Happy Talk

Study finds that serious conversation makes people happier than small talk.  Forget small talk.  A study has found that people who spend more time discussing serious matters and the meaning of life are happier than those who talk about trivial matters like the weather. Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona, says “We found this so interesting, because it could have gone the other way – it could have been ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ – as long as you surf on the shallow level of life you’re happy, and if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy.”

Dr. Mehl’s study doesn’t prove any cause-and-effect connection between the tone of conversation and personal happiness.  He plans to study this further and will request that people have more substantive conversations and less small talk and measure those results.  Published in the journal Psychological Science, Mehl’s study involved 32 male and 47 female college students who wore electronically activated recorders with microphones to tape 30-second bits of conversation every 12 ½ minutes for four days, creating “an acoustic diary of their day.”  The happiest person in the study was found to have substantive conversations 45.9 percent of the time; the least happy person studied spent only 21.8 percent of his time in substantive conversation

“By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world,” Dr. Mehl said.  “And interpersonally, as you find this meaning, you bond with your interactive partner, and we know that interpersonal connection and integration is a core fundamental foundation of happiness.”

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