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Rejection and Social Pain

Two for You — take two minutes to live and lead with intention

Episode 2.1

Did you know that our bodies register pain when we are socially rejected? What does that mean for us as community members and leaders? What small actions can we take to lessen the pain of those around us?



Note: Two for You written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.

[Denise] Hello and welcome to Two for You - two minutes to live and lead with intention.

[Lori] Today we're going to talk to you about Naomi Eisenberger's research about pain and she's found that our brains and neural circuits in our brains - the same area lights up when we feel physical pain as when we feel social rejection. So, social rejection, for example - so if you have maybe negative feedback around something or if someone's forgotten in a list of thank-you's or someone feels like their work isn't really valued, your brain can respond the same way as if you break a leg.

[Denise] Oh, so I've broken a wrist - I mean, that's a lot of pain you feel when that happens.

[Lori] Right, so you break your wrist and your in your brain tells your body, okay, we need to do something, like something isn't right here, so it sends some pain signals and that's the same as when we have social rejection. That's telling you something isn't quite right, we need to make an assessment, make an adjustment, so your brain is telling your body that you need to make an adjustment.

[Denise] So, for those of us that work in communities or consider ourselves leaders or are trying to be leaders, how do we apply this research in our communities?

[Lori] Yeah, there's so many times that we're out and about in community and we're engaging with people and maybe we're at a community event or something else going on and you are talking to your friends or your colleagues and you notice somebody across the room, maybe you even make a little bit of eye contact, and you look away because oh, I don want to make eye contact with that person, and so you can make some choices and the choices you make can affect that person's brain and your brain about social rejection. So you can choose to either hang out back here and kind of see what happens to that person and let them fumble around a little bit, or you could go over there and invite the person in.

[Denise] So that's our challenge to you this month, is take that step. Welcome someone in, reduce that pain so you can truly live and lead with intention.

Authors: Lori Rothstein and Denise Stromme, former Extension educators

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