In this episode, Ali tells us about a party(!) he recently attended, and how he approached the social interactions there. We talk about how we approach conversations with new people, whether it's okay to talk about "work" at social events, and, of course, the idea of "small talk".

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

Conversations in social situations like dinner parties usually involve talking about something (e.g work) or talking about nothing. Taimur suggests that talking about nothing is the more meaningful mode of connecting but often, without any other context, it makes sense to dive into talking about something in order to provide some fuel for the conversation. But you don’t really bond when talking about something – the exchange of information about work, for instance, doesn’t bring you together…

…so this concept needs to be rephrased as an β€˜exchange of information’ or an β€˜exchange of emotion’. The exchange of emotion is far more meaningful than the informational exchange which acts rather more as a form of conversational filler. Connecting on a human level encourages the exchange of feelings rather than the interchange of information which can feel quite formulaic and often doesn’t lead anywhere.

Emotions and feelings perhaps therefore play the most significant part of any interaction. Whether that be at a dinner party or even at an interview, people often care more about feelings and emotions rather than objective facts which, in the case of a dinner party, people struggle to connect with unless you work in similar fields and, in the case of an interview, he/she can get that factual information from CVs or Personal Statements.

Adopting an appropriate open mindset before starting a conversation can result in you gaining more value from the interaction. It’s worth having as an axiom that any two human beings on this planet can fruitfully connect and enjoy an interaction together. Going in with the mindset of trying to find that connection will lead to more pleasant and enjoyable conversations as opposed to going in with the mindset of trying to figure out if someone is interesting or boring. If we’re struggling to connect with someone then we should try to change this rather than write it off as an interaction that was β€˜not meant to be’.


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


Follow Not Overthinking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/noverthinking.

Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram