Making Birmingham a friendlier city

Local Brummies share their best tips for small talk and pledge to start conversations with neighbours and people they don’t already know.

The Make Someone’s Day campaign focus on making Birmingham a friendlier city by encouraging citizens to start conversations with people they meet when they’re out and about, conversations that when made into a habit can lead to increased connections and friendship. The campaign launched in Pype Hayes Park on Friday 30 August.

By 2020, almost 57,000 people aged 65 plus will be living alone in Birmingham, increasing their risk of being isolated, this is higher than the national average and research has shown that almost half of people living in Birmingham (49%) say their neighbours are like strangers to them.

“Everyone has a story and something to say.” Nina, Tyburn

Human company is very important to our happiness. Without it, we are more likely to experience a decline in physical and mental wellbeing. There are links with stress, lower self-esteem, disturbed sleep, cardiovascular disease, dementia and other mental health outcomes. Loneliness is said to have a similar effect on people’s health as smoking or alcoholism. Without connections, you get stuck in a rut, and out of the habit of meeting people.

The campaign urges everyone to speak to people around them – whether in the shop queue, at the bus stop or elsewhere.

Julian said he connects with people in the park over his interest in fishing. Meeting fellow fishermen by the water means they can share skills and knowledge about their hobby.

“One of the best conversations starters for me is when I meet other fishermen and I ask what baits they use and we share different techniques.”

You can help combat social isolation and loneliness by starting conversations with people you don’t already know. And if you already speak to two neighbours, make that three, or four. Take the opportunity to speak to people you meet on the bus, in the local shop, in the park, over the garden fence, when you’re fishing, shopping, running errands or taking a rest on a bench on the high street.

If you’re not sure how to start a conversation, the people of Pype Hayes have lots of tips for you, and there’s a website about how to start conversations too, how to keep it flowing smoothly and even how to end it: https://bemoreus.org.uk/how-to-talk-to-strangers/

Tips from people in Pype Hayes:

  • Give someone a compliment – “That’s a nice sweater.” or “I like your shoes.” can lead to further conversations about where things are from, what they mean to us, what we may have in common (you both like that colour sweater).
  • The weather! Never-failing, it’s something we all experience and that’s why it’s a great conversation starter!
  • Heather, from Tyburn, said she felt isolated when she was a stay at home mum, and so always try to start a conversation with parents she bumps into. She’ll ask how old their child is, and from there the conversation usually leads onto other subjects.
  • Asking how someone’s day has been was a tip that people of all ages gave.
  • Asking what football team someone is supporting was also suggested by several, mainly young, people.