Most of us spend an enormous amount of time and energy in today’s world trying to keep people at arm’s length. I’ll never understand this, because I was brought up at a time when relatives and neighbors stopped by all the time.

Why don’t we just say hello to fellow travelers when we’re on an elevator? They might not be receptive to the greeting, but why not give it a shot? The most likely scenario is this one: They’ll say something pleasant in return, you’ll have a little smile and a friendly moment, and then you’ll go on your way feeling just a little bit more connected to your fellow humans. If you don’t want to chat and you’re a bit of a risk taker you could simply turn around to face everyone and just smile. I’ve tried that tactic and gotten a lot of laughs.

I talk to everyone. But that’s just who I am. Not everyone has the need, desire or comfort level to do that. I always start chatting with the person next to me on an airplane. And I know that the instant I open my mouth, they’ll try to eye the stewardess to get their seat changed, even if I have no intention of gabbing all the way to Cleveland. I have a life, too, and I want to read, work, or take a nap on the plane, just like everybody else. But having a few moments of civil and entertaining conversation makes us both a little more human. I say something silly, and we’ll have a little laugh. If the person happens to be a real dolt who won’t engage with me, I’ll just try harder. I find people who won’t talk to me a challenge.

I never check out of the supermarket without saying something funny to the person working the register. As I’m paying my bill I ask them to “Check me out!” I’ve had engaging and hilarious conversations with taxi drivers, hair stylists, bank tellers, and, you guessed it — people in elevators. I’ve also learned some amazing things. Talking to most folks is an education. You learn about the places they live, what they do, and there are times when I’ve even gotten jobs because of my interactions.

To me, not trying to connect is the opposite of engaging in life — it’s isolating myself. We need more actually face-to-face connection simply because so much communication is now done via texting, and emailing. Ashley Montagu said it best, “Human connection is more than media and messages, information and persuasion; it also meets a deeper need and serves a higher purpose. Whether clear or garbled, tumultuous or silent, deliberate or fatally inadvertent, communication is the ground of meeting and the foundation of community. It is, in short, the essential human connection.”

— Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Visit her website at stressed.com.