I just learned about chatting benches! They are benches with signs on them to invite people to talk with strangers. Chatting benches are found in England, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Ukraine, and the United States. Chatting benches are also called talking benches, happy benches, or “happy to chat” benches.
What Inspired Chatting Benches?
From what I can tell, Allison Owen-Jones from Wales kicked off the idea a few years ago. She noticed people sitting alone on benches and wondered if they wanted company. Not wanting to impose, she came up with an idea to safely invite people to talk by putting out a sign that said, ‘Happy to chat bench. Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’.
What happened next was that people began talking! It became such a success that people began laminating cards for park benches in different locales. Some cities have created permanent, designated “happy to chat” benches.
Chatting With Strangers
Chatting benches have been around for a few years now. I searched for data to see the social impact. Does it deliver on the promise to help create community and combat loneliness? I am not sure.
I can only say that when I lived at the oceanfront, it was rare that I could sit down on a bench by myself and stay alone for long. Someone would come up and start talking to me. These weren’t people searching for a date typically. They were men, women, young, old, dark, and fair.
Sometimes these would be breezy, superficial chats about the weather or how the fishing was going. Sometimes the conversation quickly turned into an “I’ve never told anyone this before, but…” revelation. That would be followed by a personal story that they really needed to get out. When we parted, they’d leave lighter than they were when they sat down.
Does that help? Definitely, if both parties are up for that. Don’t forget healthy boundaries!
That’s why I love the chatting bench idea. Want to support it?
All you have to do to create a chatting bench is create a sign and place it on a bench in a public space. Sit down and wait. See who you might meet. It’s really that easy.
Who knows? You could meet your neighbors, make friends, learn something, or find the love of your life! There could be lots of people out there yearning to connect. All they need is an invitation.
Want to virtually chat with strangers? Join my free private online sanctuary. They won’t be strangers long!