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  1. #1
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Post Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

    Talk Deeply, Be Happy?
    By Roni Caryn Rabin
    March 17, 2010
    NYT


    Would you be happier if you spent more time discussing the state of the world and the meaning of life — and less time talking about the weather?

    It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.

    “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 said.

    But, he proposed, substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

    “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.”

    Dr. Mehl’s study was small and doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the kind of conversations one has and one’s happiness. But that’s the planned next step, when he will ask people to increase the number of substantive conversations they have each day and cut back on small talk, and vice versa.

    The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, involved 79 college students — 32 men and 47 women — who agreed to wear an electronically activated recorder with a microphone on their lapel that recorded 30-second snippets of conversation every 12.5 minutes for four days, creating what Dr. Mehl called “an acoustic diary of their day.”

    Researchers then went through the tapes and classified the conversation snippets as either small talk about the weather or having watched a TV show, and more substantive talk about current affairs, philosophy, the difference between Baptists and Catholics or the role of education. A conversation about a TV show wasn’t always considered small talk; it could be categorized as substantive if the speakers analyzed the characters and their motivations, for example.

    Many conversations were more practical and did not fit in either category, including questions about homework or who was taking out the trash, for example, Dr. Mehl said. Over all, about a third of all conversation was ranked as substantive, and about a fifth consisted of small talk.

    But the happiest person in the study, based on self-reports about satisfaction with life and other happiness measures as well as reports from people who knew the subject, had twice as many substantive conversations, and only one-third of the amount of small talk as the unhappiest, Dr. Mehl said. Almost every other conversation the happiest person had — 45.9 percent of the day’s conversations — were substantive, while only 21.8 percent of the unhappiest person’s conversations were substantive.

    Small talk made up only 10 percent of the happiest person’s conversations, while it made up almost three times as much –- or 28.3 percent –- of the unhappiest person’s conversations.

    Next, Dr. Mehl wants to see if people can actually make themselves happier by having more substantive conversations.

    “It’s not that easy, like taking a pill once a day,” Dr. Mehl said. “But this has always intrigued me. Can we make people happier by asking them, for the next five days, to have one extra substantive conversation every day?”

    <link>


    This isn't new, but I didn't find that it was posted before.

  2. #2
    Senior Member InsatiableCuriosity's Avatar
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    What an interesting finding!!

    Thanks for this - it is very interesting and would also seem to echo the demeanour of colleagues at work (and here) with whom I have deep philosophical connections.
    "Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible."
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    "Never tell a person a thing is impossible. G*d/the Universe may have been waiting all this time for someone ignorant enough of the impossibility to do just that thing."
    author unknown

  3. #3
    Rainy Day Member Ingrid in grids's Avatar
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    Well, it seems the unexamined life is really not worth living after all! Very interesting , thanks for posting Vasilisa.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    I read a long time ago in a book by Eric Fromm about something similar, he didnt have the research to prove it though, he was big on the whole idea that most people either sleep walk or are like zombis, everything they do is out of habit, created by something outside themselves, and he used to say that he would consciously try to eliminate "jibber jabber" from his daily interactions and do exactly what this study is talking about.

  5. #5
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    WOW yeah, I think it's definitely true in my life. If I feel some sort of emotional or intellectual connection with other people then I am happier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    Small talk made up only 10 percent of the happiest person’s conversations, while it made up almost three times as much –- or 28.3 percent –- of the unhappiest person’s conversations.
    There was a paragraph about it, but I am interested in how the drew the line on what was considered 'small talk' though. I think some small talk can be meaningful too.
    Your kisses, sweeter than honey. But guess what, so is my money.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Chloe's Avatar
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    Interesting, but maybe those 79 people who agreed to participate in research were unequally split in 16 types, so more likely is that more of them were Ns, because Ns are more attracted to participate in stuff like that. And N will be less happy if doesnt have deep conversations, than S will (in general!)... so only that can bring research down...people have different needs!! if you deprive them of their needs they'll be unhappy, and Ns need to avoid small talk... which some manage to do easier than others.
    not to mention there are probably some other flaws.

    I dont think the reality is like pictured in research.

  7. #7
    Artisan Conquerer Halla74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    This isn't new, but I didn't find that it was posted before.
    Wow, great find, Vasilisa!

    Further evidence that we are social creatures, regardless of whether socialization energizes us, or tires us, we need it.

    As an extravert, I am very much affected by long periods of sitting in my office doing hardcore analysis, in preparation for a big presentation that Friday. BUT - the presentation itself I absolutely enjoy to no end, as it is a chance to talk with many folks at once on a deep level. Everyone there is interested in whatever it is I've been checking out for their own purposes, and at the end of the meeting everyone walks away happy because they have the inforamtion they need to do their jobs...and maybe also becuase they got their socialization for the day? Awesome! Hug for you, Vasilisa! -A.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chloee View Post
    Interesting, but maybe those 79 people who agreed to participate in research were unequally split in 16 types, so more likely is that more of them were Ns, because Ns are more attracted to participate in stuff like that. And N will be less happy if doesnt have deep conversations, than S will (in general!)... so only that can bring research down
    I love it when people play devil's advocate, and you're good at it too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chloee View Post
    ...people have different needs!! if you deprive them of their needs they'll be unhappy, and Ns need to avoid small talk... which some manage to do easier than others.
    I like how you worded the bolded part above.

    I will offer a slightly differing viewpoint on the classic "N" = deep conversations, and "S" = small talk dynamic.

    That should not be taken as absolute. I am a Sensor, My S/N scores are about 60/40 respectively. So, while I am maybe "just over the cusp" of being a Sensor, I am one nonetheless. I love chit chat, but I also love a good deep conversation, provided it's with the right person and about the right topic.

    Also, I know alot of iNtuitives (I seem to collect them somehow, LOL!) and not a single one of them ever runs away in horror if I am stopping by to say hello to them, and entertaining them with some of my notorious random bullshit.

    So, S/N smalltalk/deep thought predetermined wants and needs should be thrown in to the mix of things that might skew this study, because beyond all that, people are people, and we all bleed the same color, we all have hearts, and licves, and forced connectivity to some type of societal machine that tries to draw the life out of us everyday we turn its gears. We're alot more common than different, all MBTI aside. Just my opinion.

    Cheers to you, Chloee! -A.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Chloe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halla74 View Post
    So, S/N smalltalk/deep thought predetermined wants and needs should be thrown in to the mix of things that might skew this study, because beyond all that, people are people, and we all bleed the same color, we all have hearts, and licves, and forced connectivity to some type of societal machine that tries to draw the life out of us everyday we turn its gears. We're alot more common than different, all MBTI aside. Just my opinion.
    ]
    well that was just generalization to picture why this research can go down easy. i just showed direction in which i can think of possible weaknesses of research, didnt even rethink it because i know there's out there something that makes this research invalid and i dont have a need to find what exactly it is if i see clearly that there is something. i am sometimes wrong, but more often right but i just skim over it and scan it.

    in other words; example with N/S is irrelevant, i'm sure we could find others if i put time in it.


    it would be the same if the research was about people who dont practice sports daily being less happy, and you made your research among ex-athletes who are now invalids...
    they said too little about group of 79 students who participated.


    and actually my post was defending of Ss.. because I dont think people who dislike to talk deep a lot should be forced to...etc... i know that i used to be angry at people close to me who are not interested in deeper conversations with me, and forced them. i seriously thought they'll be more happy if i make them more interested in such things.. but i was projecting my own needs. they dont need such amount of deep talk and connection.

    ah.... why everything i say seems like attack on sensors.

    now, it's different if you read this article as ; people need genuine and deeper connections to be happy. i agree on that regardless type, many Ss, even 100% S, reach point in life where they are forced to use N, and go deeper and all, and it makes them usually happier, more aware of not-obvious stuff. But at the same time they dont require so much deep talk as NFs do, how can you measure then person's happiness based on how much time, in minutes, they talked deep? Amount of Deep talk =/= deep connection, or depth.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    The thing about this is that this is in a way my conversational style, all through secondary school I'd talk to people about whether they thought the bible was fact, whether they thought that the economy could be managed different to make everyone rich, stuff like that, I never had the right words to know that I was debating higher criticism of the bible or socialism vs. capitalism or anything like that.

    When I went to uni I actually found less people interested in those things but I found the McSpotlight website at the time they were fighting McDonalds libal suit in the UK, it a great bulletin board and I found I could have in depth conversations there.

    Although I'll admit too that I was immature and trolled a couple of Americans, I grew out of that and attribute it to the fact that at the school and technical college I attended people wherent very mature, opposite, and also that I didnt think people online could be upset by stuff they read because I wasnt inclined to be.

    When I went down to Dublin and had a much mightier social scene for a year or two I was actually directly told one time that you're not supposed to talk politics, religion or sport, yeah, I think that was it, there could have been a fourth too but it was kind of like a deliberate aversion to anything other than small talk. I've also read a book about pick up artistry which described religion, politics and game shows AS small talk, because no one really cares about those things.

  10. #10
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    I'd be really interested to see if this is correlating with number of 'real' friends.

    It makes a lot of sense that someone would be unhappy if they didn't have many good friends, and then they would be forced to talk about shallow stuff with aquaintances, work colleagues etc.

    I'm not surprised this is true, pretty much nobody enjoys small talk as defined by the study. Non-small talk doesn't have to be abstract and "deep". I know I love a good conversation, usually focusing on relationships/psychology/personal motivations.
    -end of thread-

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