For a happier workplace, get beyond the small talk

(From The Globe and Mail) At a time of economic turmoil and increasing consumer anxiety, workplace colleagues can be forgiven for limiting their social contact to small talk. “What’s up?” or “Did you see the game last night?” is unlikely to unleash an angst-ridden response. Whether people are afraid to upset or provoke others, or think that upbeat chatter creates a positive atmosphere, there’s often a Don’t Worry, Be Happy approach to office banter.

But a recent study shows that this may not be such a good thing. Genuinely satisfied people have deeper, more meaningful conversations more often than unhappy people do. “Our data are pretty clear in that the happiest person had 10 per cent of small talk [in their social interactions],” and had twice as many substantive conversations as unhappy people, said Matthias Mehl, a professor of social psychology at the University of Arizona, and lead author of the study.

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