Read, then discuss: Happy people cut the chit-chat
Add to the long list of factors that may affect your overall happiness and well-being: Your ratio of idle chatter to deep and meaningful conversation.
A study in the March issue of Psychological Science shows that folks who tend to engage in substantial conversations more than in shallow chatter also tend to be happier than those whose talk is mostly light and breezy.
Researchers in the department of psychology at the University of Arizona, Tucson, used unobtrusive recording devices to catch snippets of 79 undergraduate students' conversations for 30 seconds every 12.5 minutes throughout the day for four days. They also measured the participants' self-reported levels of life satisfaction and general happiness using standard assessment tools.
Analyzing the more than 23,000 samples of talk they captured, they found that the happiest people spent 25 percent less time alone and 70 percent more time talking than the unhappiest. But they engaged in about 1/3 as much small talk.
"Naturally, " the study notes,
our correlational findings are causally ambiguous. On the one hand, well-being may be causally antecedent to having substantive interactions; happy people may be "social attractors" who facilitate deep social encounters.... On the other hand, deep conversations may actually make people happier. 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. Therefore, our results raise the interesting possibility that happiness can be increased by facilitating substantive conversations.... Future research should examine this possibility experimentally.
Still, it's worth considering whether the quality of our conversation is related to the quality of our lives. If you find yourself limited largely to "What's for supper?" and "Pass the remote," perhaps you could try talking about something a bit weightier.
The Checkup pledges to continue providing fodder for meaty discussions. We just want you to be happy.
Please vote in today's deep and meaningful poll!
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Jennifer LaRue Huget
March 8, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: General Health
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