Mistakenly Seeking Solitude - OpEd, The Chronicle

Mistakenly Seeking Solitude

The Chronicle, 1 May 2018

On the count of three, Albert Hall suddenly echoed with a hundred new citizens saying together ‘Namaste’, ‘Ni Hau’, ‘Hola’, and ‘G’day’. Then we immediately laughed at the way we’d mispronounced each other’s greetings – particularly the Irish woman who’d just taught me to say ‘céad míle fáilte’ (‘a hundred thousand welcomes’).

Speaking at citizenship ceremonies is one of my favourite parts of being a federal member of parliament. To illustrate the point that each new citizen brings something valuable to Australia, I often ask them to take a single minute to teach a stranger how to say hello in their language or accent.

It’s not just at citizenship ceremonies where getting to know a new person can be more fun than we expected. A study by psychologists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder randomly asked commuters to strike up a conversation with a  stranger. Asked in advance how they thought it would affect their enjoyment of the train journey, most said it would be a burden. Asked afterwards, most said it made them happier. Other people, it turns out, are more interesting than we think.

Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fenner.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra


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