Why does it feel so good to set the world to rights with a friend?
Chatting with a mate can be cathartic, comforting, and good for your self-esteem.
When you have a good old chinwag with a friend about the problems of the world and how to solve them, the experience is psychologically satisfying on many levels. For starters, as we’re all too aware from these last few years, global events such as pandemics and wars can be incredibly anxiety-provoking. When you spend time discussing potential solutions, you are, in a sense, giving and receiving emotional support. This can be both comforting and cathartic – even if it’s all hypothetical.
Moreover, if you have this chat with a close friend and you find yourselves in agreement about how to fix the world, the experience will also serve to strengthen your relationship. In a way, you are enjoying the known friendship-boosting benefits of gossiping, but with the focus of your chat zoomed out to the international scale. After all, we tend to be attracted to people who hold similar values and views to our own.
So, if the conversation leaves you with a sense that you and your friend share the same worldview, you’re likely to come away with a satisfying sense of closeness and belonging. What’s more, airing your political values and beliefs – and having them validated by your friend – can help shore up your own sense of self. Psychologists call this your ‘self-concept clarity’, which is good for your self-esteem.
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Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.