Articles & Publications

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: June 21, 2014

inspire-positivityWhy do negative comments and conversations stick with us longer than positive ones? Chemistry plays a big role. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviours. We become more reactive and sensitive, perceive greater judgement and negativity than exists.

And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, magnifying the impact it has on our future behaviour. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet —the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact. Positive comments and conversations spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolises quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This "chemistry of conversations" is why it's critical for us —especially managers — to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviours that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call "Conversational Intelligence" or "C-IQ," or a person's ability to connect creatively and strategically with others. Behaviours that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

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