By Denise Ngo
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, great minds talk about ideas; small minds talk about people. What do you and your significant other talk about? If you constantly hit the heavy stuff you’re probably happier than if you spend time gossiping about your neighbors or coworkers.
A recent study published in Psychological Science says that people are happier when they spend more time discussing meaningful topics than engaging in small talk. Seventy-nine college students had their conversations recorded and analyzed by researchers, who distinguished between chit-chat about the food or the weather from discussions about philosophy, education, or religion. Subjects who reported the greatest amount of satisfaction spent only 10 percent of their conversation on small talk, while the unhappiest subjects kept 28.3 of their talking time in the shallow end.
Granted, the study is still in its infancy, and researchers have yet to conclude whether people are happy because they can talk deeply, or whether they talk deeply because they are happy. Either way, we started thinking about relationships and how closely we converse with our partners. In an interview with The New York Times, researcher Matthias Mehl said,
By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world. 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.
Heck, what’s more chaotic than being in love? Among the scores of substantive topics people discuss, we’ve come up with 10 that we believe couples should relish during heart-to-hearts:
1. Embarrassing moments. If you can’t share the awkward, American Pie-worthy moments that occurred throughout high school with your boyfriend or husband, who can you tell them to? Don’t be afraid to broach the subject, if you haven’t already. We wouldn’t be surprised if his stories are more horrifying than yours.
2. Political viewpoints. How do you feel about the freshly-approved healthcare bill? You don’t have to agree with each other, but you do need to keep an open mind. A good relationship allows both parties to discuss their own philosophies without taking the opposition personally.
3. Fears and insecurities. By fears, we don’t mean your phobia of earthworms. We’re talking about things that make you wake up with gray hairs. What worries you? What do you want to improve in yourself? What skeletons are in your closet? In being vulnerable, you risk judgement, but more importantly, you chance being understood.
4. Childhood. Ask your partner what he or she was like as a kid. Did she make friends easily? What kind of games did he like to play? Did he have trouble in school? Childhood memories make for fun conversations, but they can also lend insight into how your main squeeze became the person he or she is today.
5. Past relationships. This is a touchy one because no one wants to hear the person they’re with spouting sonnets about an ex. There is, of course, a difference between longing for (or being bitter over) the past and simply acknowledging what happened. With enough practice, seasoned, happy couples learn how to address why past relationships ended without inandvertently comparing their current partner to an old flame.