You may find this hard to believe but there are some headstrong attorneys out there. As much as an attorney, or an opposing party, may rub you or your client the wrong way the reality is you are locked in a relationship with them, as contentious as it may be. One way to get you and your client out of the relationship is through a negotiated or mediated settlement. That can start with some social niceties. Start some chit chat. It can be a powerful tool to start building connections and it may go back farther than you imagine.

Research suggests that talking, even just casually, is an evolutionary tool for establishing closeness. Talking is seen as a social function, not necessarily the transmission of information or advice. We may think of chit chat as that small talk we put up with at networking events, holiday parties or at family events were you stumble upon that long-lost cousin you wished remained long-lost. This exercise is not a development of the modern age. New research suggests that idle conversations could be a social-bonding tool passed down from our collectively long-lost cousins, primates, reports Science Daily.

Research from Princeton University published in Animal Behaviour suggests that social primates vocalize much more selectively than previously thought. Ring-tailed lemurs living in groups call and respond to those with whom they have close relationships. For lemurs and other primates grooming is a social-bonding experience (as well as a way to stay healthy by ridding each other of parasites) and the researchers discovered lemurs normally have vocal exchanges only with those they groomed most frequently.

Researchers believe this is a way the animals maintain connected with each other when they are beyond physical contact. They saw it as an equivalent to how we keep in regular touch with family members and friends, but not everyone we know.

Some of us are better at chit chatting than others. It’s a skill that needs to be exercised and practiced. It’s a way to start opening doors that are closed between people, whether it’s negotiating the settlement of a lawsuit or the strained relationship of family members. If you’re not all that comfortable with chit chat it’s better than the alternative of picking through the other person’s hair to look for bugs.