If I asked you “when was the last time you beat a colleague with a baseball bat?” you would probably answer “Never”. Or at least I would hope you would!
What if I told you that you are probably wrong. That unbeknownst to you, you probably did it this today, and several times in the last week.
Recent studies have shown that social exclusion triggers the same neural pathways as physical pain. fMRI studies published in 2003 first showed that social exclusion uses the same neural pathways as physical pain. People were given a ball to play with and then some were skipped and the effects on the brain were measured. But this is hardly real life, or is it?
How DO you test for this in real life?
Well, you could ask a bunch of students to split into three groups, one with bats (that beat each other), another without but socially rejecting each other and then the control group that does nothing and compare bruises. Ok all joking aside.
How do you test?
Some researchers recently posed the question: “If I use painkillers will it help me feel rejection less? So they gave people Tylenol (common painkiller in the USA) and guess what. It works. It basically means that if you are experiencing rejection, take two Tylenol and you will feel less rejected.
But is that the solution for the workplace?
We know that the difference in experiencing our environment can differ by as much as 3000% percent. Yes, that is correct, it is not 300% but 3000%.
If we experience social rejection as physical pain then imagine how much we hurt each other on a daily basis.
When was the last time you ignored someone, did not talk to them or told them off? How often do you socially reject people around you? In-person? Online?
Exclusion takes many forms, what it does however create is a scenario where people are not part of the “group”, outsiders.
As human beings, we are not made to deal with exclusion from the groups. So at first we will do our best to find a way in, we behave in ways that seek attention and recognition. We try and please others, talk a lot to try and find ways to get others to engage or at least let us know what they find interesting in us or not. As such we flood our communication with the noise we generate ourselves to try and connect. However, this usually has the opposite effect. It makes those we would try to please, withdraw even more. This is where the more long term effects and symptoms start kicking in; moroseness, depression, burnout, etc.
As humans we withdraw from engagements that are seen as hurtful, We also start showing similar symptoms to physical and or psychological abuse.
Now I am sure you are not a person that would physically abuse people on a regular basis, but how to turn the tide?
Interact! It is very simple. Give everyone a voice. It does not have to be an unending voice, just a voice. Let people that may feel rejected, feel part of the group; ie feel a sense of belonging.
A simple example is invite them to a social gathering and engage; have a beer together. Talk about anything that interest you both. Do a small act of human kindness to stimulate Oxytocin release. (Kindness makes you Healthier). Remember you can be the agent of change, you can make someone feel valued today.
Interact with the last person you ignored. Spend at least 10 minutes in their company and focus on genuine inquisitiveness. Make them feel valued by expressing appreciation for anything they did that you found valuable.
To find out if Social Intelligence (knowing how others respond) is one of your Superpowers take the Superpowers Test and see if it is in your top 5: www.superpowers.info