Study Shows Deep Conversations With Strangers May Be Good for You

Enough with the small talk.

Here's a scenario for you: you meet someone, a stranger, and you make conversation. Do you talk about the weather or something deeper? Small talk always, right? Well, next time, you should think twice and go for a more meaningful topic instead.

A new study says that people enjoy deep conversations with strangers—and it may be good for your well-being, too. What's more, the study, from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says that small talk is only a big thing cause people overestimate awkwardness.

"Connecting with others in meaningful ways tends to make people happier, and yet people also seem reluctant to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversation," said Nicholas Epley, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and study co-author. "This struck us as an interesting social paradox: If connecting with others in deep and meaningful ways increases well-being, then why aren't people doing it more often in daily life?"

Researchers conducted experiments with the help of 1,800 participants by asking pairs to discuss deep or shallow topics. They found that people enjoyed the deep conversations more and that it led to a stronger sense of connection.

"People seemed to imagine that revealing something meaningful or important about themselves in conversation would be met with blank stares and silence, only to find this wasn't true in the actual conversation," Epley said. "Human beings are deeply social and tend to reciprocate in conversation. If you share something meaningful and important, you are likely to get something meaningful and important exchanged in return, leading to a considerably better conversation."


The challenge now is to relearn how to make conversation because you'd be lying if you said the pandemic isolation hasn't affected your social skills.

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Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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