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  • Writer's pictureSonia Sinha

Conversational Techniques 1

Dopamine and Cortisol: The Science of Social Approval and Disapproval

When someone agrees with us, our brains release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a "feel-good" chemical that is associated with reward and motivation. It also plays a role in learning and memory. When we experience social approval, such as when someone agrees with us, our brains release more dopamine than usual. This can lead to a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

On the other hand, when someone disagrees with us, our brains release a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is associated with the "fight-or-flight" response. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and anger. When we experience social disapproval, such as when someone disagrees with us, our brains release more cortisol than usual. This can lead to a feeling of unease and discomfort.

The release of dopamine and cortisol in response to social approval and disapproval is a powerful way that our brains regulate our behavior. When we experience social approval, we are more likely to repeat the behavior that led to the approval. When we experience social disapproval, we are more likely to avoid the behavior that led to the disapproval. This helps us to learn what behaviors are acceptable in our social groups and to avoid behaviors that could lead to rejection.

How Does This Apply to Work Settings?

In a work setting, it is important to be able to disagree with others in a constructive way. However, it is also important to be mindful of the impact that our disagreements can have on others. If we disagree with someone in a way that makes them feel attacked or criticized, it is likely to increase their cortisol levels and make them less receptive to our ideas.

On the other hand, if we can disagree with someone in a way that makes them feel respected and valued, it is more likely to increase their dopamine levels and make them more open to our ideas.

Here are a few tips for disagreeing constructively in a work setting:

  • Choose your words carefully. When you disagree with someone, be mindful of the words you use. Avoid using language that is judgmental, critical, or condescending. Instead, focus on stating your own opinion in a clear and respectful way.

  • Be open to listening to the other person's point of view. Even if you disagree with someone, it is important to be open to listening to their point of view. This shows that you respect them and their opinion.

  • Be willing to compromise. In many cases, it is possible to find a compromise that both parties can agree on. This shows that you are willing to work together to find a solution that is beneficial to everyone involved.

By following these tips, you can disagree with others in a way that is constructive and respectful. This will help to create a more positive and productive work environment.

Additional Information

There are a number of other factors that can affect the release of dopamine and cortisol in response to social approval and disapproval. These factors include:

  • Our personal history: Our experiences with social approval and disapproval in the past can shape how we respond to these experiences in the present.

  • Our personality: Some people are more sensitive to social approval and disapproval than others.

  • The situation: The situation in which we experience social approval or disapproval can also affect our response. For example, we are more likely to feel stressed and anxious if we experience social disapproval in a public setting than if we experience it in a private setting.

By understanding how dopamine and cortisol work, we can better understand how our brains respond to social approval and disapproval. This can help us to manage our emotions in a more effective way and to build stronger relationships with others.


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