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Chattiest streets are happiest streets

07 April 2014

Research carried out by The Big Lunch recently in Northern Ireland found that despite small talk with neighbours not coming naturally for just over half of those questioned in the province, two thirds of people said it makes them feel happier.

The Big Lunch is fast becoming an annual day of neighbourhood celebration –offering a free pack which you can order at www.thebiglunch.com to make your community part of the UK wide show of community solidarity. The Big Lunch is at the beginning of volunteers week, and is also a great way to recognise the contribution volunteers make in your locality.

The Big Lunch wanted to find out if speaking to your neighbours genuinely had a positive impact on your life. They quickly found that the chattiest streets in Northern Ireland are the happiest streets.

The nationwide study among 2,000 adults, carried out by Lottery funded initiative The Big Lunch - the UK’s annual get together for neighbours - found that 64% of people in Northern Ireland make small talk with their neighbours and 47% even go out of their way to start a conversation with a neighbour.  Six in ten of those who do make small talk claim that a simple conversation with a neighbour makes them feel more in touch with the rest of their community.

Small talk comes more easily to the older generation – perhaps unsurprisingly - with 72 % of over 55s saying it comes naturally compared to just 47% of under 35s.  Twenty per cent of under 25s say that they do not talk at all with their neighbours.

The study found that although almost one in five people in Northern Ireland said they don’t feel comfortable making small talk with their neighbours, 20% say they are flattered by the interest when a neighbour makes the effort to talk to them with one third saying it makes them feel that they matter and are less invisible.  For 7% of those surveyed, talking with a neighbour is one of the highlights of their day. 

Clinical Psychologist Tanya Byron comments, “It is very easy to trivialise 'small talk' as tedious and time wasting, but in fact taking the time to have meaningful but minimal interactions is very important. These are the conversations that have meaning and benefit our immediate community and wider society. They are free, take no time and are impactful. These moments are humanising and are an important acknowledgement of the individual. In taking the trouble to talk to your neighbour you may also be helping to reduce their sense of loneliness.” 

When it comes to the motivation behind small talk, one in five of respondents said they wanted to talk about something that happened locally, while one in ten used small talk as a means to an end for example asking their neighbour for a favour.

It’s no surprise that across Northern Ireland researchers found that weather is the most popular subject when starting a conversation, followed by holidays and enquiring about a neighbour’s children.  A person’s well-being, local events or the opportunity to gossip are also among the go-to themes when making small talk.

To read more go to: www.thebiglunch.com