If you heard someone say that it’s good for our emotional health to talk with other people, I’m betting
you’d probably agree with them. But what aspect of talking and being sociable is important here? Is it how often we communicate with people? Or what about how we converse with others? A psychological study came out recently that examined these questions.
First, the research team looked at a) how often people talked and b) specific features within conversations, namely how much people enjoyed and were familiar with the person they’re talking to, how much people revealed about themselves, and how meaningful the dialogue was. Next, the team explored how these elements are related to emotional wellness, which they defined as personal contentment and a sense of feeling bonded to others. And not only did the researchers ask people in their study to document their conversations throughout the day, they also recorded people’s discussions so they could examine them in an impartial way. Why would this be useful? Well, our impressions and our memory can be biased. For example, have you ever had a conversation with someone and found out later that your take on it was different from theirs? Perhaps you felt like you struggled to articulate yourself or you thought you were boring, but the other person enjoyed being with you. If something like this has ever happened to you, you don’t need me to tell you that we’re imperfect judges when it comes to our social life!
So just how does your communication link up with your emotional wellness? It turns out that the extent to which you talk with others and how you talk with them both matter. If we zoom in and look at specific hours within a given day, during those times when people talked with others more, shared more about themselves, and conversed with people they enjoyed and were familiar with, they also felt more positive and socially attached. Not only that, they felt a greater sense of social bonding during discussions that were more profound and meaningful. And if we zoom out beyond particular moments in a day and consider how a person’s social life is related to their wellness overall, a somewhat similar pattern emerges. People who generally spend more time engaging with others also tend to feel more upbeat and connected to their social world.
Now does this mean that alone time isn’t beneficial? Certainly not. Taking time to recharge or engage in quiet contemplation (or both) can be immensely worthwhile. What this study does illuminate is that the time we make to connect with others and how we do so are both related to our wellness, making them deserving of our attention and energy as we go about our daily lives. What might this look like? It could mean taking time in your day to stop and talk with a colleague you like rather walking silently to your desk, chatting with your partner rather than watching TV, or calling a friend. Or perhaps it might involve pausing during a conversation to mindfully be aware of how meaningful or personally open the discussion feels, and then actively taking steps to move the discussion in a more genuine, thoughtful direction. There are multiple right answers here. Whatever you decide, notice how it feels and let your experiences speak for themselves.
Thank you for reading.
Sun, J., Harris, K., & Vazire, S. (2019, October 24). Is Well-Being Associated With the Quantity and Quality of Social Interactions?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. https://ift.tt/2NqgMHj