Happiness also talks to strangers


  • We will underestimate how interested strangers are in learning more about our thoughts and feelings.
  • The deeper conversations led to greater feelings of connectedness and joy than the participants expected.

It is often not advisable to talk to strangers in childhood. However, in later life, having deep and meaningful conversations with strangers will improve well-being. Researchers from the University of Chicago concluded this in a study published on 30 September. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

a contradictory result

Connecting with others in a meaningful way makes people happy, although most seem reluctant to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations with strangers. “This struck us as an interesting social paradox: If connecting with others in a deep and meaningful way increases well-being, why don’t people do it more often in everyday life?asks Nicholas Epley, the study’s lead author.

More engagement and fun than expected

The researchers conducted a series of twelve experiments with more than 1,800 participants. He asked pairs of strangers to discuss topics that were sometimes deep and sometimes superficial. Past questions included typical and cliché conversation topics such as: “What’s the best TV show you’ve watched in the past month?” or “How are you feeling today?”. The darker themes were emotionally driven and encouraged the couple to share more personal and intimate information. To keep the conversation going naturally, the researchers let the couples think about their own conversation topics.

The study authors found that the intense conversation led to feelings of connectedness and enjoyment that were greater than the participants expected. While they imagined they preferred superficial conversations, they admitted that they preferred longer conversations. In addition, these turned out to be much less annoying than expected by the volunteers.

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man, deeply social animal

For the researchers, participants would underestimate how interested strangers were in learning more about their deepest thoughts and feelings. “People began to imagine that revealing something meaningful or important about themselves in conversation would be met with blank eyes and silence, only to find that it was not., Nicolas Epley, a constable. Humans are deeply social and interact in conversation. If you share something meaningful and important, you are more likely to get something meaningful and important in return, which will lead to a much better conversation.

go beyond small maintenance

In other experiments, researchers examined whether having more specific expectations about a speaker increases interest in having a more in-depth conversation. To test this, they asked participants to imagine that they might be talking to someone who was particularly caring and interested, or someone who was particularly apathetic and disinterested. As a result, people who were expected to talk to a caregiver were more likely to discuss deeper issues than volunteers who were expected to talk to a disinterested partner.

Our participants’ expectations for deeper conversations weren’t terribly wrong, but they did prevent people from engaging a little more deeply with others in their daily lives., conclude the study authors. As the pandemic subsides and we all get back to talking with each other, being aware that other people enjoy meaningful conversations too can help you spend less time chatting and more enjoyable as a result. It may help to have a conversation.

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

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