Conversations with strangers pan out better than expected

Updated: Mar 23

Research in the field of positive psychology suggests that chit-chat makes people happier. Despite its benefits to well-being, people struggle with ‘conversation anxiety’ - fears about how conversations with strangers will pan out.

Researchers Gillian Sandstorm and Erica Boothby investigated the phenomenon through a meta-analysis of 7 studies looking at pre-conversation predictions and post-conversation experiences (N=2304). The study suggests that the most prominent worry, concerning oneself, is not enjoying the conversation, followed by (in decreasing order of prominence) their own conversational ability and the prospect of not liking their partner. Concerning their partner, people are most afraid that their partner may not enjoy the conversation, followed by (no difference in prominence) partner’s lack of conversational ability and partner not liking oneself.

Compared to not enjoying the conversation oneself, people are more worried about their partner not enjoying the conversation and compared to not liking their partner, people are more worried about their partner not liking them.

All fears studied were found to be overblown. The researchers concluded that “conversations with strangers not only go better than expected, but generally go quite well”.

Read more about the study here.