Skip the Small Talk aims to reduce loneliness, improve physiological and psychological health, and enhance the quality of interpersonal interactions through research-supported techniques. The studies cited here represent only a fraction of the research that goes into any given Skip the Small Talk, but offer the critical base for these events.
For further learning, you can also refer to the original sources from our references list.
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).
Skip the Small Talk fosters interpersonal closeness using a model tested by Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, and Bator (1997), in which participants who asked each other increasingly personal questions reported feeling significantly closer to one another, as compared to participants engaged in a small talk task. Similarly, in a Skip the Small Talk event, conversations are based around questions—provided by the facilitator—that encourage discussion about meaningful topics inspired by Aron et al.’s study. However, Skip the Small Talk attendees are offered agency in which questions they answer, and are allowed to stop any conversation at any time so that each individual can cater the degree of self-disclosure to their comfort level. Skip the Small Talk events open with encouragement to push one’s own comfort zone, framed in language to encourage healthy boundaries, so attendees can make more effective decisions about how much to disclose at any given time.
Another tool used in Skip the Small Talk to encourage better social habits is mindfulness. A study by Liu, Wang, Chang, Chen, and Si (2012) suggests that even when not administered by a therapist, mindfulness interventions can increase one’s ability to withstand aversive states. Mindfulness skills can help people cope more easily with emotions that arise during conflict—such as frustration and irritation—as well as those emotions that lie outside the realm of conflict—such as boredom—which can lead to better decision-making, better moral reasoning, and improved well-being (Shapiro, Jazaieri, & Goldin, 2012) (Brown & Ryan, 2003). At Skip the Small Talk events, attendees are encouraged to notice emotions as they arise and allow those emotions to pass at their natural pace instead of attempting to suppress them. Attendees have reported that this mindfulness practice helps them interact more comfortably with people of different viewpoints, and that even after Skip the Small Talks, they can more effectively cope with feelings that arise from challenging conversations.