We all know what our grandmothers told us: If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. And we all smile knowingly at the line from the movie, Steel Magnolias, that goes: If you can’t say something nice, sit next to me. Interestingly, it may not be that you’re a terrible person if your tempted to talk trash about the neighbors, but rather, your brain seeking a way to activate positive emotions.
But let me explain.
Our biological brain has one main mission in life: survival. And while that sounds simple enough, today’s society is far different from the days of running from T-Rex’es and grilling wild rabbits by the campfire. So without going into a neuroscience lesson, let me just put it this way: Your limbic brain is always on the look-out for danger. In fact, it’s in SEARCH of things that can go wrong as a way to PROTECT and WARN you. Kind of eases the burden a bit when we notice we’re not focused on our goals as much as we are the reasons as to why we can’t have them, right?
Nevertheless, all of those obstacles, fears and self-doubts come at a cost in the form of excessive cortisol. That stuff, in the quantities we make it in, can be a real deal breaker, leading to disease, divorce and even war if you want to get technical. It’s then our natural propensity to reach for better feeling emotions, wouldn’t you agree? Well who could figure you’d find it talking smack about your sister-in-law? Okay, just hold on now, I’m not advocating it–and in fact I’m going to lead you away from it–but first I want to explain what’s going on with your brain so you can find more healthy and productive ways to accomplish the same mission.
First, the idea of “knowing” something about someone actually gives you a boost of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmittor that cancels cortisol out. Next, when we are sharing a secret, we experience a good dose of oxytocin. Oxytocin has been referred to as the “hug hormone,” but it’s essentially the chemical that helps us create social trust. Think about that yummy feeling you get when you’re in love, bonding with your children, or even petting Fido. Finally, that little shot of superiority we get when we’re talking someone down give us a nice hit of serotonin. And let’s face it, if we weren’t speaking with a negative tongue, it wouldn’t really be gossip. Serotonin is the feel good factor. In fact, most anti-depressants are basically serotonin boosters.
Essentially then, gossip gives us a bit of a counter-attack to all the cortisol we deal with on a daily basis. But at what price does it come? I’m a strong supporter of quantum physics in that there ultimately is no separation at a subatomic level, meaning that we are ALL interconnected. Thus, what I say to or about you, I say to or about myself. I believe it’s impossible to put something out there with our thoughts, words or actions and not have it boomerang back to us in record speed. Additionally, the repercussions of gossiping can be far-reaching.
For one thing, the person you are talking about may find out and then all hell could break loose (this goes for cheating or lying too). In fact, social isolation and conflict are huge catalysts for cortisal release. That just made the few minutes of feel-good not at all worth the trade. Also, you can trust that the person open and excited about gossip is going to be just as seduced to share your secrets as she did someone else’s.
Fortunately, neuroscience has opened our eyes to our internal, emotional biology. We know now that we can create new neural connections that keep the stress hormones at bay and invite the delicious ones to jump on board–without causing any bad karma, being out of integrity, or hurting someone’s feelings. It all starts with taking control of your own biology. Your brain, your thoughts.
Anyone can achieve MUCH higher levels of feel-good neurotransmitters and fewer cortisol cocktails by simply spending 20 minutes a day listening to brain entrainment technology. Of course, I teach it with more punch with something I call, Medicreation. Condsider my new book, for FREE!!! (yes, it’s intended for real estate professionals, but the science applies to all of us and you can replace “real estate” with your own business. But if you ARE in real estate, you should watch this free webinar right this minute.
So in conclusion, grandma was right. If we can’t say something nice…that causes the brain to create the happy chemicals we’ve been programmed to produce (with a little extra effort), then quite correctly, we should say nothing at all.
Have an amazing day!