A Little Happier: The More We Talk to Someone, the More We Have to Say.

Last week, I discussed a fascinating passage from Karl Ove Knausgaard about Obliger-rebellion, and this week I want to mention another passage.

On the Happier podcast, each week Elizabeth and I propose a Try-This-at-Home suggestion—some concrete step that we can take, starting today, to be happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative.

Way back in episode 2, we suggested a Try-This-at-Home that really struck a chord with listeners: “Send updates.” It was an idea suggested by our mother.

She’d made the observation that when you’re in touch with a person all the time, you have a lot to say to each other, but when you see a person rarely, you have a hard time coming up with things to say.

So she suggested that we email each other regularly, with updates about small details of our lives. We instantly realized that this was a great idea, and now every several days, we send each other an email titled “Update,” and we write about the most minor daily happenings. The motto of the update is “It’s okay to be boring.”

It’s astonishing how much closer I feel to my mother, father, and sister now that we’re exchanging these very minor, but regular, updates.

As I explained last week, I love the “autobiographical novels” and essays of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. In one of his memoir novels, he makes a similar observation—about how we have more to say to people we see all the time. In My Struggle: Book 6, (Amazon, Bookshop) he’s thinking about moving away from his beloved brother Geir, and he reflects:

“When we moved to Malmo I had been afraid Geir and I would lose touch. That’s what distance does; when the time between conversations gets longer, intimacy diminishes, the little things connected to one’s daily life lose their place, it seems odd to talk about a shirt you just bought or to mention you’re thinking of leaving the dishes until morning when you haven’t spoken to a person for two weeks or a month, that absence would seem instead to call for more important topics, and once they begin to determine the conversation there’s no turning back, because then it’s two diplomats exchanging information about their respective realms in a conversation that needs to be started up from scratch, in a sense, every time, which gradually becomes tedious, and eventually it’s easier not to bother phoning at all, in which case it’s even harder the next time, and then suddenly it’s been a half a year of silence.”

It’s perhaps counter-intuitive, but it’s true, the more we talk to people, the more we have to say to them.

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