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Want a Meaningful Conversation? Cut the Small Talk

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Jul 10th 2018

new article illustration

TUESDAY, July 10, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- If you want to be happier, try having meaningful conversations.

A new study finds that quality conversation is associated with greater happiness, while small talk has no effect on mental state. The results were true for both introverts and extroverts.

The findings from the study of 486 people were published recently in the journal Psychological Science.

"We define small talk as a conversation where the two conversation partners walk away still knowing equally as much -- or little -- about each other and nothing else," said study co-author Matthias Mehl, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona.

"In substantive conversation, there is real, meaningful information exchanged. Importantly, it could be about any topic -- politics, relationships, the weather -- it just needs to be at a more-than-trivial level of depth," Mehl said in a university news release.

It's not clear whether quality conversations actually make people happier, or if happier people are more likely to have quality conversations. And the study didn't prove cause and effect, so that's a question for future research.

Still, "I would like to experimentally 'prescribe' people a few more substantive conversations and see whether that does something to their happiness," Mehl said.

More information

Mental Health America outlines how to live your life well.