Do you find small talk with new people an exhausting challenge? The time spent skating on the surface, jumping between topics, without time to think or fully engage in conversation.
And yet, if it leads to a deeper discussion you can keep going for hours without tiring in the same way.
If this is you then you’re not alone. Not only that, but it appears to be a positive trait to have.
According to a study co-authored by Dr. Simine Vazire at Washington University, “The happiest were people who engaged often in more meaningful and substantive discussions, as opposed to those who filled conversations with idle chit-chat and small talk”.
They found that “meaningful interactions with others are important for well-being,” although it was left unclear whether happiness was caused by meaningful conversations or whether people who feel happy tend to have more meaningful conversations…
I would fully imagine that both are true.
I am usually more likely to throw myself into a meaningful conversation when I’m already feeling energised and uplifted. But on the other hand I have on many occasions been buoyed out of a low moment by a spontaneous session of ‘putting the world to rights’.
Either way it would appear that they’re good for us.
So what benefits can carving out time for meaningful conversations actually bring?
They Allow Us to Flex Our Social Muscle
Humans are social beings and we need rich contact with others in order to avoid loneliness. Carl Jung describes loneliness not as being alone, but ‘being unable to communicate the things that are important to you’.
You can be surrounded by people and still feel isolated when you are unable to express what you feel beating at the core of your being; this is a common experience for those who are bereaved or someone starting in a new job or moving to a university campus for the first time.
Connecting with others in a deep and meaningful way counters this kind of loneliness/isolation because it allows you to communicate and engage in dialogue about those things that are important to you.
They Allow Us to Step Beyond the Headlines
Small talk can be like the headlines of a newspaper. It starts you off but in reality it tells you nothing. You may believe you know what the story is when you’ve read the headline above an article, but it gives you a superficial impression. The headline is designed to capture your attention and draw you in.
Conversations are good for us because they challenge and expand how we think about other people and the world. If all of our conversations are surface level and superficial idle chit chat then we never get deeper than the headlines of other people.
Meaningful conversations can challenge our assumptions and prejudices, opening the door for empathic understanding, which connects us with the world in a deeper way.
They Allow Us to Hear Our Thoughts Out Loud
Conversations are like mortar amongst the building blocks of your thoughts. When you verbalise what you’re thinking it quickly becomes clear whether they make sense or not and give you a sharper and firmer sense of what you really think/feel/believe about something.
They Allow Us to Receive Feedback
When you engage in a meaningful conversation about something that matters to you it can be like opening a door. Dialogue provides encouragement, new ways of looking at things, and a different perspective that can provide useful feedback for your life and the choices you make.
When you bottle thoughts up and try to work things out on your own you can become stifled and suffocated. Conversations with the right people can be like release valves, allowing you to let your ideas, joys, curiosities, fears, struggles, anxieties etc out of the pressurised container of your mind.
We may discover new passions and ambitions as conversations happen. That’s how many bands/start-ups/ideas have been conceived.
They Allow Us to Deepen Our Relationships
Solid friendships are built on solid conversations where both parties feel at home, listened to, and able to communicate the things that truly matter to them. Relationships are deepened and solidified through the mortar of conversation.
There is something special about being in a situation where you are one-on-one with someone you’ve known for a while and then realising by the end of the conversation that you didn’t really know them before.
This can often happen with work colleagues who you spend a lot of time with on a superficial or professional level but never get to know personally. Or people you meet through a mutual friend who you see a lot but don’t really know.
Whether meaningful conversations are the result of happiness or if an increase in happiness occurs after a meaningful conversation takes place, I don’t believe it really matters.
There are some clear benefits to having positive conversations that transcend surface chit chat, and as introverts and highly sensitive people we are fortunately naturally suited to this.
The question is, how do we fill our lives with more meaningful interactions with others..? I explore this in the next post.
Over to You
Question: do you enjoy deep conversations? What impact do they have on your mood? Please feel free to leave your response in the comment section below.