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Inverse: 3 Steps to Master Small Talk and Build Better Relationships

31 Oct 2020
AOM researchers find that on days when people engaged in more small talk, they also exhibited more positive emotions and were better able to recover from a stressful workday.

From witty banter to deep philosophical conversations, few forms of communication are as dreaded as small talk. It’s the long-standing cultural norm of asking: How’s the weather? Got any fun plans this weekend? Or at its most basic -- a straightforward how are you?

Small talk or chit-chat, known to psychologists as short, superficial, or trivial communication not core to task completion, fills a third of daily speech. We do it every day, yet many people go out of their way to avoid it.

But according to Jessica Methot, an organizational psychologist who studies workplace communication, we’ve underestimated the value of small talk.

Often, people think small talk is pointless, awkward, inauthentic, or takes a lot of work. But research shows people who engage in regular chit-chat have better well-being and stronger relationships. That’s because small talk is a social lubricant and the foundation of any relationship, Methot says.

“The value of small talk is that it is superficial, that we don't have to dive deep into intimate topics, that it's surface level, that it's brief, and that it still shows we recognize someone else's value and that we think they're important enough to acknowledge their presence,” Methot tells Inverse. “And that leaves that other person walking away feeling really good.”

Continue reading the original article at Inverse.

Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal.

Read more about the original research in this AOM Insights Summary.

Learn more about the AOM Scholars and explore their work:

Jessica R. Methot, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Emily H. Rosado-Solomon, California State University Long Beach

Patrick Downes, Texas Christian University

Allison S. Gabriel, University of Arizona