Small talk is a short, non-binding conversation, the one that we are with a neighbor in the elevator or with an unfamiliar colleague at a party. Despite the seeming simplicity, many argue that it is difficult and tedious to conduct pitch currents. Someone completely despises this colloquial genre, considering it empty and fake. Understanding how the art of small talk originated and why many of us hate it.
One day, American scientists Kristen Berman and Dan Ariely decided to host a very special dinner party. The main rule is no resin currents. All the interlocutors had to sincerely express their opinions, discuss issues that really excite them, and not start conversations out of politeness. To make things easier, the researchers prepared flashcards with topics ranging from religious to pop culture. Berman and Ariely are both psychologists and behavioral economists. That evening, they not only invited their acquaintances to visit, but set up an experiment on them - of course, with the consent of the participants themselves. The researchers wanted to find out if the party could be held without the so-called tar-currents and if the guests would like it.
According to the data, 9 out of 10 people have discussed the weather over the past six hours. But how many of them really care about the weather? Berman and Ariely are sure: in the company of unfamiliar people, we often discuss things that we are not interested in. From an unlimited range of topics, we choose those that seem to be the safest and most socially acceptable. So we make sure that the conversation does not lead to a conflict - it is unlikely that the rain outside the window can seriously hurt someone's feelings.
Berman and Ariely decided to make the choice for the guests so that they did not feel responsible for the topic of the conversation. “Oddly enough, the guests were not upset,” they write. “On the contrary, they were delighted and made sure themselves not to be distracted from the conversation on a given topic.” According to the researchers, that evening the company discussed how to make politicians accountable for their actions, discussed the problem of suicide and the work of the dominatrix. The two couples who met each other that evening later went on a date. So Berman and Arieli were finally convinced that pitch-tokens do not make people happier and do not help to establish social ties.
Scientists from the United States are not the only ones who have decided to host resin-free parties. Manager Polina Gavronski grew up in Hong Kong, her father is Italian, her mother is Polish. Since childhood, the girl stood out among the locals and at each meeting she answered the same questions: “Where did you come from? What are you doing here? Do you consider yourself Polish or Italian? " Once she got tired of it, and she created a space in which no one would ask such questions.
In 2018, Gavronski launched the No Small Talk campaign. She decided to organize dinners: guests registered in advance for parties and filled out questionnaires. As a result, the entrepreneur put guests with similar interests in the neighborhood. On the tables, in addition to food and drinks, there were cards with questions that you can ask each other. For example: "What would happen if anyone could see our queries on Google?" Today, on the No Small Talk website, you can register for a tar-free party in one of the world's capitals (for example, an invitation to dinner in Milan costs 65 euros) or start an initiative in your own country. Apparently, Gavronsky's idea is a success: tickets for her dinners are snapping up several months in advance.
Pledge of misfortune
It would seem that man is a social being. Anthropologists and historians believe that much of evolution happened precisely because we learned to communicate with each other. But for some reason, such a simple and popular form of communication as smol-tok causes attacks of social anxiety and irritation in many.It is believed that introverts are particularly affected. Jennifer Grannman, writer and creator of her own media project for introverts, explains: “We don't have much energy to communicate. When we spend it on polite conversations, we do not learn anything new, we do not spend time with pleasure. But our social battery is running out, and we no longer have enough energy for an interesting conversation with a friend."
In 2010, many English-language media wrote about the University of Arizona study. Psychology professor Matthias Mehl, along with a team of scientists, decided to find out how the number of resins and "full conversations" is related to the level of happiness. The experiment involved 79 American students. Each of them received a dictaphone, which periodically recorded snippets of conversations. With the help of the resulting audio, the scientists calculated how many pitch-currents and “normal” conversations each participant had on average each day. All communication that did not carry important information - dialogues in the style of "Ah, there you are!", "How are you?", "I stepped into some rubbish" was attributed to the pitch-tokam.
Before the start of the experiment, the participants took a survey, they answered questions about their own life and the level of happiness. After listening to the tapes, the scientists found that the happier students were more likely to have meaningful conversations and less often to talk. In the "happiest" participant, the researchers counted only 10% of tar-currents, and in the "most unfortunate" - almost 30%.
Better than expected
Mel's research was published in the journal Psychological Science, after which it was picked up by many media - for several years the smol-tok was in disgrace. Perhaps this genre would have continued to be considered unsightly if the followers of Professor Mel did not decide to continue his work. Over the years, they concluded that the original study was not representative. Its only participants were young people who live in a hostel - a narrow stratum of the population, the results of work with which say little.
In 2018, psychologists Anna Milek, Emily Butler, Alison Tuckman, and Diana Kaplan conducted a new experiment. This time, they recorded the conversations of people from three different groups. The first group - 50 women with breast cancer and their partners. Another group - 184 adults without health problems. The third - 122 adults who recently moved from their parents. The results showed that in general, people who talk more than others are happier than those who prefer to be silent. But the correlation between happiness and the number of "real" conversations turned out to be insignificant, and the smol-currents were in no way connected with the level of happiness of the volunteers. That is, probably happy people do talk more, but there is no point in dividing conversations into “real” and “fake”.
Another famous experimenter in the field of tar currents is Nicholas Epley, a psychologist and professor at the University of Chicago School of Business, who has conducted research in local transportation. He divided the subjects into three groups, each with its own instructions. The first group was asked to start talking to strangers on the train on their way to work in the morning. The other was told, on the contrary, not to speak to anyone. The third group was asked to act at their own discretion. After the experiment, participants were asked if they were more or less happy than usual during the trip. Those who spoke to strangers during the trip admitted that they felt better.
Before starting the experiment, the researcher asked the subjects a question: "What do you think would be more pleasant for you - to talk to a stranger or to drive to work in silence?" Most said they would have liked it better not to talk on the way, but these same people ended up enjoying being with strangers. In total, the researcher conducted nine such experiments - in public transport and in the laboratory.The numbers in all experiments were different, but they all confirmed: most people feel better after resins, although they expected the opposite.
In an article on the experiment, Epley gives the results of similar experiments. In one of them, the participants were asked with whom it would be more pleasant for them to communicate: with people of their nationality or with foreigners. Most were determined to communicate only with people of their own nationality, but in practice it turned out that conversations with foreigners were no less pleasant to them. According to Epley, the main problem with tar-currents is that we often have negative expectations from conversations with strangers. Social anxiety, xenophobia, bias - all of this often distorts our picture of the world, and we unconsciously refuse what we might like.
An important tool
The first researcher to seriously pay attention to the pitch was the British anthropologist Bronislav Malinovsky. In 1923 he wrote The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages. He explained that the purpose of any language is to help people do work together. Hunt, fish, gather. People came up with words to synchronize actions and achieve greater efficiency. However, with the development of the language, aimless communication appeared: “If people are sitting by a fire after a long day, resting or doing handicrafts, they begin to have a conversation that has nothing to do with what they are doing,” wrote Malinovsky. He called this communication "the actual act of verbal communication." In such a situation, it doesn't matter what meaning is put into words. The main thing is the very fact of the conversation.
According to Malinovsky, meaningless conversations are the whole essence of Homo sapiens. Since ancient times, isolation has been deadly: the calmest of all a person felt next to members of his community, whom he could trust. When different communities had their own languages, they began to show each other with their help: "I am not a stranger, we are from the same tribe, I can be trusted." If a person met a stranger who was silent, it became clear to him: this is a stranger, he can pose a threat. In prehistoric times, silence led to social tension. Since then, according to Malinovsky, people feel awkward when silence hangs in the company. The anthropologist suggested that the resin-current was invented to fill this pause, relieve tension.
Later, in the 20th century, the followers of Malinovsky returned to the issue of resin-currents. This phenomenon was especially interesting for gender sociolinguists. They said that meaningless conversations are greatly underestimated, and in part it is a direct consequence of discrimination against women. In patriarchal societies, everything that is associated with emotions, social connections, relationships is considered "feminine", which means that it does not deserve attention. Because of this gender division, talk and gossip fell into the category of idle chatter, although the latter historically appeared before all other conversations and were necessary for survival.
"The Western community has decided that communication can be divided into more valuable and less valuable," writes Ph.D., sociolinguist Justin Copeland. - Allegedly valuable communication is the one with the help of which “real issues” are resolved. But in general, the so-called chatter is a tool with which we establish social ties, build interpersonal relationships. It cannot be considered as something secondary - pitch is very important."
Another proof of the benefits of resin-current - this genre is used not only by people. Although Malinowski believed that "actual communication" was the lot of Homo sapiens, it turned out that many animals from the order of primates also conduct small talk. In 2014, scientists from Princeton University traced how ring lemurs interact with each other. These animals live in groups of 20-30 individuals. Like humans, they have functional signals - those with which they convey very specific messages.For example, they warn of danger. But there are also meaningless sounds - lemurs use them to get close to other individuals. Moreover, each lemur has only two or three friends with whom he talks using such signals. Small currents with an inner circle help them maintain contact and become even closer.
It is possible that primates understand the meaning of empty talk better than we do. Every day we do smol-current - if not with our neighbors on the bus, then definitely with our relatives and family members. Everyday topics in such a context no longer irritate and do not seem like empty chatter. Perhaps the meaningfulness of the conversation depends primarily not on the content, but on the purpose. The main indicator is whether we are communicating simply out of courtesy or strengthening relationships that are truly important and interesting.
PHOTOS: Anna Kucherova - stock.adobe.com, DMM Photography Art - stock.adobe.com