Many of us want to be happier. But when was the last time you tried just reaching out to someone new? Picking new interactions is much like picking apples. Not everyone is a winner, but eventually you get a bag full. This past weekend I went apple picking with my husband and our three year old son. It is one tradition I want to start with him and he had a blast. We all did. At one point I started chatting with another mom as our kids played on the playground. I asked about local orchards and we discussed where we each lived. It was pleasant, then I went on my way. I was feeling ill and exhausted, but it helped to brighten my day.
I’m not alone in feeling better after small talk. A 2014 research study found that both those who talk to a stranger and those who are the recipient of the outreach feel better after the interaction. Want to feel happier and have more positive interactions with those around you? Pick one way each day to reach out to someone new. If it doesn’t go well, no problem. Not all apples we picked were worth keeping. Some we tossed aside and then we moved on. The good apples, we bagged and enjoyed.
Here are 5 tips to making small talk part of your healthier, happier lifestyle.
Just say “Hi” to a stranger.
I do that a lot; stop to say hello and chit-chat. I think it is becoming a lost art form. It’s one of the reasons I like to sit at the bar when by myself instead of the individual tables when I visit a restaurant. Recently, my sister (in from her time at Kings College in London) and I met a professor from Loyola and had a great chat about Netflix and my sister’s career goals post Master’s degree. I think we all left that situation a bit more upbeat.
Find small ways to connect.
In American society today, we often run, run, run and don’t stop to interact with others. However, we are communal by nature and have a strong need for connection. If we overlook small opportunities for interaction, and don’t connect with family or close friends, research shows that we may be less happy and healthy. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on this phenomenon and made suggestions on how to initiate small talk. These tips included finding common ground and how to exit gracefully from the conversation.
Take the pressure off your friends.
What I found most interesting is that in a world where we live side by side and don’t take time to say hello, making the effort to connect in small ways more frequently can help meet the need for connection. We are all busy. Who doesn’t have that friend who took more than a few days to get back to you? And we cannot live by text message alone. Small talk can help provide the warmth and a smile that may be just what you need to feel seen or heard that day.
Teach empathy to the young.
Small talk also teaches our children empathy and social connection when they witness us modeling the behavior. We are more likely to be nicer to those around us if we have just said hello and chatted briefly, and this encourages respectful interactions. By watching, a child learns to be respectful and open to positive interactions in life… even if they are more than a bit shy right now.
Be happier at work.
In my years as an executive coach, I constantly encountered managers who didn’t stop to say hello or ask how the weekend went. It’s not about developing friendships with all your coworkers, although those with close work relationships report greater job satisfaction. Small talk in the workplace and improving team interactions help fellow employees see you in a positive light. Who doesn’t want to be noticed and appreciated for who they are?
Making positive changes in your health is important. Do one small thing for your mental health each day and try some small talk with someone you don’t know well or with a stranger. Start small, a cab driver, the receptionist in your doctor’s office, or just someone in the line at the grocery store. Think of it as “an apple a day.” Pick one small apple at a time and your bag becomes full! See how much better you feel when you share a smile with someone new.
If you find that you experience social anxiety or feel isolated, please reach out for help. The professionals at Family SOS, Inc are here to help! You can learn more about us or fill out a contact form!