reducing loneliness

Research indicates that loneliness leads to a host of negative psychological and physiological outcomes, including, but not limited to, diminished cardiovascular functioning; impaired immune functioning; hypertension; worsened sleep quality; cognitive impairment; depressive symptoms including suicidality; decreased ability to self-regulate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; diminished participation in physical activities; and lower likelihood of engaging in other behaviors that maintain physical health (Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010). Problematically, a rise in technology use has led to a greater sense of social isolation (Turkle, 2011). Even as our social networks offer us greater connection quantity, the quality of those connections are more relevant to our perceptions of loneliness than quantity (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008).


According to a meta-analysis on interventions for loneliness by Masi, Chen, Hawkley, and Cacioppo (2010), the type of intervention that most decreased loneliness were those that addressed maladaptive social cognitions. This kind of intervention was even more successful in decreasing loneliness than interventions that enhanced social skills, interventions that improved social support, and interventions that offered opportunities for social contact, although all of those were found to be effective, as well.


Skip the Small Talk therefore incorporates all of those strategies, with an emphasis on correcting maladaptive social cognitions. For instance, Skip the Small Talk events include a portion where attendees anonymously report how comfortable they felt with how much they shared in a conversation and how comfortable they felt with how much their partner shared. When this data is reported back to the group as a whole, many are surprised at the fact that in every single Skip the Small Talk event to date, zero people have reported feeling that their partner has overshared. Hearing this outcome helps to correct false beliefs that might inhibit connection with others, and can have lasting effects beyond individual Skip the Small Talk events.


Moreover, Skip the Small Talk addresses loneliness by improving social skills. In addition to incorporating focused listening, the structure of Skip the Small Talk events includes practicing self-disclosure and question-asking, both of which are actions positively associated with affinity (Collins & Miller, 1994) (Sprecher, Treger, & Wondra, 2012) (Huang, Yeomans, Brooks, Minson, & Gino, 2016). Skip the Small Talk offers opportunities for social contact and chances for continued social support by creating authentic interactions that can serve as groundwork for future supportive relationships.