Small talk comes with big benefits
Plus, how to embrace love — even when it’s hard
“There's the path that we use for self-judgment, and there's the path that we use for judging others.” — Emily Pronin
Chit-chat. Small talk might not be as bad as we think. In one study, people were asked to interact with the barista while getting their daily cup of coffee. This included smiling, making eye contact, and initiating a brief conversation. The result? People left the interaction feeling a lot happier and even reported an increased sense of belonging. “These results suggest that, although people are often reluctant to have a genuine social interaction with a stranger, they are happier when they treat a stranger like a weak tie,” the researchers reported. We rag on small talk, but it’s a tiny way to approach our day-to-day interactions with a little more humanity. Writer Steven Handel calls these mini social interactions “10 second” relationships. “That’s the only amount of time you really need to build a positive connection with someone,” Handel writes. “Too often we walk through the world with our heads down, trying to ignore all the people we pass by on a daily basis. We’re surrounded by people, yet we feel alone and disconnected.” Handel suggests a few ways to connect.
The case for love. It’s easy to love people when they make us feel good. It’s much harder to love those we deem difficult. People often behave in ways we find “distinctly unloveable,” The School of Life explains. They argue that the key to embracing a more loving attitude in your own life is to have compassion for others, even when it doesn’t come easy. One way to do this? Remember that we are all basically children. “Evil is a consequence of injury,” they explain. “The big person did not start off evil. Their difficult sides were not hard-wired from the start. They grew towards malice on account of some form of wound waiting to be discovered.” Like children, many adults react to being wounded in ways that are unproductive or even harmful. While this doesn’t excuse bad behavior, reminding ourselves of this can keep hate from creeping into our own lives and ensure we maintain a sense of peaceful compassion.
Despite what Hollywood might have to say about it, love means occasionally having to say you’re sorry. In fact, a well-constructed apology can make relationships stronger. Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Feb 14: It’s easy to spot bias in other people, especially those with whom we disagree. But it’s not so easy to recognize our own biases. Psychologist Emily Pronin says it’s partly because of our brain architecture. We explore what Pronin calls the introspection illusion, in part three of our Mind Reading 2.0 series.
Feb 21: Are people inherently good, or inherently bad? We talk with behavioral economist Sam Bowles, who makes the case that we've underestimated the goodness in human nature — and woven this error into the fabric of our societies.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Feb 17: Sanaa Kerroumi is on the train when a man accosts her for wearing a hijab. Then a second man stepped in to defend her.
Take one out and scratch my head, I am now black but once was red. What am I?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
A man pushes his car to a hotel and tells the owner he’s bankrupt. Why?
The answer: He’s playing Monopoly.
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
Have an idea for Hidden Brain? A story you want to share with us? Send an email to email@example.com. And if you’d like to support our work, you can do so here. Listen to us on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast platform.