Time Out explains why small talk can benefit your health, with help from The Lighthouse Arabia psychotherapy, psychology and mindfulness experts in Dubai
You may not think of it this way, but if you try to create small talk by continually answering a “how are you” question with “I’m exhausted”, “stressed”, or “frustrated”, it can actually, in the long run, have a profound effect on your mood, mental health and overall wellbeing.
So why do we complain when starting a conversation if it can damage our minds and ultimately our self-esteem? Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director at The LightHouse Arabia, specialists in psychotherapy, psychology and mindfulness, and says that on some level, the reason we grumble is related to the fact that if we declared how satisfied and happy our lives are, we’d inadvertently alienate ourselves and thereby destroy the very thing we’d set out to achieve – a conversation.
“If your response to ‘how are you’ is, ‘I am having the best day,’ psychologically, it can seem like you’re bragging to the other person. You also risk making that person jealous and disarming them,” Dr Afridi says.
While the reflexive comeback is justifiable, Dr Afridi says that it’s not helpful in the long run. “Misery likes company, sure,” she says. “If you say you’re tired to an acquaintance, guaranteed that almost every time, you’ll get a ‘me too’ in return. But there is a danger in being negative and whiny all the time. You have to name a problem to acknowledge it, but you need to process it, too, and try to resolve it. If you find yourself complaining too much, there’s a groove you’ll need to get out of, as in the long-term, you’re risking clinical depression and just being a really negative person to be around.”
You may be of the persuasion that there is something incredibly interesting or funny about being a curmudgeon, but your Abu Dhabi acquaintances (and eventually your friends) are likely to start avoiding you for bringing that constant negative energy around them.
Dr Afridi highlights the holistic effects of being a complainer all the time. “Murphy’s Law is real and it affects all of us every single day,” she says. “We are all vibrations and energies, the more positive we are, the more positive we attract. If we experience a dip in energy, we feel that in life, too. Complaining might make you feel at ease, but remember to articulate the positive every now and then. Even if it’s only for five minutes.”
There’s a time and place for expressing adverse feelings. The key, if you want to get a great conversation started (and keep it flowing), is to exercise balance and discretion.
If you’d like to speak to a professional, book an appointment with a clinical practitioner at The LightHouse Arabia. Sessions start from Dhs700. Villa 1, Al Wasl Road, www.lighthousearabia.com (050 473 3563).