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Science says 'savoring conversations' can make you happier in life—here are 7 types of interactions we crave most

Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green and Courteney Cox as Monica Geller on NBC's "Friends."
NBC | Getty Images

There's more to savor in life than just food. In the same way that we might savor a glass of wine or our favorite dessert, we can also savor meaningful life experiences.

A 2018 study from the University of Arizona demonstrates how we savor different types of communication. Communications professor Maggie Pitts surveyed 65 adults, asking them whether they savored their daily interactions in life and, if so, to share a detailed example of an experience they had savored.

"Communication savoring happens when we realize something joyful, important or meaningful is happening in a social interaction with another, and we then try to hold on to and elevate that experience," Pitts said in an interview with Psych Central.

Her research suggested that there are seven types of communication that humans savor most:

  1. Aesthetic communication: This is when we take time to appreciate some aspect of how the communication is presented, whether it's timing, word choice or delivery. Examples include an inspirational speech or a suspenseful announcement.
  2. Communication presence: This happens when we're so deep in conversation with someone that everything else in the world seems to fade away.
  3. Nonverbal communication: Exchanges that emphasize nonverbal cues, like a smile, hug or some other physical connection with a person can create this type of experience.
  4. Recognition and acknowledgement: This might happen when someone speaks to (or about) us in a complementary or appreciative way, much like being honored at an awards ceremony.
  5. Relational communication: You could even read this one as "relationship communication." According to Pitts, this type of interaction involves "intimate disclosures" that bring people closer together. A married couple talking through a disagreement is one example.
  6. Extraordinary communication: This can be any type of communication related to a memorable event, like a wedding, birth or some other ceremonial circumstance.
  7. Implicitly shared communication: This category includes a broad range of unspoken communication, and it might happen when you feel the excitement of a large crowd or make eye contact with someone and instinctively know you're both sharing the same feeling.

Savoring is good for you

Aside from deriving pleasure, the act of savoring communication encourages us to be fully present, explains Pitts. In other words, it helps us to slow down our sensory experiences and truly appreciate the moment.

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A growing body of research from the field of positive psychology has shown that savoring communication can improve our health, relationships and overall happiness in life.

A 2014 study published in the scientific journal Aging and Mental Health found that "in older adults, greater ability to savor positive experiences and higher resilience both predicted greater happiness, lower depression, and greater satisfaction in life."

And, while savoring often occurs in the present moment, we can also savor moments through memory or anticipation.

"You can time travel through savoring," says Pitts. "I can sit here now and think of something that happened earlier today or yesterday or 25 years ago, and when I recall that savoring moment, I physiologically experience savoring."

A growing body of research has shown that the very act of savoring can improve our health, relationships and overall quality of life.

If you think savoring sounds a lot like the concept of mindfulness, you're not wrong. But no matter what you call it, taking time to appreciate a pleasant experience is a powerful way to improve happiness in life.

In this age of constant distraction, it's no easy task, but it's a crucial one nonetheless.

You're probably already savoring daily interactions (and not even know it)

If you had an encouraging conversation with your boss last week, for example, and you played that conversation over and over again in your head because you crave the positive feelings it generates, that's savoring communication.

If you're not already practicing the art of savoring, Pitts says the first step is to be mindful and attentive to the conversations you have on a daily basis. Then, do your best to stay present and reduce distractions. (Putting your phone away helps quite a bit.)

You could even enhance the moment by saying something like, "I'm really enjoying what we're sharing right now." By doing so, you're also bringing the other person into the moment with you.

Tom Popomaronis is a commerce expert and proud Baltimore native. Currently, he is the Senior Director of Product Innovation at the Hawkins Group. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and The Washington Post. In 2014, he was named a "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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