Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

“Don’t Talk To Strangers”…a dumb lesson that needs to be unlearned
August 26, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Recruiting, Research, Thoughts

My friend Jeff’s oldest daughter was learning one day in kindergarten a lesson that I’m sure all of us learned – that you are not supposed to talk to strangers. Having been taught something different, she raised her hand during this lesson and said, “Teacher, my daddy says that’s not right!” Confused, and a little alarmed by this, the teacher asked her to explain. She continued to say, “My daddy says that if you never talk to strangers, you won’t make any new friends. He says it’s OK to say hello to strangers, but you’re not supposed to go anywhere with them or take anything from them.” The teacher was impressed with this thought process and thus changed the lesson of the day in the class.

If you think about it, this lesson is so deeply ingrained in most of us that we tend to not acknowledge or go out of our way to say hello to or meet new people. Is it any wonder why as adults we tend to have fears in going up to a perfect stranger and introducing ourselves? Since we’ve been taught all our lives that strangers are bad and aren’t to be communicated with, as adults that lesson has been written deeply into our brains, and thus we miss out on so many opportunities to meet new people, make new friends, create new business relationships, etc.

From a recruitment, and sourcing, standpoint, this is the dumbest and most crippling lesson we could have learned. Being unwilling or scared to reach out to prospective candidates, you might as well find a different career.

And guess what? LinkedIn’s new user agreement basically telling us not to talk to strangers. Not only that, communicating with strangers on LinkedIn can potentially get you slapped on the wrist and kicked off. Thanks a lot, LinkedIn. You’re that good-intentioned kindergarten teacher who scared us into not communicating with other people.

So – those of you with small children, learn from your mistakes and don’t handicap them for life by teaching them bad lessons. Equip them with appropriate levels of caution toward people they don’t know, but don’t cripple them socially, and potentially professionally down the road, by scaring them away from making new friends.


3 Comments so far
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LinkedIn should mimic Facebook’s poke feature, but instead of making it something silly and useless, it should be something like I’d like to get to know you. Right now there is no way to do this without introductions, and the introductions interface kind of sucks.

You could choose to have these “pokes” come with e-mail notifications or not. I would stay that e-mail notification should be opt-in, so that LinkedIn users don’t get flooded with e-mails from people they don’t know.

It’s such a simple problem to solve.

Comment by Willy

Interesting take! As a mom of 4 ranging in ages from young single digits to angsting double digits, I tend to teach the youngest, don’t talk to strangers period but as they get older, give them the social skills needed to make their own judgments.

Self-confidence and not being afraid of a ‘no!’ answer is also a great skill to deliver to kids as well. My early corporate life would have been far easier…..

Data points, Barbara

Comment by Barbara Ling

Great way to put into perspective how ridiculous society’s ways can be sometimes (and also linkedin’s!). Great post!

— jeff

Comment by Jeff Versluis

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