According to a study published in Psychological Science by researchers at the University of Arizona, people who have meaningful conversations are happier than those who primarily engage in small talk.
The study looked at the different kinds of conversations among people who are happy and those who are unhappy. Participants were requested to wear an inconspicuous recording device for four days to observe the conversations they had with other people.
The results revealed that the type of conversations people had were related their level of happiness. While cheerful people were more likely to have meaningful talks, the unhappy ones were more likely to engage in small talk.
The data does not show whether profound conversation causes happiness or vice versa, but a combination of both is likely.
Matthias Mehl, one of the study authors, suggested four ways to encourage more rewarding conversations:
- Dare to Disclose. Substantive conversations must involve some kind of personal disclosure. Next time you are having a conversation, try revealing something about yourself. You might be surprised at how the other person opens up.
- Be a full participant. Give your full attention to the other person.
- Find common ground. People look for common ground as a way to have more profound conversations.
- Embrace your environment. Find a place where you feel comfortable to engage in conversations. When people feel relaxed, their guard goes down. (Come to think of it, in the movies the great conversations always happen on park benches!)