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This article is from the In-Depth Report The Science of Happiness
60-Second Mind

Happy People Talk More Seriously

A recent study analyzed 20,000 conversations and found that happiness strongly correlated with talkative people who went beyond the small talk. Christie Nicholson reports

[Hear movie clip by clicking on audio podcast above.]

That’s a scene from the 1968 movie The Party with Peter Sellers attempting small talk. And sometimes small talk can lead to interesting connections.

But according to a new study in the journal Psychological Science it might be best if you move from small talk quickly into a more substantial conversation.

Researchers analyzed 20,000, 30-second samplings of the daily conversations of study volunteers, and organized them into trivial chatter or more serious discussion. The participants also took personality and well-being assessment tests.

And they found that the happiest participants spent 70 percent more time talking with others than the least happy people. But more than just measuring amount of time spent talking with others, they also found a difference in the type of conversation happier folks engage in.

The happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and only a third as much small talk as those who are least content.

Of course this study finding shows correlation not causation. Still, the authors note, “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.”

—Christie Nicholson

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