November 12, 2014 by Jeff Hurt
My sister likes to talk!
Saying she like to talk is an understatement. I don’t think she ever stops talking except when she sleeps.
She is not that much different from my father. He likes to talk and talk and talk. And a couple of my very close friends are like that too. They all like to talk about their experiences—good and bad. And after some reflection, I guess I like talking about myself too. I’m doing it right now in this blog post.
There is a growing body of research that our brains are hardwired to seek social approval through sharing of experiences.
A 2012 Harvard study found that we devote 30%-40% of our personal speech to informing others about our everyday experiences. Recent studies of social media sites show that up to 80% of our posts are announcements about our personal encounters.
According to researchers like UCLA professor Matt Lieberman, our self-disclosure with others activates our brain’s dopamine system. We like talking about our personal lives because it feels good. And our tendency to share information and convey personal experiences brings as much pleasure as eating food or having sex.
Wow, we like talking about our personal lives as much as having sex?!?!?
The Harvard study showed that people wanted to talk more about their individual experiences than receive cash for answering factual-based questions. Our brains associate self-disclosure and personal chit-chat of our experiences with pleasure.
Our need for positive social interaction is hardly new says Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect.
Our need to connect, self-disclose and receive positive social approval has been in our brains since the dinosaur age, he says.
Our instant gratification, always-on, social media driven world exacerbates the satisfaction of feeling like part of a group. Sharing our personal happenings is part of our need for being liked and loved.
When we don’t get positive social responses from sharing our experiences, or empathy, or acknowledgement that we posted something, we feel real pain says Lieberman. When we feel excluded from part of the group, we feel devasted.
Sharing our experiences feels great. It activates our natural dopamine system.
When we design conference experiences that encourage attendees to share their personal experiences, we help everyone feel great. As long as each person gets to talk.
That’s why peer sharing in pairs and triads during education sessions is so critical. Attendees feel gratification. They learn from each other. And they walk away from the conference with a natural high.
Similarly, when we design conference experiences that are nothing more than one-way talking head monologues or panel dialogues, we exclude attendees from the group. And when they feel excluded, they feel ignored. Then their brain experiences a type of pain that is equal to physical pain.
Some attendees have experienced this type of social pain so much at conferences that they expect it and don’t complain. Others avoid lectures and panels completely.
Your challenge, as a conference organizer or host, is to understand the research, identify strategies for change management and help speakers design new types of education experiences that allow for self disclosure in pairs or triads.
What type of conference events have you experienced that leveraged our primal need for self-disclosure? How can we help speakers and experts design small pair and triad learning experiences with their content?
Filed Under: Event Planning
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