Less small talk and more substantive conversations = Happiness

Is a happy life filled with trivial chatter or reflective and profound conversations? Psychological scientists…investigated whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to engage in.

Volunteers wore an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) over four days. This device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives. For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings. Researchers then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. In addition, the volunteers completed personality and well-being assessments.

As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, analysis of the recordings revealed some very interesting findings. Greater well-being was related to spending less time alone and more time talking to others: The happiest participants spent 25% less time alone and 70% more time talking than the unhappiest participants.

In addition to the difference in the amount of social interactions happy and unhappy people had, there was also a difference in the types of conversations they took part in: The happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.

These findings suggest that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial. The researchers surmise that — though the current findings cannot identify the causal direction — deep conversations may have the potential to make people happier. They note, “Just as self-disclosure can instill a sense of intimacy in a relationship, deep conversations may instill a sense of meaning in the interaction partners.”

I hope the time I spend talking online to you lot counts. Otherwise it’s just me and the dogs until my wife gets home from work.

2 thoughts on “Less small talk and more substantive conversations = Happiness

  1. Morey says:

    I can tell you for a fact that nothing will make me miserable faster than being with people whose conversation never goes beyond small talk.

    the happy life is social

    And now, we need to work on what it means to be “social”. šŸ˜‰

    • keaneo says:

      I think we know why Eid included the webizens who wander through here as part of his “society”.

      Perfectly reasonable cover for a hermit in the cyber age.

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