Purposeful Talks, Interactive Relationships Make People Cheerful
Researchers from the University of Arizona have found that people feel happier when they indulged more in meaningful conversations, than in “small talk”. In addition, more cheerful people do not spend their time alone, but with others in interactive relationships.
Researchers Matthias R. Mehl, Shannon E. Holleran, and C Shelby Clark from U of A and Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis investigated the different types of conversations among those who were happy and those who were unhappy. The 79 participants, college-aged men and women, were asked to wear an inconspicuous recording device for four days. The electronically activated recorder periodically taped 30-second snippets of conversation every 12.5 minutes.
The team listened to the recordings and classified each conversation as either “small talk” or “substantive conversation”. Participants then took a test to evaluate personality and well-being.
Those who reported higher levels of well-being spent less time alone and more time talking with others. The happiest also had about one-third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations than those who were unhappiest. Men engaged in slightly more meaningful conversations than women, contrary to the belief that women are more likely to discuss their deeper feelings.
The study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Happy people may be “social attractors” according to Mehl, an assistant professor of psychology. “Just as self-disclosure can instill a sense of intimacy in a relationship, deep conversations may instill a sense of meaning in interaction with partners.”
According to Sonja Lyubormirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside and happiness researcher/author, “There’s lots of research showing that happiness is linked with greater social support. Happier people spend more time with others. Substantive conversations would be a marker that they are talking to closer friends.” She was not involved in the study.
The research will be published in the journal Psychological Science.