Friday, 21 January 2011
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Talking to Strangers
January 15, 2011

How do you interact with service staff? I used to zone out or read when getting my nails done. Now, where possible, I try to connect.


I usually set positive intentions before any kind of meeting with people. So yesterday I set an intention that my time at the nail shop would be mutually transformational. And you know what? It was!

Firstly I shared with the nail technician about nail polish which had fewer damaging chemicals. This got us talking about skin care products which have harmful chemicals in them. She asked me where I got the nail polish so I shared with her and also said Watsons carries some skincare products with fewer chemicals in them now.

I also commented to another nail technician at the shop about liking bubble tea as she was drinking some. She shared with me that hers had red bean and big pearls in it and even gave me the block number and name of the shop to get it – without me asking!

Then since I became a walking library yesterday, I offered my picture books to the ladies at the nails shop. One – we’ll call her C – was mesmerised and read a few of my books, making comments, appreciating this way of spreading happiness, sharing her wisdom and understanding of the stories.

She said, “This is so relaxing! People have many things in their head and this can really relax them… these pictures…” C translated one of the stories for her Vietnamese colleague, too.


The nail technician enjoying the authors' picture books and sharing her stories about happiness. Credit: Vadivu Govind

The nail technician enjoying the authors' picture books and sharing her stories about happiness. (Photo by Vadivu Govind)

She also shared two stories from Vietnam with me. One was about a man who worked for many years, lost his job, lost his girlfriend and became sick.

But doctors couldn’t diagnose his illness so he went to a psychologist who said “Watch the clock for one minute then I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you”.

In 15 seconds, the man became impatient and told the doctor, “Just tell me what is wrong with me!”

The doctor told him to watch the clock for another minute. The man looked at the clock and it felt like eternity. He insisted that he hear the diagnosis immediately.

The doctor told him to wait for another minute which again, he couldn’t. And finally he told him, “There’s nothing wrong with you medically. It is your mind! You cannot even keep your mind still and focused for one minute. How can you be trusted to do bigger things with your life?”

Wow! How true. How many of us can keep silent for even a few minutes without checking some electronic equipment for a message? C’s story reminded me of how we need to get connected within so we can create better connections with others around us.

When we reach out, people do respond. Sometimes we may be “rejected” and may get lukewarm responses or strange looks since people may not be used to friendly interactions. I have learnt to take such ”rejection” better (although I am built to be a sensitive person) because the rewards outweigh the downside.

Teachers are everywhere and we can gain a lot when we don’t judge people based on their educational level or socio-economic status. Wonderful connections lie in unexpected places… so does wisdom.

I left the nail shop with not just better-looking nails but information on where to get good bubble tea, a reminder about the importance of learning to still my mind and really, a heart full of joy of having connected with strangers who were no longer strangers.


Vadivu Govind also blogs at



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