The Power of Deep Conversations

Erman Misirlisoy, PhD
5 min readJun 13, 2022
Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Small talk is a great way to express jovial politeness with passing strangers, but it often dominates longer social encounters too. Even when we have time for deeper chat with strangers or acquaintances, we tend to drift toward an abundance of weather-related complaints or “how’s the family?” chat. This isn’t the most rewarding type of conversation. Better value usually comes from revealing how we think, feel, and enjoy life, but most of us hesitate to talk on such a personal level.

Small talk isn’t useless; it’s a pleasant social lubricant in brief interactions with strangers. But we may be spending too much time on small talk purely because we fear awkwardness. New research is showing that deep conversations make people feel more connected, but we shy away from them because we wrongly expect them to be uncomfortable.

Comic from Liz + Mollie

Don’t shy away from deep conversations

In a recent study, a group of US researchers tested how people’s expectations of deep conversations matched up to reality. They started by recruiting pairs of strangers and giving them a few deep conversation starters:

  • “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”



Erman Misirlisoy, PhD

Research Leader (Ex-Instagram / Chief Scientist at multiple startups). Author of the User Insight Newsletter: