Small Talk Has Surprising Health Benefits
When the covid pandemic hit, it killed small talk — no more chat with colleagues, neighbours, or strangers at the pub or grocery store.
I hadn’t realised how much I missed small talk until it was gone. In fact, a survey by Microsoft found small talks to be among office work aspects that employees miss the most.
While close relationships are crucial to our well-being, talking to strangers comes with surprising health benefits. A quick chat with someone you barely know can uplift your mood and offset feelings of loneliness.
Consider interactions between baristas and customers of coffee shops. Smiling, making eye contact, and exchanging a few sentences while ordering a cup of coffee, was found to boost happiness and feelings of belonging. And that, on both sides of the till.
Did you know that a third of office conversations are chitchat? Yet, chatting with colleagues — even about work — help us share frustrations, challenges, and excitements about shared goals. In fact, office chat reminds employees they belong and are part of a team. As a result, it boosts performance and makes people less likely to quit their jobs.
College students felt happier and more settled just by talking to classmates outside their friends’ circle. In coworking spaces, chance encounters and spontaneous conversations spark collaboration, creative ideas, and problem-solving strategies.
Many people feel energised and seen after a small talk. “To small talk is to recognise and acknowledge someone’s presence.” Says Jessica Methot, a psychologist at Rutgers University.
Conversations with friends and family might leave us disappointed or unheard. But the opposite can happen with small talk. A surprisingly lovely chat with a mailman or a baker could leave you feeling inspired. Sometimes, a stranger might share a passion with you or perhaps a similar experience or anecdote. Think of the last time you had such a conversation? How did that make you feel?
While the pandemic narrowed our social circle, it made us reflect more on what talking to people meant to us. So take note of whom you communicate with. Do you find yourself missing random chitchat or office gossip? If so, find safe ways to engage in small talks once again.
If you’re a leader, check on colleagues without talking work. Even over email or a messaging app, a small chat can bring joy to coworkers and make them feel seen and valued.
There is nothing small about small talk. A random chat can turn a perfect stranger into a cofounder, a best friend, or even a lover.
Feeling that someone understands you is priceless. And sometimes, that understanding only comes from a perfect stranger.