One Man’s Journey to Speak With 10,000 Strangers

A great conversation is priceless.

Nov 15, 2019

Today, social media effortlessly brings people together from all over the world through shared interests. There are more and more ways for people to connect online.

But with our busy lives, with texting is replacing conversations, people are feeling lonely and actually communicating less. That's why Rob Lawless, a 28-year-old extrovert from Philadelphia who has spent the last four years having an hour-long face-to-face conversation with a stranger a day is so unique. 

“The concept of meeting up with someone for absolutely no reason other than just to get to know them is so foreign to people that they think there must be some agenda. In reality, I’m just here to sit with you and talk about anything,” Lawless told News 10.

During a typical day, he’ll speak to around four strangers and since 2015, he’s spoken to more than 2,800 people. Lawless loves to listen to others speak about what’s on their mind, whether it’s their love of Las Vegas sports betting, or how they’re struggling to earn a living.

No matter who he engages with, he never fails to listen and let the person share their piece. For Lawless, initiating these conversations is the best way to spend his time. After working in corporate right out of college, he felt he missed those one-to-one connections. Though he saw countless opportunities for social engagement, networking was never the goal. Instead, he opted to find a way to meet people in a non-pressured setting.

Lawless created robs10kfriendsproject in November 2015 and has continued speaking with new friends until this very day. An hour provides the perfect amount of time to really peel past the surface and get to know someone on a deeper level.

Lawless told News 10 that he started the project to get to know Philadelphia and its people better. He wanted to recapture the social environment he felt when he was on campus at Penn State where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in finance.

“I was very involved in college; I was tour guide, in a fraternity, and in committees. I could walk around campus and say hi to people because in one way or another, we knew each other,” Lawless said. “Going from college to the professional world, I completely lost that. So, when I moved to Philly, I told myself, ‘This is my campus now. This is my city to make it what I want.’ I want to create a space where I recognize people as I walk down the street.”

To complete his goal of 10K conversations, lawless will have to meet with one person every hour for 416 days straight but Lawless is taking it slow. He developed a 10-year plan to meet three to five people a day and he now has sponsors so he can do it full time. And he has taken his project on the road to NYC, LA and other cities.  To document all of his encounters, he takes an Instagram photo

No matter what they want to talk about, Lawless’ number one rule is to listen. He lets the other person direct the conversation wherever they want it to go, and many times, it feels like old friends catching up. Everyone has a unique story to share, and Lawless is on a mission to make sure he hears it.

“The people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard have given me perspective. When you meet people one-on-one, you start to understand what [different lives] are really like, and what things you take for granted,” Lawless said.

His future plans once he has completed his goal is to take his conversations to different countries if he can find enough sponsors. In the meantime, Lawson is helping make a face to face contact resurgence for the people in his city and beyond. A great conversation is priceless.

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6 Ways To Have Better Conversations (Using Active Listening)
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How to Make Friends as an Adult

REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.