“Eavesdropping on Happiness: Well-Being is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive conversations”-Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby.
The authors’ main point is that substantive conversations lead to more happiness than shallow trivial talks. They clearly set out their research question, namely to investigate what kind of conversations characterize a happy life, and move ahead to review what other scholars have said about it. Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby (2010) cite empirical research by Vazire and Mehl who conducted studies on seventy-nine university students. The studies sought to overcome the challenge of evaluating loaded behavior by using EAR (Electronically Activated Recorder). Through this electronic gadget, it was possible to track the students’ behavior in real-time. The results of this study correlates with previous studies that portray people who engage in substantive conversations as happier than those who do more small talk. Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby (2010) conclude the article by drawing a philosophical reference to Socrates who emphasized the importance of reflection in people’s lives. When people interact, they easily engage in deep conversations that make them find life more worthwhile. However, the authors reckon that this is an area that scholars should research more in order to provide more empirical data.
The writers’ arguments are outstanding for various reasons. A good research should begin with a critical literature review of scholars in the same or related discipline. This lends the argument credibility because the reader is in a position to get a holistic understanding of the issues under scrutiny. Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby (2010) achieve this by citing what authors in the same area have said. Just after stating the research question, they report that there is little study on what styles of interactions lead to higher happiness. This heightens the significance of their studies. Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby (2010) explain the challenges that scholars face in evaluating loaded behavior. More often than not, people can misrepresent their true feelings and thus pose a challenge of validity to researchers. They move further to quote a more credible study that used Electronically Activated Recorder. This study however lacks a control group, an aspect that would be very important for comparing data. The authors appear to have relied solely on case studies that were in tandem with a predetermined conclusion.
From the textbook used in the course, I have learned that happiness (and other emotions) is difficult for scholars to measure empirically. Additionally, there is no consensus on the standard yardsticks to use in evaluating emotions. It has thus been left to scholars to devise their own yardstick. Different scholars attach different definitions to happiness. The same is true of respondents. There are many factors influencing the state of happiness and a scholar needs to conduct his study over a given period to avoid inconsistent data. Additionally, there must be a control group in any study in order to get objective data. Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby (2010) reaffirm the course book but also introduce new perspectives. Evaluating emotional conditions is difficult just as the four authors acknowledge. The writers however introduce a new perspective by employing technology to measure happiness. From this study, I have learned that happiness can be quantified using electronic gadgets.
I have also learned that people can be trained to be happy by being encouraged to participate in substantive conversations. The fallacy that more small talk is a manifestation of happiness has been dispelled.
The article is very useful especially coming at a time that studies show that happiness index has one down in many parts of the world. This is especially manifest by the increase in suicide rates in Europe and America. Cases of divorce are also on the rise. People are not getting the happiness they expected in marriages. Happiness is antithetical to vices such as divorce, suicide and crime. In the article, it is evident that people who engage in substantive conversations are happier. The use of technology has reduced the time people spend together. It is common for young people to spend all their free time on social media rather than conversing with families and peers. In any case, conversation using social media and other technologies is usually shallow. From the findings in the article, I think it is important if people introduce a national and global discourse on regulating use of social media. There should be concerted efforts to ensure that people stay together in a situation where the only thing they can do is engage in substantive conversation.
The article makes it clear that people who converse more substantively are happier. I think these findings are correct. People who converse reflectively tend to think about issues of life more. They evaluate situations before making judgments and are careful. They thus reduce situations that they will have to suffer consequences of irrational behavior. Additionally, they open up easily and heal wherever they are hurt. This enhances the catharsis process and they move on with their lives with less baggage from the past.
Matthias, Simine, Shannon, and Shelby (2010). Eavesdropping on Happiness: Well-Being is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive conversations, DOI: 10.1177/0956797610362675.