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Why small talk is actually *really* good for you


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Small talk is undeniably awkward. Whether it’s with a complete stranger at the dog park or a distant relative while eating Thanksgiving dinner, the sheer pain of trying to come up with what to say to avoid the dreaded silence is something no one likes. But it’s actually really good for you.

While it might be uncomfortable, making a connection with another human is a blessing in disguise for your mental health: According to a new study from the University of Chicago, people tend to have better experiences chatting with strangers than keeping to themselves. And another study on the effect of “weak ties”—like your barista or the girl you always see at yoga—indicates that even those small interactions are a boost for your social and emotional well-being.

“We found that genuine social interactions—even minimal ones—contribute to fulfilling our basic human need to belong. By chatting with a stranger, you are being seen and acknowledged, and your connection to that one person may remind you of your universal connection to other people.” —Gillian Sandstrom, PhD

“We found that genuine social interactions—even minimal ones—contribute to fulfilling our basic human need to belong,” Gillian Sandstrom, PhD, psychology lecturer at the University of Essex and author of the study on on weak ties, tells Quartz. “By chatting with a stranger, you are being seen and acknowledged, and your connection to that one person may remind you of your universal connection to other people.”

On top of feeling like you belong, another study found getting to know someone new—and going back and forth with the awkward weather talk—even gives your brain a boost, helping you better plan, prioritize, and organize. Basically there’s no reason not to take advantage of a little small talk. Sure, things can get weird—but in the end, it sounds like it’s totally worth it. (And you might even make a new friend.)

You’ll love these unmistakable signs of an introvert. Or, maybe get some advice on how to flirt completely sober—without being awkward.