A study performed by Dan Ariely, a Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics at Duke University and Kristen Berman founder of Irrational Labs, showed an interesting change in humans when small talk was banned from a dinner party.
They set up a group dinner, inviting everyone to show up between 7:30 and 8. If someone was going to be there after 8, they were instructed not to come. This got people on the same page, as nearly everyone showed up before 8.
Once at the party, guests followed the rules of avoiding small talk. They did not touch on conversation about the weather, but, instead, focused on issues of importance, outlined on cards provided by the study's authors.
The 27 gender-mixed guests discussed if they should hold public officials accountable and how to do it. They debated the theory of suicide prevention and talked about the art of the dominatrix, all conversations that may not normally be heard walking down the street.
The result was a bonding experience, with two sets of people even setting up dates after having bomb conversations. Interestingly, people were more engaged and appeared freer to talk about the things they really wanted to talk about. It was interesting to note that by setting up rules about what can not be talked about, people actually became more free, even enforcing the "no small talk" rules amongst themselves.
It is no doubt that most everyone seeks a deeper meaning and a real connection. By forcing yourself out of your shell, you can really get through to people (who likely want the same thing you do), talking about what you feel is important.
"By establishing a common rule for behaviour we created an environment with a new set of social norms that redefined peoples' best interests," write the authors, adding "everyone was happier" once they dropped the small talk and went for the meaty, real stuff.
It's not a shock; it's awesome to see a study backing up this super important behavioral shift into people talking about what really matters.