March 19, 2010

People who have deep meaningful conversations are happier.

Assuming this is true...
“We found this so interesting, because it could have gone the other way — it could have been, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ — as long as you surf on the shallow level of life you’re happy, and if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy,” [said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona].
... is it because deep meaningful conversations cause happiness or happiness causes deep meaning conversations?
[Mehl said that] substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

“By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world,” Dr. Mehl said. “And interpersonally, as you find this meaning, you bond with your interactive partner, and we know that interpersonal connection and integration is a core fundamental foundation of happiness.”...

“...Can we make people happier by asking them, for the next five days, to have one extra substantive conversation every day?”
I don't know if conversations in blog comments sections count, but go deep and report back in 5 days.

46 comments:

Chase said...

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Paul Zrimsek said...

Every atom of Nancy Pelosi's body could be a tiny solar system with planets full of tiny people just like Nancy Pelosi!

It's not working.

bagoh20 said...

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

Isn't that a self-deflating statement?

My question relates to the idea, which shows my great mind.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If a tree doesn't fall in the forest but you really wish it had fallen, can you deem it fallen?

AllenS said...

After a couple of beers, I can't shut up.

Montagne Montaigne said...

I tried this with my girlfriend and we got hung up over the meaning of the word "meaningful." She's a practical-minded person and I like to talk about historical trends.

Brian Day said...

Sarah Palin at a tea party rally talking about the idea of a smaller, limited government.

A person, event, and an idea in the same sentence. Great, average or small?

wv: jackin. No comment :)

MadisonMan said...

A person, event, and an idea in the same sentence. Great, average or small?

Eleanor Roosevelt was not available to comment.

sunsong said...

Happiness is a wonderful, and deep, subject, imo :-) Happy people are kinder and see more possibilities.


When you meet your needs (as opposed to preferences) you will feel happy. The drive, the desire for happiness is deep. A lot of people confuse from with function, however, and we get things like "deep meaningful conversations" or "warm puppies" or "great sex" are what cause happiness. Like it or not - happiness is a state of mind. It is a choice :-)

Lynne said...

I would like to applaud this study on behalf of the Chitchat Impaired. At least now, those of us who are incapable of 'small talk' can feel like we're actually obeying a healthy impulse.
It won't make parties any easier, but it is a self-esteem boost.

Flexo said...

"it could have gone the other way — it could have been . . . if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy.” . . . [Mehl said that] substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives

If you "go into the existential depths," you cannot help but be unhappy. If you have to "create meaning" in your life (existentialism), that invariably leads to existential angst, which leads to nihilistic despair, with people being unable to "create" meaning, thus concluding that there is no meaning to life (especially when you throw suffering into the mix), such that many of the folks who go down that existential road end up killing themselves.

Look -- We are not gods. Either human life has some instrinsic, inherent "meaning" or it does not, we cannot create it. The meaning of human life is a matter of truth, not creation. We can "find" the truth of that meaning, which will lead to being happy, but if we persist in thinking that we can "create" it, we will fail.

There is, indeed, an inherent meaning in human life, there is a reason that we exist, there is an instrinsic purpose to life. What is the answer?

What is the inherent meaning of human existence?

First, the human is a creature, a created being, not a self-actualizing god, and he or she is a person, not a thing to be used. Second, the human person is a social being, as we see revealed in the human body itself, male and female. We are made to exist in society, in relationships. And these relationships are made for us to "be fruitful and multiply," that is, they are made for love.

In short, the meaning of human life is to love and be loved in truth.

When we are true to ourselves, true to the reason for which we are made and we fulfill that purpose, that meaning of life -- to love and be loved -- by entering into loving relationships, then and only then are we truly "happy." It has nothing to do with this existentialism nonsense.

Scott said...

"Eleanor Roosevelt was not available to comment."

She's six feet under. That's pretty deep.

sunsong said...

That should say - confuse "form" with function :-)

ayes pi said...

re striking up a convo and a happy medium:

If an idiot ideates with an ideologue, do id and ideal devolve idiopathically into idiomatic delight?

traditionalguy said...

Could "deep and meaningful" here be the code for sharing your secrets including a true report of your emotional reactions to events of the day. That presumes unhappy people keep secrets for fear of punishment and ridicule from the others around them, and that empowers those secrets to rule their lives by denial and repression that results in demand for narcissistic supply ( Obama is an example) or quiet depression. Therapists have built a niche market to be paid to be safe people who will listen to our secrets and release their power over us. That is the true benefit of having a safe spouse, or a true friend, or a prayer partner, or a God that will listen without condemning us. All they need to do is be faithful to us. Our purpose on earth seems to be relational in non condemning ways to other persons using healthy traditional boundaries, or our existence will become a pain filled misery to ourselves or to others that no amount of chemicals from legal and non-legal pharmacies can cure.

HKatz said...

A person, event, and an idea in the same sentence. Great, average or small?

I think by "discussing people" E. Roosevelt probably meant gossip. So, when you were talking about Palin at the rally, was it to discuss her proposals or was it to discuss the latest tabloid piece about her marriage to Todd and how it may be on the rocks?
(though, who knows, maybe there's a valid link between that and the proposals...)

I like a good (deep, meaningful) conversation because it is a great way to better understand others, discover interesting things, connect with others, clarify and revise thoughts, see things in a new perspective... they make me content that I've had them, even though the topics may not always be happy.

themightypuck said...

As has been pointed out, you need to feel somewhat safe and loved in order to have a truly deep and meaningful conversation.

Vinnie said...

If there's one thing I've always believed is true, this is it.

SteveR said...

Too bad so many people equate long conversations with meaningful ones. With the widespread use of cell phones in public places, to the extent those long conversations are meaningful and therefore making the talkers happier, the same cannot be said for those having to listen. STFU and I'll be happier.

Mark O said...

And those men married to Eleanor are happier having sex with her best friend. She does not seem to me to be someone to whom we should look for advice on personal relationships.

Wow, was that ever deep and profound. Let's eat.

Scott said...

@Flexo: Glad you have it all figured out, young fellow.

"Either human life has some instrinsic, inherent "meaning" or it does not, we cannot create it. The meaning of human life is a matter of truth, not creation. We can "find" the truth of that meaning, which will lead to being happy, but if we persist in thinking that we can "create" it, we will fail."

People more often than not place value in external vessels, and then re-internalize the meaning. That is the mechanism through which people create meaning in their lives. I belong to my tribe. I support my party. I believe my shaman. My car is an expression of who I am. I live for my family. I will die for my country.

People who short-circuit this mechanism through a philisophical posture that it's all a cultural head fake are depriving themselves and others the ability to live richly. That's why leftists do it. When your professors speak of everything you value as being part of a "mythology," all that's left is the philosophy of the ones who denuded your world.

Flexo said...

To clarify and expand on what I said earlier --

The inherent meaning of human life is to love and be loved in truth.

"Love" by its very nature involves relationship and, in its deepest sense, it involves a communion of persons, i.e. being "one with" each other (from the Latin), including that type of communion which is communication.

We are made for love, which means we are made for communion, e.g. communication.

When we are true to our nature as human persons, true to this inherent meaning, then it is understandable that we should be happy.

Mark O said...

I've done some further thinking on this and I've had some meaningful conversations with myself. This is what I've concluded:

And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make.

Calypso Facto said...

So that's why I always walk away from an Althouse blog reading session smiling!

SteveR said...

Wow Mark O., you ever work for Hallmark?

bagoh20 said...

Happiness is the means to it's own end and a responsibility we have to each other.

Scott said...

@Mark O:

Happiness is a warm gun. (Bang bang, shoot shoot.)

Scott said...

Say, "I want happiness" in a fake French accent to the one you love. Hilarity will ensue.

Adventurer said...

ayes:

I do, idyllically, identify with your ideology. Does that make you my idol? More than idle curiosity at work here.

Oligonicella said...

Or -- people who claim to have deep, meaningful conversations don't want to admit other than they are happy.

Unless of course, they're into angst. Then they don't want to admit other than they have deep, meaningful conversations.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Say, "I want happiness" in a fake French accent to the one you love. Hilarity will ensue.

Or you could slap the one you love in the face with a black glove and cry "I demand satisfaction!" That works pretty well too.

Leland said...

Poor Jeremy.

Alex said...

Every atom of Nancy Pelosi's body could be a tiny solar system with planets full of tiny people just like Nancy Pelosi!

Comment of the decade. This is why I still come to Althouse comments despite the Jeremey's.

Michael said...

I am convinced that the therapeutic culture is responsible for more unhappiness than happiness. Now all these college kids are going to question the depth of their various conversations and weigh that depth against their current happiness. Nightmare. Therapy is a splendid racket.

Alex said...

I always believed in self-therapy.

1. I didn't end up paying any money
2. I didn't spill the beans to some person who doesn't really give 2 shits about me in the end.
3. It always worked, because I told myself to shape up or ship out; basically HIT the bricks pal!

traditionalguy said...

@ Michael...Yes, therapy is a racquet in the sense that people should not get into their heads the false ideas and the vows used to avoid pain from rejection and ridicule and false critical comments made to them. Also people should never let themselves be in highway accidents that lead to the creation of the EMT & Hospital and Doctor racquets. But guess what, nearly all of us need help sooner or later. We then find that we are only as good as our social support system permits...and money can buy a lot of that...but so can close covenant relationships give it to us for free out of love. A covenant says that you will be there for me in my need, But that I will never ask anything from you beyond what need. That may be why God makes covenants with us and also watches to see how faithful we are to others in covenant with us. Incidentally, the USA is called the Land of The Covenant in Hebrew. Our faithfulness to the Constitution is a very important matter.

Penny said...

"People who have deep, meaningful conversations are happier."

It sure beats hanging around the water fountain waiting for the next round of gossip.

The interesting thing about gossip is that even if you don't engage in it, it still has a way of touching your life because so many others enjoy it.

What does it say about us that gossip has become big business?

At least we know what Eleanor Roosevelt would have to say about that.

But then there's the capitalism aspect of it, which frankly is the silver lining. Americans may have "small minds", but never when it comes to business.

Penny said...

It would be very cool to hang around the water fountain having deep, meaningful conversations about capitalism.

William said...

The ability to have deep, meaningful conversations is probably closely related to the ability to get laid. If you nod sympathetically and reach over and touch the hand of the person you are having a deep, meaningful conversation with, yout chances of getting lucky increase exponentially.

Nora said...

Meaningfull conversations are new TM.

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" is obviously a statement that discusses people.

ayes pi said...

Adventurer:

An idiosyncratic inter-synchretic exchange with a charming idolater would be ideal, next Ides, over an Idaho potato and Billy Idol, if your I.D. checks out.

Nora said...

Meaningfull conversations are new TM.

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" is obviously a statement that discusses people.

Adventurer said...

As a great neo-nihilist and hedonist philosopher said:

"I can see that you're just ___ years old;

No I don't want your I.D."

viz.

Penny said...

"If you nod sympathetically and reach over and touch the hand of the person you are having a deep, meaningful conversation with, your chances of getting lucky increase exponentially."

For shame, William! Didn't you read Flexo's entry? It's about TRUTH.

May I suggest that you at least consider a variation of Scott's suggestion? Even if it doesn't work, you will both get a good laugh out of it. I'm laughing just thinking about it.

Mark O said...

I love all the comments and, as you may not know yet, love means never having to say you are sorry.

Kev said...

Therapy is a splendid racket.

I don't have a link for this, as it's very pre-internet, but I remember reading quite a while back that a prominent British psychologist made more than a few enemies among his colleagues when he said that if everybody had at least one good friend to talk to, nobody would need a psychologist anymore.

(I'm sure he wasn't discounting actual mental illnesses caused by chemical imbalances and the like, but it's understandable that others in his profession didn't want someone publishing such a statement.)