I was scrolling through The Atlantic online today and found an article about small talk. Small talk. The thing that my mother could have a job in and my dad creeps out strangers with. His idea of small-talk is seeing someone at a resort about to cook a steak and saying “Oo what’s for dinner?” The person then awkwardly smiles and runs away. My mom, on the other hand, will tell a cashier her life story. I’m convinced every cashier at our local Wegmans knows way too much about me thanks to her.
In the article, the author noted something that stuck out to me, and it was that small talk helps us to feel connected to our surroundings. I never thought of it like that. I know already that substantive conversation with others helps us feel connected to people, and I believe personally, and many psychologists I’m sure could back me up that connection to our fellow human beings is one of the most important parts of life. I, myself, am a mixture of my parents. There are some days where I want to sit in lecture and not have a person breathe on me, and other days where I want to tell everyone at Trader Joes that I love them. The article itself is actually very short, but encouraged me to poke around the internet to see what else had to be said on this topic on talking and happiness.
I found myself on the National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health’s website. The html ended with a “.gov” so I knew I was in good hands.Firstly, I’d like to note that both articles used the same example after mentioning small talk that made it seem like small talk was merely noticing a person had popcorn and then saying it was yummy. This to me, is odd because never have a heard someone other than maybe a grandma say such things. But that’s besides the point. It went on to talk about a study where undergraduate students had to wear an EAR (Electronically Activated Recorder) for four days that tracked bits of their conversations every so often. It used some weird math to come up with frequencies that essentially showed that people who talk to more people are happier, and that people who have more substantive conversations were even happier.

I definitely say that there is more that could be done with this, especially at a college level. I saw an article earlier this week on Onward State with a headline telling that State College Police had prevented two suicide attempts. As much as I was shocked, I was not surprised. Small talk might seem minor, but I wonder if science could prove it’s importance. I’m by no means saying that it is a solution to depression and suicide in college students, but I think there’s more to be seen.

As per usual in life, it’s importance to have a balance of small talk and substantive talk. With small talk you may not find out a person’s greatest fear, but you could make them smile, and then might even make you smile back, and what’s better than that?


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