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March 5th, 2010
11:27 AM ET

Unhappy? Maybe it’s too much small talk

By Elizabeth Landau
CNNHealth.com Writer-Producer

Small talk is part of everyday life, but it’s the substantial, meaningful conversations that may make you happy. That’s one possibility suggested in a new study examining how conversation connects to happiness.

Researchers, led by Matthias Mehl at the University of Arizona, looked at the different types of conversation that happy and unhappy people participate in. The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, was somewhat small, involving 79 undergraduates, but meshes well with established ideas that happiness and social life are intertwined.

Experts found that the happiest people in the study engaged in only one-third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants. Happy people tended to have twice as many substantive conversations, and spent 25 percent less time alone, than the unhappiest participants.

These insights fit with what psychologists have seen previously: that loneliness predicts depression, and that feelings of social connectedness are important for happiness, said Susan Turk Charles, psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the study.

Substantive conversations create a feeling of belonging that leads to happiness, she said. Conversely, people who suffer from depression tend to withdraw from others.

The method that the researchers used was creative, Charles said. Instead of bringing people into a lab, as traditionally done in these sorts of studies, they had participants wear a recording device for four days, picking up conversations that they had.

The Electronically Activated Recorder sampled 30 seconds of sound every 12.5 minutes, giving researchers a broad range of conversations to examine in terms of “small talk” vs. “deep conversation.”

The bottom line is that maintaining friendships can help with emotional well-being. Friends buffer negative events and provide support, Charles said. Don’t be too busy to have a meaningful conversation, she said.

“It really is important in your life. It should be something that you prioritize just as much as you prioritize, maybe, working on your career or getting that project finished,” she said.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. Debra Fine

    That is an interesting study but I have observed something entirely different. It may be true that conversations limited to small talk can lead to unhappiness. But that is because the conversation stops with small talk. Instead, I believe that small talk should be viewed as the appetizer for a relationship. Most connected relationships, business, social or romantic begin with small talk and then lead into deeper conversations and more connected relationships. Yes it is possible to successfully talk business, meet with your child's softball coach, or even go on a blind date. But without small talk...friendships will not be developed. I am the author of The Fine Art of Small Talk (Hyperion), and although a former engineer who had complete disdain for small talk, I now have plenty of anecdotal evidence to support my thoughts on this topic.

    March 5, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. kitty hello

    I'm always getting accused of being "too deep", or steering conversations that way, and THAT makes me feel unhappy. Why are people so afraid of their feelings?

    March 5, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. slate

    my experience has been long talking with some leads to a greater chance of fights..... which leaves to bigger, longer lasting negative feelings.... sometimes the less you say the better...

    March 5, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Samantha

    Reminder: You have to start with the little conversations before you know someone well enough to have a "deep" conversation. You have to know the other person well enough to trust that they are someone you want to have an in depth conversation with. Relationships have to begin somewhere. We would all love fabulous friends in a supportive community – but sometimes you need to move and you to begin somewhere...

    March 5, 2010 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tom Grebinski

    I agree with what is said here. We just ended our five year relationship because, in part, our conversations drifted away from being meaningful to our future together.

    March 5, 2010 at 23:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Al

    I find that people who know how to have a good two-way conversation are few and far between. It is overwhelmingly abusive to be 'cornered' by a person who seems to be using me as just a sounding board for their excessive regurgitation of every minute detail of their life from their new hair cut to what color the baby's diaper was that morning. There are several people in my life like this, and I the older I get, the more I avoid one-sided, small talk that stretches out for 20 minutes without a breath like the plague. It is not only depressing, it's abusive, ridiculous, and a gross waste of my time.

    March 6, 2010 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sundog

    You know this is something that I have said for a long time, that is true for me. Small Talk is something I have had to finally learn to talk to anyone at all or so it feels. I perceive that small talk is the bandaid we put over social censorship. These days its the safe subjects that are encouraged, so that one is not bullied by extremists of one stripe or another. This also goes back to the original exploration of Feminine unhappiness–the problem that has no name. SAHMs/or Stay at Home Parents often find themelves cut off from intellectual stimulation esp in the beginning. How much better their lives, could be if that didn't disappear when they take up the serious business of child rearing. I believe that deep conversations are mostly the sign of inward honesty seeking an outlet, and that when one feels constrained by small talk that one is being shut up, that your honesty and thoughts are not appreciated. And that is both hurtful and its an insult.

    March 6, 2010 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. VinceProfessor

    What is a deep and substantive conversation? I witness many long and passionate conversations about nothing! I hear many short and impersonal exchanges that are profound!

    March 6, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jude

    I so agree. I've always been someone who wants light and not heat. Inane conversation is okay if you're standing in the check out line, but for relationships, I'll take deep everyday. Intimacy, which was defined, in-to-me-see. I like that definition. Superficial, vane repetitions leave one very unfulfilled. No connection, which to me from my experience, the person involved had something to hide, from me.

    March 6, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jules Garcia

    Well, maybe this helps explain why men are happier than women, per another study. All that chit-chat isn't good for women after all.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Thomas2

    Let's not be so quick to discount small talk. To get to the deep end you must first walk through shallow waters.

    What do we mean by small talk, and "big" talk?

    March 6, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Colleen

    Kelly, I was thinking the exact same thing when I read your post. I can't stand Facebook, etc. because they leave me feeling empty and unfulfilled conversationally. I would posit that it's not only a deeper conversation that makes us more happy, but a face to face exchange. I'm not saying that an intimate email can not be meaningful, but if it's your only method of communication I would think that it would make many people feel less connected and more superficial.

    I think as humans we need the touch, warmth, connection, and understanding that only a physical interaction can bring. We are designed to be interconnected beings, and electronic communication just does not suffice.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ghost4nuke

    The real question is did these study subjects know they were being recorded? If so, maybe the group that had increased small talk didn't share the meaningful conversations they would normally have when not recorded. This may be because they are secretive and untrusting or cynical. Which means it is not the small talk but the reason for the small talk that makes them unhappy.

    March 6, 2010 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Fritz Hansmann

    Wonderfull subject matter . I am always looking for good conversation and since i am alone i greet alot of strangers while I am walking or rollerbladding . I ask people if I can take their picture , with their camera , sometimes I will stand on my blades for over an hour and get into the deepest sujects that interset me , hopefully it interests them also . But so true that there are people that are searching for a good conversation because they are not getting them at home . We just want to feel alive and be counted .

    March 6, 2010 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sue S

    I would like to know who classified the snippets of conversation as "small talk" or "deep conversation"; from the article, it appears that the researchers listened to fragments of conversation and categorized them according to their own preconceived notions of what's trivial or substantive. Talking about the weather or sports or recipes or TV celebrities might seem "lightweight" to some people and more interesting or important to others. I've noticed that some people feel a real connection to someone else while discussing something that would appear trivial to other people. Not every meaningful conversation is about deep philosophical topics, and conversely, not every discussion of a deep topic is significant to the participants.

    March 6, 2010 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Brent

    There's a distinction to be made between appropriate and inappropriate use of small talk. The former helps to maintain a level of harmony among coworkers, neighbors, and distant relatives. The latter leaves your wife (or you) unfulfilled and second guessing.

    March 6, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. vanessa

    there's got to be more to life than sitting around wondering if there's more to life.

    March 6, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. olivia

    The listening going on in a “small talk” conversation is usually as shallow as the subject matter being conversed. Does one really care what the weather is like? I think deeper conversation has more meaning because when both participants are passionate about the subject matter, there is more listening going on. It is this discussion that gives a person more happiness because their ideas are being listened to. The attentiveness at the other end of the discussion satisfies the human desire to feel important, and therefore is significant to a person’s happiness.

    March 6, 2010 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Cathryn

    Hmm..interesting study. I enjoy silly banter with the person at the check out line at store, the bank, the coffee shop or wherever. A few silly words can sometimes just get the motor warm so to speak. I also enjoy deep conversations/connections with my intimates. I think it is all good and not sure that this is any big revelation. We need to connect period.

    March 6, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. diane

    Small talk with someone at a store for example can actually brighten up my day especially with an intelligent person. As a mother, I tend to be pulled into these ridiculous conversations about celebrities, clothes etc that bore me to death. If I happen to have a meaningful conversation with someone I actually like and if it's something that I'm passionate about then yes, it makes me happier. Sadly though, it's more the superficial ones that people see to want to talk about and that's even sadder.

    March 6, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sonia

    I agree very much with this article as I do every time I have read or heard similar findings. One question I kept asking myself though, is mustn't the "meaningful communication" be two-sided? While most of us get energy from a fun or stimulating dialogue, I personally become incredibly drained and frustrated when on the receiving end of a long-winded, one-sided monologue. Others seem tolerant, even energized by these situations so I often hesitate to bring up my reaction. Wondering if others share this experience...

    March 6, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Steve Bryant

    I believe that the concept of this article is right on. Regular deeper discussions are especially appropriate in our special relationships (spouses/significant others/immediate family/inner circle of friends). If we only engage in superficial social talk with those who should be emotionally close to us, this as a symptom of an much larger problem. Similarly, if we routinely discuss major topics with the world at large, this is another unhealthy end of the continuum. The relational magic lies somewhere in the middle.

    March 6, 2010 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dean

    Some of the comments here show some good insight, and others just show angry people. One might say that there are people who *like* deep conversations, and can engage in them with almost anyone. These are people who actually listen to other points of view. Then there are those who dislike a different point of view, and therefore will only engage in small talk with anyone except those who agree with them – and it is questionable whether that is a 'deep conversation'. In other words, small talk can become a deep conversation if you are willing to engage, but will remain small talk if you are not. I'd agree with some of the posters here that it isn't deep conversation that makes you happy, but happiness that allows you to engage with others having differing views. That would be my view, in any case. Feel free to disagree!

    March 6, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Gigi

    I work in wireless retail sales and you'd be surprised how many customer will tell me their life stories over the course of our interaction. Kinda like a bartender or therapist I suppose. It's natual and just another part of being human, that need to expand and develop interpersonal relationships is innate. Why else would social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, & even this news forum draw so many active members and contributors. I read somewhere that Facebook has more than 300 million members, the 2009 United States population was like 307 million people. That's nearly every person in the USA!

    March 6, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Lisa

    Rett, you are so right! I can't engage in conversation with anyone here in the bible belt because they will not sway or even listen to an opinion, belief or idea that may be different than theirs. Since an exchange of idea is the point in conversing and they will not exchange, what is the point in conversing with them. Small minded people engage in small talk. I opt out!

    March 6, 2010 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. glen

    So what constitutes "small talk"? There are the obvious weather conversations, but what seperates small from deep isn't so much the material involved as the connection you experience with the person to whom you are speaking. I recently addressed someone that I had just met in their own language (not english)and simply told them I was happy that I had the opportunity to meet them. We got along very well during their visit here and later I was told that that one single conversation (which was the only time I spoke their language) was the most intimately engaging conversation that they had had and it was the basis for the strong connection we now share. Pretty big results from what I would have considered pretty small talk. And I am very happy with the results, but this is one of those out of the ordinary examples, I suppose.

    March 6, 2010 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Nancy

    Perhaps this is why America is one of the most depressed nations on the planet?– the article doesn't seem to make that connection. I frankly find it very difficult to have a meaningful conversation anymore.. no one even wants one! So, let's all take some more prozac.. but forget about having conversation with meaning, intellect and challenges that might offend your ego and your preconceived ideologies. Facebook and twitter are of course fun.. but I find it hard to believe that a social networking website can be exchanged for a person to person "slow" conversation especially with so many other windows open.

    March 6, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Linda

    It really depends on how you define small talk. I had a discussion on that very topic with friends on Facebook (yeah, I know – ironic) and it was funny to me. So many of them said they don't do small talk – yet most of what we've discussed has, for me, been just that. So I think maybe what I deem small talk – the weather, inquiries into health, that sort of thing, are like a knock on the door, and from there, you spring into more important topics. But that stuff is important, too – especially "how are you?" That isn't meaningless – I care about my friends.

    March 6, 2010 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Carlos

    Kelly: How interesting that you ask this question (I'm involved in developing social networking technologies). I think things like facebook and twitter for 1-1 communication are by design meant to enable small chatter in the hope that over time it strengthens weak ties and ultimately strengthen relationships. I imagine that's not the case, and except for a few exceptional instances in which you connect with a lost or distant friend you find strong commonalities with, most connections continue to be weak ones based on small and not very meaningful chatter.

    From personal experience and from what I understand from many people I've spoken to, those who have strong friendship and bonds typically do not have conversations on facebook. For other less fortunate it is a misguided belief that they can strengthen them via facebook or simply a curiosity to see how other folks 'we used to know' have fared in their lives compared to theirs.

    March 7, 2010 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ruth

    This article is inspiring and supportive. I have always wondered why I like people and groups, but I despise group talk that is senseless and silly if it goes on and on. And I get it trouble at work when I walk out of meetings because the subjects of the discussions go on and on with people who repeat themselves over and over with opinions about their feeling instead of formulating good questions or offering substantiated information. This article assures me that I have good cause to be a misfit in such instances. Tolerating it makes me sick. Thanks.

    March 7, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jay

    I don't feel that the researchers did enough to determine if these conversations were the cause or the result of a person's inherent happiness, or proved whether the two can even be correlated at all.

    You can only have a "substantial, meaningful conversation" with people you agree with. That's practically the definition of reasonable... accordance. People don't want to think they've wasted their time or misplaced their faith, or learn that other people they've trusted are holding what they take as unreasonable opinions.

    And it's not just religion that divides us, it can be any topic that involves both facts and opinions. The fate of the universe. The fate of mankind. The fate of our nation. If you think the world is flat, you would be far happier and better able to engage in meaningful conversation if the people around you also believed the world was flat.

    But revealing that you think the world is flat is an act of trust, because you risk something of yourself should this person mock your beliefs. You risk finding out you're wrong, and why bother if it doesn't affect your daily life?

    And nearly any topic becomes an unsafe venture unless you've spent months or years of your own time undoing the brain damage caused by the American education system. How can you engage in a discussion about the merits of demoting Pluto when you don't know what a KBO is, or why it should even be relevant? It's not like you're learning how to time your crops better.

    So if we are going to exist in a world where everyone doesn't always agree, or more to the point for an individual's capacity for happiness, a world in which you do not always agree with everyone else, it's far safer to talk about meaningless things.

    But the conversations themselves are not the source of the problem. It begins with one's beliefs compared to the commonly held beliefs of those around them.

    March 7, 2010 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sharon Zirn

    Small talk is the mind of the beholder.

    March 7, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. SQ

    I find it nearly impossible these days to have a meaningful conversation with anyone –most people are so self-absorbed they rattle on endlessly about trivia. When you try to get a word in edgewise, they act like they are just waiting for you to shut-up so they can resume talking about themselves. That's what I find depressing.

    March 7, 2010 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Maddalena

    If people stopped pursuing happiness like a butterly that can be caught and made to stay, they might actually be able to enjoy its fleeting presence. Happiness is not a permanent state. No one is happy all the time, and having friends also has its downside. Friends backbite, put demands on your time, judge you by their standards, have their own agendas, etc. I am happiest on those rare occasions when I am completely alone, and at no one's beck and call, subject to no one's demands..

    March 7, 2010 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Stephen Folkson

    I have learned over the years to limit personal matters with most people, even my own family to a great degree. I live alone, and act as my own counsel, although most people I know would advise against this.

    March 7, 2010 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Theo

    Why didn't this article express the true notion of dialogue between individuals. We communicate with speech to listen to ourselves. The other person is merely a projection board. In essence we are talking to ourselves. Small talk is just that. Wasted energy. Making noise with our mouths. Dumping rubbish random thoughts on the other person with no expectation of feedback. Too much emphasis is put on socializing and chatting. People just don't care.

    March 7, 2010 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Elizabeth

    While I agree in this context, and I would include superficial activities such as passive TV watching, not just small talk, there is a danger of trying to stop any talk. One poster here referred to people who make small talk as "lemmings," and seems to hate people. The purpose of meaningful conversation is to respect onesself and others, not to find a new way to demean others who make small talk. My grandmother told us that small talk is better than no talk; she used to visit women's prisons on a regular basis, and found that many of the women had very few communications skills whatsoever. When they started to talk... about anything... they started to improve, and also started to have meaningful conversations, and change their outlooks. The very first flaw in this experiment is that college students were interviewed; already a sample of people who are capable of conversation. If they had taken a cross-section of society, the results may have been different.

    March 7, 2010 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Miguel

    Yes, Maddawg - judging from the joyfulness of your comment, you have found the recipe for happiness in life!

    March 7, 2010 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Bert

    I think Abe Lincoln had it right, people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be, talking with other people is nice, but not life-essential, either, and some people have a very different disposition in that they are most happy, at peace, productive, when by themselves. Having to listen to other people whine and snivel is a real mood-killer. If you don't have something good to say, what more is there to say...

    March 7, 2010 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Adam

    Well said Deb. Spot on!

    March 8, 2010 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Paul Fortunes

    This is a very interesting article, the case of strong emotional relationships giving people joy has been scientifically shown in many accounts. Happiness is a wonderful emotion and using science to help others achieve it is such a righteous ideal.

    March 8, 2010 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Kalifornian

    I agree with those who have posted that this is a poorly conducted study. Do unhappy people tend to avoid in-depth conversations because they are withdrawn (due to being unhappy), or because they are shy, or because they have trust issues (due to personal experience), or because they are just naturally reticent? Do they not have "meaningful" conversations because they lack relationships? Or do they hold back and/or spend time alone because they are temperamentally predisposed to solitude? And who is making the judgement about what constitutes "deep" conversation? I had a "friend" who used to phone me at odd hours and have these "deep" conversations whenever it suited her. I finally figured out that the conversations were always, exclusively, about her. She would have scored high on the social, happy scale for this study. But to me she was a self-centered narcissist and a bore. I am one of those people who spends a lot of time not talking at all. I detest party chit-chat. But I enjoy the "small talk" niceties that we all engage in - with strangers and will acquaintances - as we go about our daily lives. Being able to chat is part of being civilized. Choosing not to chat sometimes is perfectly healthy. Celebrate diversity. Curmudgeonly is fine. We are not all Oprah.

    March 8, 2010 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Kalifornian

    I wonder, too, how "happy" and "unhappy" were determined. If the participants were asked to rate their own levels of happiness, you have exacerbated the chicken-or-egg question.

    March 8, 2010 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Amber

    So i i am normally alone and barley talk to people dose that mean i am unhappy/?....... bc i seem ok but yet i feel like im missing something but yet when i get on the internet to my friends on there i am completely happy and forget bout the real worl than there when im on the phone with my bf . So What dose this mean i am real confused can you help ?

    March 8, 2010 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. H Carter

    As for the internet, twitter etc, it's become a moniker to call them 'social media,' belying the fact that internet addiction is the opposite end of the spectrum from the core of this articles synopsis, which I don't believe intends to wax philosophic about the existential perils of alienation. I am not usually a loner but having lost my job and just having crossed the year and a half of unemployment mark, this article both does and doesn't ring true to me.
    I live in a community where ignorance is bliss and the academics prefer it that way to suit their own biases. Local industry is dominated by a religious bias covered up by the presence of the University and the areas over reliance on 'jobs' in 'Health Care' to keep business as usual running smoothly which also means the status quo remains the same for decades at a time. Does this angst sound familiar? I imagine it's as familiar a refrain due in no small part to the fact that Health Care Reform used to be know by the term The Terror of History, not the clash of Monotheism(s) or The War on Terror.
    I don't expect to find a job where I live and in the foreseeable future, I don't anticipate being able to leave my present location or regain my car insurance since it lapsed due to not having the money to pay it. I don't need friends I need work.

    March 8, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Nick

    i believe this is true because the more people deal with the "small talk and drama issues" the worse it makes people feel about themseves which in turn then drives them away from people which then turns in to depression. I know in my experiance when i got depressed, i was tending to spend more and more time alone.

    March 8, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Thomas2

    It is just bizarre that a study can divide the happy between the unhappy. And how can we be so daring as to call undergraduates happy. With so many things beyond our power and scope, I would like to know, on what scale was happiness measured.

    March 9, 2010 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Don Gabor

    While I agree with the University of Arizona researchers who performed the study that ‘the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial,’ the conclusions that media have taken from the study—that small talk leaves people unhappy—is misplaced. It is the inability many people have to meaningfully connect with others that leaves them unhappy and socially isolated.

    I base my views on nearly 30 years of teaching and writing on the subject of small talk and conversation. It is my experience that far from making people unhappy, small talk serves at least two critical roles to creating meaningful conversations and relationships:

    I maintain that small talk is an important skill to bridge that gap and a prerequisite for more substantive conversations.

    March 9, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. CalgarySandy

    Psychiatrists for years have worked on me to get me to do small talk and have meaningless relationships because I am too serious and have difficulty tolerating meaningless conversations. Deep and intense conversations help me get away from the symptoms of my mental illnesses, including major depression. Superficial conversations and relationships depress me and they wanted me to learn how to have them as heavy conversations put off most people and most people are not interested in the kind of depth that I am in a friendship. So where does this fit?

    Is there a definition of "Happy" that we can all agree on?

    This is study is useless. It does not take into account the wide variations in what people want or need. Is the premise that Normal people will become depressed if they don't have heavy conversations? Then they would no longer be normal and the definition of "happy" would change. Furthermore, if you are clinically depressed it is very unlikely that a good conversation is going to cure you.

    EXCUSE ME – A solitary life is not a superficial life. What a superficial thing to say! I don't care for my now lonely life but it is not superficial. I am not solitary because I want to be I am solitary because few people want to be around someone who is openly mentally ill. I actually find being away from the chaos and bullying in the business world makes me feel better.

    This is the third time I have posted to this thread. Let's see if I can get through this time. Surely my concerns are not more difficult to deal with than those many good comments.

    March 9, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. nik

    Listen quickly...speak slowly.

    March 10, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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