Most of us find ourselves in the company of strangers from time to time—on the bus or train, in a doctor’s office, or maybe at a work event. And most of us have the same inclination: to keep to ourselves rather than initiate a conversation that may end awkwardly. But Chicago Booth’s Ed O’Brien and his coauthors find that we’re not very good at predicting how these conversations will go, and that when we end up having them, they’re often more enjoyable than we expect.

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