Mehl and a team of researchers eavesdropped on people to see if what they talked about could be linked in any way to happiness. Based on 23,000 conversations that were analyzed for “the interplay of personality, conversational style and happiness,” the findings were clear:
“Happy people spend significantly more time talking to others in general, but engage in much less small talk (than dissatisfied people) and have about twice as many meaty conversations.”
Meaty conversations? Yes, please!
We interact with strangers pretty often – at parties, at work, when travelling. People we have to connect with on some level surround us, and that level is often superficial (weather, traffic/travel routes, how busy/tired we are). Snore.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Of every conversation you are part of, you own 50% right off the bat. Talk about what matters to you.
I get pretty deep with people right away (my grandmother always said I was nosy. I like to think I’m curious). At parties, I ask about politics, philosophy, human behaviour or whatever else comes to mind. At work, I ask about what people love about what they do. When travelling, I ask about where people have been and what they’ve learned.
Maybe it’s you?
I asked a small talk expert, my hairdresser, what she thought about it. She said that she actually quit at one point because she couldn’t take the small talk anymore. She just didn’t give a shit about what people were doing for Thanksgiving anymore. She was bored of the boring people. Fair enough. But then five months later, she realized she missed the interesting people and the social connection.
She might be on to something. Mehl’s study showed that “the happy life is social rather than solitary.” So, sure, there are boring people who will small talk you to death. But sift through. There are some interesting folks out there.
And if you haven’t found them yet, maybe try being more interesting yourself to make up for it. Become the happiest, most-meaningful talker in town. And then come visit me. : )