking out friendships and relationships, because one person can change everything in your life for the better. From becoming familiar with new cultures to building empathy, there are many incentives for putting yourself out there to meet someone new.
There are many ways to get “out there” and meet new people. You can go searching online with dating and friendship apps, as well as offline by gathering at conferences or groups. Take opportunities such as online mixers like VideoSocialize, where topics of interest are chosen to accommodate everyone. At these mixers, you can meet people in subject groups such as blogging or illustration. These opportunities optimize the chance of experiencing the life-changing effect of meeting a wide variety of individuals who may take you down a different road.
Newfound relationships can be the key to improving life. We can live a rich life with a wide social group, learning from others, and taking control of the lifestyle we enjoy. Next time you’re given the opportunity to mingle with someone new, don’t let it go – because it could change your life.
American Psychological Association. (2019, September 26). Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa. Retrieved from ScienceDaily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190926092416.htm
Dahl, J. (2008, September 18). Friends for Life. Retrieved from Redbook: https://www.redbookmag.com/life/friends-family/a3959/friends-for-life/
Davis, M. H. (1987). Maintenance of satisfaction in romantic relationships: Empathy and relational competence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 397-410. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-34340-001
English, O. (2020, August 6). The Gap Year Friend Who Changed My Life. Retrieved from Otto English: https://bylinetimes.com/2020/08/06/cost-of-coronavirus-the-gap-year-friend-who-changed-my-life/
Gunning, B. (2016, September 27). The Person Who Changed My Life. Retrieved from Odyssey: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-person-who-changed
Hodge-Hanson, K. (2020, July 9). How I cultivated connections outside academia- and landed a job. Retrieved from Sciencemag.org: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2020/07/how-i-cultivated-connections-outside-academia-and-landed-job
Mattana, C. (n.d.). “3 Encounters that changed my life”: How a corporate employee gained a new perspective through travel. Retrieved from ChrisGuillebeau.com: https://chrisguillebeau.com/3-encounters/
Montgomery, M. (2017, February 10). Goosebumps Story of the Week – an Inspirational Story about Friendship. Retrieved from Huffington Post: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/goosebumps-story-of-the-week-an-inspirational-story_b_589cce8ce4b02bbb1816c452
Robert W. Eyre, T. H. (2017, September 20). Spreading of components of mood in adolescent social networks. Royal Society of Open Science.
Articles on the videosocialize.com blog are commissioned by VideoSocialize from talented writers with a variety of backgrounds. All articles copyright VideoSocialize. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts on this article in a 4 person Zoom discussion which would be uploaded to YouTube? If so, please contact us.
Caitlin Casey is a freelance writer from London. She has a BA in English, American Literature and Creative Writing and specialises in online blog posts and poetry. She has written a self-published poetry book called ‘sister, sister’ and enjoys writing about everything from food, travel and lifestyle to current affairs and issues. When not writing, Caitlin can be found reading or trying new restaurants.