More than strangers
Is that what I am doing right now? Trying to be more than a stranger to whoever is reading this? All too often people are alone together; independent in a shared space. This idea was presented by Erving Goffman (1963). Common situations of public transit, a coffee shop, or elevator get discussed, but Goffman also asked the question of when does a stranger not become a stranger anymore? And this made me question the relationships… or lack thereof.. at the gym.
The gym is a very interesting place, and given Goffman’s’ proposal of alone together; people tend to go to the gym routinely as their schedule allows. So, it is common to be familiar with who you are sharing a space with; you may have an idea of what style of workout they do, their goals, water intake, dedication and other characteristics. Yet, you are still strangers.
During university days, I would go to the campus gym at SFU and would see this girl working out; she trained in a similar style to me, was one of the strongest people at this gym, and had a good energy to her. After about one year of seeing her there about 3x each week, I went up to her, asked her name and let her know I joined a rugby team. I had never played before, but even after two practices I loved it and something about it made me believe she would too. Now Victoria still plays rugby and is my best friend!
Goffman discusses being uncomfortable in talking to strangers because it is ‘breaking a rule’ of sorts. At the same SFU gym there was a guy I had seen for nearly 3 years. And then one night I was bussing home at 3am and he got on. It was quite full so we sat across from each other, he gave me a nod and looked away. I said “No, no, you know me: Hi! I am Tiana” and shook his hand. We started talking, and after a few more conversations he helped me get a job with him at a moving company. We are still friends and I am onto my third promotion with You Move Me.
The line that strangers become more than strangers, if I will, is fine; yet in my experience there is great benefit from stepping into that discomfort and asking to be more than a stranger.