Volume - 11 : Issue - 2

Published : April - June 2012

Group : Think About It

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We, the I specialists

By Vinita Nangia

We talk about ourselves for the same reason we criticize others – to feel good. Ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin.

Every woman worth her Guccis knows the best way to grab a man's attention and keep it, without resorting to the path through his stomach, is to let him talk about himself. A few encouraging “hmms” and understanding nods, and he will be eating out of your hand – metaphorically speaking, of course. Stoke his ego and widen those eyes, and he is yours to keep.

Similarly, every man in the throes of unconsummated love has enough sense to focus all attention on the object of his lust – encouraging her to talk about each inanity in her life, lapping up every bit of gossip and everything else men hate with vehemence. She is sure to succumb.

We are at our most vulnerable when it comes to talking about ourselves. The rest of the world ceases to exist as we pepper our conversation with 'I, me, myself'. Have you noticed how eager we are to recount our own experience when talking to a friend? Rather than listening attentively, half the time we are just waiting for a chance to get in a word edgeways.

The need to talk about oneself has encouraged the explosion of social media in recent times. Here is one platform that allows us to talk endlessly about ourselves. Take out that laptop, log in and just start telling the world everything – from what you ate to the exhibition you visited, friend you met, the movie you watched, right down to the random thought flittng through your head. Here's where you spout it all and ensure it gets broadcast far and wide

Achieved some success? Share it with your Facebook friends and be instantly admired. Upset about something? Log in and be consoled. Here is a captive audience waiting to hear all and give you the emotional succour you desire. It doesn't help that every half-baked marketing guru also propagates self-aggrandisement and muscle-flexing as a sure-shot way to success. Reality shows on TV too are all about confessional self-blabber.

If there was any doubt about the supreme pleasure people derive from talking about themselves, a recent study has put that to rest. After a series of tests, researchers at Harvard University have concluded that humans get a bio-chemical buzz from self-disclosure. Talking about yourself releases the same feel-good chemicals in the brain as other pleasurable things such as food, sex and money. That is the reason 40 percent of our conversation is all about us, the study reveals. We feel good talking about ourselves. And the pleasure increases if we have a captive audience.

What could be the reason for this? Talking about oneself is a self-propagating and defensive mechanism. It is a reaffirmation to the world that you not just exist, you matter. It is a survival trait, much as pulling down or criticizing others is. In fact, promoting yourself and pulling down others are two sides of the same coin, serving the same purpose – both are an ego construct. Appreciation is a basic human need. We live in an insecure world where we constantly need positive strokes. When these are not forthcoming from elsewhere, we fill in the gap by talking about ourselves. We bolster ourselves by sometimes talking well of ourselves and at times talking ill of others.

The thing to remember is that our pleasure circuits light up only when we talk about ourselves, not when we talk of others, or hear them talk of themselves. So, no harm in talking about yourself, so long as you don't go overboard and become a bore.

Allow others to indulge their urges for self-propagation, too. And if you get cornered by someone who keeps the spotlight firmly on himself, change the topic and indulge in some self-talk – it's sure to give you a buzzy feel.