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The Surprising Happiness of Being Social

“Conversation distinguishes the human being from the animal
 and the civilized man from the barbarian.”
– Michael Oakeshott

Nurturing our conversational lives has many benefits, including learning about the world around us and our own selves, stimulating creativity, engendering social bonds, and enabling our capacity for empathy and change. More importantly, conversation is the bridge that connects our individual selves with those of people around us. To find richness, meaning, and purpose in our lives, we must feel a sense of belonging.

Monmouth_coffee_shopConversation enables us to recognize the humanity in others, and thereby in ourselves. So it was a pleasure to read the article, “Hello, Stranger,” by Elizabeth W. Dunn and Michael Norton in the New York Times, referencing several studies demonstrating how social interactions have remarkable power to create a positive emotional response. One study illustrated how even behavior as basic as genuinely engaging your coffee shop barista, instead of adopting an “in-and-out” efficiency, left those people feeling more cheerful.

It turns out that investing in social capital, a non-monetary endeavor, by interacting with the people that we find around us from time to time yields simple yet rich benefits to our lives. Go ahead, try it…

[… If you still feel daunted chit chatting with someone that is a weak tie or stranger, I rather enjoyed this article, “Do This Don’t: Talk to Strangers on the Subway,” by Carla Ciccone, which has a few tips, and illustrations… ]

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I believe that conversation helps us to live better and work well.


  1. As a natural introvert, my instinct is often “in-and-out” as mentioned above. But I’ve come to realize (with age, wisdom) that social interaction is often times not only necessary, but HEALTHY! Thanks for this Stuart!

    • Thank you, Erin. It is all too easy to ignore people, but I have, for example, realized that I feel more optimistic and generally lighter of spirit when I acknowledge people that I pass when I am walking around. Such a simple social interaction but with profound benefits. And now it is spring, we get the opportunity to be less “in-and-out” and to connect with others. I hope you enjoy it!

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