Sitting in a coffee shop trying to make eye contact with passersby can be super awkward.
Sharyn Sadauskas knows – she’s tried.
It’s inevitable to see people pull out a phone, book or laptop to fill the void of being alone.
“Once you do that, a wall goes up,” Sadauskas says. “And some of us are better than others at reading body language or social cues.”
Someone buried in work or reading doesn’t appear interested in a conversation, but sometimes a little distraction is just what’s needed.
That’s where her “I’d love to talk” campaign comes in.
Sadauskas hopes to make it as simple as a yellow flower providing a visual cue that someone is open to conversation.
“One day everyone will know what a yellow flower means like they know what a rainbow means.”
While she started promoting the campaign in June 2022, the idea of interacting with strangers germinated naturally during health measures that kept people apart in 2020. Just before that, Sadauskas left a volunteer position that was demanding – both emotionally and time-wise.
She felt two options – look to find an activity to fill a void, or look for make use of her special skill. She chose the latter, with inspiration from a letter her mother wrote her years earlier that highlighted an enviable trait.
“Everyone talks to you,” her mother wrote, painting a picture of the two them at a bus stop – where strangers invariably choose to engage with her daughter.
It was a perfect example of a skill Sadauskas wanted to share, but had to figure out how to create value and growth.
During restrictions on gatherings, she once kayaked at Cameron Lake, and while pulling up at the beach came across another solo human. She walked to her car, wearing an unexpected smile, then she realized it was there because of their small interaction.
“Sometimes it’s not about telling someone your deepest dreams or fears … it’s as simple as ‘should I go get my fishing rod?’” she says.
That cemented her goal to create the “I’d love to talk” campaign, which started with coasters and table signs bearing a big yellow flower and the words inviting conversation.
“There’s no question about what you’re supposed to do,” Sadauskas says.
She recalls a co-worker having one up on the table during a meeting regarding the signs. When the second person left, he pulled out his phone – forgetting the sign was up.
A 93-year-old woman came over to chat and the two enjoyed a conversation about her late husband and other such topics a nonagenarian might have on their minds.
Two things struck her. First, someone with 93-year-old eyes could see and read the card. Second, the woman understood the assignment and did not hesitate.
Sadauskas figures one in 10 people actually want to be left alone – or think they do – but most folks really want to connect.
A Parksville resident, she started stocking the signage at places where folks might stop for a spell in her community.
As a hockey parent, she’s on the road and sees strong support from what she calls community champions in Greater Victoria.
Moka House in Victoria, for example, keeps them in stock, but there are spaces – community centres, churches and coffee shops – up and down the Island as far off as Pitt Meadows that participate.
Her hope now is that folks will take it on without the table signs, simply seeing a yellow flower on a table could signal a desire for conversation.
“It’s not a guaranteed conversation,” she warns. But if it doesn’t work the first time – try again.