The Science of How Positive and Negative Conversations Effect Your Body and Mind

Has anyone ever said something to you, and it just stuck with you for years and years for some reason? For example, my girlfriend recently told me that back in high school someone said that she looked “dead” without makeup on. So, to this day, she thinks about what that person said to her each time she puts makeup on and how it makes her look.

I’m sure there’s at least one thing, because I know I have a few things that have stuck with me through the years. It might’ve been from your boss, a coworker, a professor, your parents; it doesn’t really matter who, all that matters is how it made you feel.

On the other hand, try to remember the last time someone complimented you. Probably a little harder, because we don’t seem to internalize and remember the positive things as often. And it turns out that chemistry has a lot do with this.

Things like criticism, rejection, fear, and feelings of being marginalized all cause our bodies to produce the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone reduces activity in the thinking part of the brain in order to activate the conflict aversion / protection parts of the brain, making us sensitive and reactive.

In this state of mind, we often perceive negativity to be stronger than it actually is, and it can last up to 26 hours. During this time, the negative interaction becomes imprinted on our memories, influencing future behaviors.

Positive conversation also produces a hormone, oxytocin. This hormone makes us feel good, stimulating communication, collaboration and trust in others. Unfortunately, this hormone is metabolized by the body much faster than cortisol, meaning its effects don’t last as long and are less intense.

This is great information to be mindful of when working and communicating with others, be it in your personal life or your professional life. People will remember the things you say to them, it’s your choice whether or not they’re good or bad