Small talk may be common, but it doesn’t do much to nourish our sense of well-being. Compared with people who rated themselves as more unhappy, people who were happiest spent 70% more time talking, had one-third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations.
Researchers came to their conclusions by having a group of 79 college students wear a tape recorder for four days and eavesdropping on their conversations. The students also were given tests to measure happiness and personality.
The findings “demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary, and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the authors, from the University of Arizona and WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, wrote.
It’s not clear, however, whether happy people attract others for deep conversation or whether deep conversation makes people happier. Further research should be done, they said, to see if having more substantive conversations helps unhappy people become happier.
The study is published online in the Journal Psychological Science.