...Idle talk is usually considered a destructive action because it wastes our time. But if our friend is depressed and can't listen to wise advice, we can joke, tell silly stories, and use small talk to lighten his mood. Because our motivation is kind, our joking and chatting are positive.
Laughing and having a good time aren't in opposition to Dharma. The more we leave behind attachment, anger, jealousy, and pride, the more we'll enjoy whatever we're doing. Our hearts will open to others and we can laugh and smile with ease. The holy beings I've been fortunate to meet have a wonderful sense of humor and are very friendly.
In Buddhist groups, it's important for people to get to know each other and have a sense of fellowship. We can share experiences with our Dharma friends and encourage each other on the path. Buddhism isn't an isolated path, and it's important for Buddhists to cultivate group unity and companionship.
It's not beneficial to retreat inside ourselves, thinking, "Every time I talk to someone I'm motivated by attachment. Therefore I'll concentrate on meditation and chanting and won't socialize with others." One of the fundamental principles of Buddhism is care and compassion for others. Although at times we may need to distance ourselves from others in order to settle our own minds, whenever possible we should actively develop genuine love for others. To do this, we must be aware of what's happening in others' lives, care about them as we do ourselves, and offer help whenever possible. Our ability to act with love develops with time and practice, and it has to be balanced with our need for private contemplation.
~ From Taming the Mind by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, published by Snow Lion Publications