Why do we get such a kick out of focusing on ourselves?
Thirty to 40 percent of human speech informs others about ourselves. Eighty percent or more of social media posts announce our own experiences or views. Nine-month-old babies already try to draw the attention of others to things they find important in their environments. Adults in all societies try to share their knowledge with others.
Humans are wired to disclose. In fact, a battery of studies by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of the Department of Psychology at Harvard University finds that talking about ourselves lights up the same brain pleasure centers as food, money and sex. We can’t help talking about ourselves because it feels so good.
The full research article can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
If our brains so deeply enjoy it when we talk about ourselves, what are the implications for public relations? Sue Wolstenholme, chair-elect of the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations (good friends but no relation to our own Institute for Public Relations), says, “We have to listen even more!”
Now you have an answer the next time a client or a senior executive wants to know why your social media strategy is less about pumping out company messages and more about hearing what your stakeholders have to say.
Frank Ovaitt is president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations.