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Nancy Schimelpfening

Meaningful Conversation Contributes to Happiness?

By March 10, 2010

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According to a new study, small talk is great, but meaningful conversation is what connects us to people and makes us happier.

For the study, researcher Matthias Mehl and his team equipped 79 college men and women with with a portable device called an electronically activated recorder (EAR), which periodically recorded bits of conversation as the participants went through their daily routines. Every 12.5 minutes a 30 second sample of sound was recorded. The sampling went on for a period of four days, acquiring more than 23,000 recordings (about 300 per participant).

Mehl and his team then listened to the recordings, classifying them as either small talk (e.g. "What do you have there? Popcorn? Yummy!) or substantive (e.g. "She fell in love with your dad? So, did they get divorced soon after?").

The participants also took tests to evaluate their personality and their well-being.

Mehl and his team found that those who reported higher levels of well-being were those who spent less time alone and more time talking with others. Those who were happier also spent more time engaged in substantive conversations rather than small talk.

The study doesn't prove whether deeper conversations actually make people happier, according to Mehl. It could be that happy people are simply better at engaging in deeper conversation. The study results do, however, complement other happiness research, which indicate that happiness is linked with greater social support.

The study appears in the journal Psychological Science.

March 10, 2010 at 4:19 am
(1) Paula says:

If that was the case woman, who have more deep conversations would be less prone to depression, and would feel better on a daily bases. Which Statics prove is not the case.

March 10, 2010 at 6:35 am
(2) Cobzit says:

ok,because wi are different, does this means that all the natoins react the same? I think they have to find that out

March 10, 2010 at 8:10 am
(3) Star says:

I don’t think you can tell people how to react I think it just comes naturally.

March 10, 2010 at 8:28 am
(4) Joe says:

Some people simply are not capable of engaging in meaningful conversation (more complex). Their thoughts seem to be of the simple minded type, not complex or engaging at all. These people use an “I can’t read well” excuse to avoid a clearly faster paced conversation, not being able to process words and phrases very well. They are seemligly deaf to the overall concept or central issue being discussed.

March 10, 2010 at 8:47 am
(5) Lynn says:

I know for a fact that meaningful conversations make me a happier person. I am in a relationship now where we do not have not one meaningful conversation…ever! I am not happy to say the least. My most deep conversations come from my nine year old child. I don’t know many people around here and I am finding it hard to meet people right now. My classes I take are online and I am currently unemployed. I would love to just sit and talk to someone all day long. Small talk is nothing to me. We express feelings while having conversations with others.
For those that are not able to have a deep conversation woth another human being, I suggest that you stay away from any relationship because you are only going to make someone miserable someday. I know this for a fact. I am miserable because I never have anyone to talk to. Nobody ever has time for me or they just aren’t capable of talking with me..except for small talk. My family has the nerve to wonder why I am on the comuter so much. Maybe it’s because that is the only social life I have right now. There are some people on here that I can talk to. There I said it and I feel much better now. I have been waiting for someone to point this out. Meaningful conversations are a must. You can’t just go through life without ever saying a word to anyone. That’s why they reccomend theropist, so that you can talk with someone.

March 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm
(6) Les says:

I don’t have deep meaningful conversations with strangers, only with people I feel know me well enough to play verbal pitch & catch. It’s being with FRIENDS that is the lift. Feeling known, accepted, understood (if not agreed with).

March 10, 2010 at 4:29 pm
(7) Ardroxi says:

I work with many people, aged care in particular. I love to engage in conversation with the people i work for, and moreover with everybody I meet. That is not to say that It is always a one sided conversation, and sometimes it is. But i get so much satisfaction from people who feel unable to speak out about themselves or about their personal thoughts. In aged care many people are left to their own devices that all that they say is in their head. this leads to lonliness, unhappiness and depression, sometimes just 5 minutes of conversation builds confidence, changes a person’s outlook of their day, and encourages the individual to participate in the day’s events and interact with their fellow residents. I also feel happiest when I engage in conversation with them, and importantly they allow me into their lives and I listen. This is the trade off, I am happy and they also feel good. Well worth trying…..

March 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm
(8) Joellen says:

Wow! I guess I was born to want to communicate to others! My family not so much so. I have had to deal with depression from the ups and downs life has thrown at me…I know I am better because me sense of humor is back, but there are days, still when it is hard. If I didn’t have FACEBOOK where I can reach out and tap a few dear friends from high school who knew me when I was young, funny and carefree, and I can reach my cousins, I don’t know what I would do! I love to talk in person to my closest friends, but everyone who is working is busy, I am not. It tough to get together. I like looking in each other’s eyes and have a great chat and laughing our heads off!!! But usually, these days, we just type at each other on FB. I feel you have to stay connected to your friends…your friends become your family (your family can really let ya’ down sometimes). Take care everyone!!! :D

March 10, 2010 at 5:17 pm
(9) Yvonne says:

You darn tootin it makes for a happier life. Especially as one gets older ! It is very depressing when one’s significant other says a few words as they come in the door, then maybe a brief
comment hours later, but won’t talk more than a couple of minutes on issues that are important to their relationship, home, children, etc. etc.
Makes one feel tricked when at the beginning of the relationship they spent hours upon hours talking about all sorts of things.

March 10, 2010 at 7:23 pm
(10) Jeannie says:

YES! YES! YES!!!!!!!! This is ‘what I, JEANNIE, have been struggling with for years!!! Around the time when I finally realized with this consistent thought throughout my life when surrounded by family, neighbors and so forth. What I mean by that consistent thought is “Hey, I, Jeannie, am right here LOUD and clear in a very visible mode but not a ghost, duh duh! Please talk to me or even with me altho, I, myself have acknowledged you whether it be by a hug, a handshake, making facial gestures or even a simple word like ‘hello’ BUT, that word coming from my own voice may not mean anything to you only because it sound d i f f e r e n t at times. I am very self-conscious of my own voice within my own body. My very own self-being. I, Jeannie, continue to be my own speech pathologist. I, Jeannie happen to be profoundly deaf but, am still struggling to be a part of today’s world whether I am surrounded by people of all walks of life. This is way too hard for me to continue BUT I, JEANNIE refuse to give up and “why should I?” Nope, no way, Jose, folks! Nope, I am gonna still aim for my dream to become a reality and I can feel it right here in my heart. Even tho, my ears are broken but, my spirit will never be tarnished. For those who continue to feel this way and it is an horrible thing to actually FEEL and KNOWING to be ignored by others…This is pretty pathethic, don’t you think? However, thru my daily experiences, I have come to realize that I, Jeannie, have the power NOT to allow those insensitive folks control my current well-being! I, Jeannie want to say this again, ‘thou shalt NOT allow them to control your very well-being no matter where you go!!!’ God bless ya all! Jeannie

March 11, 2010 at 4:54 am
(11) Suz says:

Hi there everyone, you know, I used to be the life of the party and never without people surrounding me and boy did I enjoy it….UNTIL I had my breakdown. Since then I have lost all faith and trust in other people as it was that trust that was betrayed in such any awful way that caused my illness. Now I keep people well and truly at arms length, I can engage in conversation if I have to – but only for a short time, and you know what – at those times no one would even know I have problems. I am happiest staying home just going out to do what has to be done and spending time with my girls and grandchildren. It is amazing how depression simplifies things and make others so much more complicated.
Good luck and God’s blessings to you all… Suz, Australia.

March 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm
(12) Chris says:

A deeper conversation is more thought provoking and hence more satisfying. You forget about your own problems.

March 13, 2010 at 10:57 pm
(13) Sharon says:

I too am married to someone who seldom talks…to me. He can carry on all kinds of small talk with anyone-even strangers. I try to get him to talk to me and suddenly he doesn’t have anything to say. 15 years of this has turned me into a very lonely wife. I agree with #5(Lynn). People like that should stay single.

March 17, 2010 at 6:07 am
(14) Andrew says:

It’s sad to hear of so many relationships out there where the two “involved” hardly talk to each other anymore; I’m sure there are many more “lonely housewives” or significant others out there. What is it about these “relationships” where there aren’t meaningful conversations happening? What is it that still keeps you staying together? Why stay together with someone who you hardly even talk with anymore? I don’t get it.

March 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm
(15) SammyD says:

Having a meaningful conversation with someone makes you feel you can trust that person and they can trust you. I think that is the key to this subject. People who only have a quick chat aren’t really interested in connecting with the other person and the other person knows that and will continue on their way again. People you can have a meaningful and deep conversation with can be classed as friends and you know that and can feel that and, hopefully, they can feel that too. Isn’t that the way things should be? If you only exchange the odd word with people, it makes the world a very lonely place. A place you don’t feel connected to. That’s sad.
All the best.

November 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm
(16) Peady says:

I have been struggling with this for years. It seems the people I know just don’t talk about life, thoughts, hopes, concerns unless it is their’s and it is bitching not really talking. The when you say something of inportance they dismiss it… I cannot remember anyone out side of my Mom who asks me about how I am doing? Or anything about things I have told them in the past. I make a point to listen to others ask questions, care, be concerned, empathize and I get little back. My husband thinks I should get over it and just put up with shalllow, self absorbed types and that should be ok. He wears a happy face in public always and would never admit he is sad or disappointed. In all our years of marriage he has never said anything bothers him about us he always goes with the flow until is temper blows he then acts like a raving lunatic. He thinks he has all the answers he is clueless. I refuse to believe that this is normal and that I should just accept these people in my life. They are the person who will say have you noticed I lost weight? While your looking at them with a new hair color and they don’t mention it. But expect you are to notice their weight loss and this is the usual interaction with this person. Its so discouraging. I am surrounded by emotionally barren people and I am lonely and tired of it .

May 8, 2012 at 1:03 am
(17) Maverick says:

Peady, it sounds like you might have just made some wrong friends. The solution is make new friends. Think about activities you might enjoy, dancing, painting, reading, singing, etc. Then look online to see if there’s a class, studio, book club in your area you can take or join. It is a good way to meet people in your area who also like the same activity. Then stop responding to your old friends. They’ll get the drift. Or, you want to take it up a notch by confronting them. Tell them in a firm but polite way that they hurt your feelings by acting disinterested in your life. Try to be clear and give examples. Most people are clueless when their actions are hurting others. Remember, all deep relationships starts out small. As for your husband, he is dealing with life in an unhealthy way, but you can’t force him to change. The only thing you can change is yourself. Fix yourself first. Make yourself happy. Things will fall into place. You either work towards each other or you seperate. When you can fix your issues, then can you fix marriage. Keep your head up! You’re not alone. My ex-best friend was also a prick. She dismissed everything I said. Nothing was enough for her. Good riddance to her! She was toxic to my life and health. I don’t make friends easy and my hubby is also the only person I speak to on a daily basis. I have to say I’m pretty lucky that his been really supportive. Hang in there!
Best to you, Maverick

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