I've never enjoyed small talk with strangers, but lockdown has made me crave it | Louis Staples

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The pandemic has revealed the true value of social interaction – and even changed my outlook on meeting new people

Last year, in what would turn out to be my last night out for a while, I found myself in a dreaded situation: at a friend’s drinks, speaking to a total stranger. Not long into our conversation, my brain started searching for escape routes. I had a full glass and there was a queue for the loo, so I put my acting skills to the test and told this perfectly harmless person that I – a man who has never smoked – “needed a cigarette”.

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I’m comfortable admitting that, before Covid, I didn’t think “meeting new people” was on my list of preferred pastimes. My Golden Globe-worthy performance as “man with cigarette” suggests I could possibly (definitely) be guilty of writing new people off before getting to know them, particularly if there wasn’t an immediate “spark” between us. As much as I love my friends, maintaining relationships takes time, so why open myself up to someone new if there’s no obvious connection?

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