Talking poorly about others — better known to Gen-Y as sh*t talking — is a timeless pastime, which has both plagued and united the human race since the beginning of time. On one hand, it is the bane of our existence. On the other, we find gratifying consolation in its confirmation that although we’re all lying in the gutter, we are among the few that are looking at the stars.
We dislike people who speak poorly of others, but we ourselves have no hesitations in doing so when it applies. So Gen-Y, can we cut the crap and just stop talking sh*t, all together? Maybe not, but here’s a good, selfish reason we should all stop talking poorly about other people:
Talking poorly about others causes you to become less physically desirable.
Science interestingly suggests that people who speak negatively about others actually start to become physically undesirable.
Our eyes are grand illusionists. Everything you see is 99% created from your mind and 1% created from the objects actually in front of you. In fact, there’s a blind spot smack dab in the middle of both of your eyeballs, which means, theoretically, we should be walking around seeing a big hole of nothing in the center of our vision. Imagine driving your car with the front windshield painted black. That’s how our eyeballs actually take in the world.
Our minds, however, are able to do this amazing thing where it draws from past experience and emotions to create high-resolution images of our world in real time.
We don’t see darkness where the road should be because it’s as if the blacked-out windshield was actually a monitor, and every single pixel was connected to a database of information and images that would make Google cry.
Our brains are able to recreate every single pixel’s missing information by looking up things like “dimensions of a round bottom” and “elegance of a chocolate donut” like auto-fill on crack, drawing from sources like imagination, expectations, knowledge, experience and emotions in real time.
This is important when it comes to speaking poorly of others because it just so happens that negative emotions are one of the strongest sources of information we use to build our vivid recreations of the world.
When we sh*t-talk, we stir up emotions like disdain, disgust, anger, frustration and maliciousness in our listeners. Our listeners’ brains then try to remember all the details that triggered this emotion (like the face that started it) and stamp the memory as “highest priority.”
This reaction occurs because our survival brain considers negative emotions as a warning sign of a threat. It is ridiculously sensitive to any and all cues that might trigger this negative emotion, hoping you’ll avoid similar situations in the future.
That’s why we forget what people said, and we may even forget what they did, but we’ll never forget how they made us feel.
The more you talk negatively around someone, the stronger their brain retains the association between your features and “things to avoid.” If you are a consistent sh*t-talker, the brains of your listeners will learn to draw from their negative emotion repertoire each time they see you.
You don’t lose your high angular cheekbones, but your listeners’ minds will literally start to fill it in with shades of repulsion and illness. This taps into a very primitive way we protect ourselves. The minds of your listeners are designed to warn them not to get close to you by actually presenting your features as undesirable visual stimuli.
How does this happen? Imagine that every time you see this one child actor, he’s in a horror movie doing creepy things. Next time you see him anywhere, in real life or in very normal pictures, he just looks evil.
Even if the child is objectively very cute, you visually experience him as evil and undesirable. “Isn’t he so cute?” your friend asks. “No, he’s extremely creepy,” you respond.
For this same reason, a person can become deeply unattractive as soon as they open their mouth to speak badly about someone; hence why we often find attractive people with poor personalities unattractive. This also explains why, among other reasons, although it is often entertaining or socially useful to hang out around sh*t-talkers, we never feel the urge to get to genuinely know them.
What is the cure for speaking ill of others?
There are about seven billion people in the world, which is also roughly the size of the current sh*t-talking population. What does this mean for the fate of these people everywhere?
While a surefire way to combat this apocalypse is to try and be a generally good person, there are times when speaking negatively is unavoidable and perhaps, dare I say it, even healthy.
In these situations, we might try neutralizing the witching effect of sh*t-talking by balancing out each negative thing we say with five positive things.
Negative emotions outweigh the memory strength of positive emotions by five times. You might also try cleverly converting what was intended to be a negative comment into a compliment:
“Her wardrobe really makes me cringe, but at least that means she hasn’t hit her peak yet. She’ll probably be a bombshell in five years.”
So what’s the takeaway?
Here’s the thing: Sh*t-talking is not an inherently bad thing. It is actually nature’s way of protecting us from people we should stay away from. However, like all things in life, it is harmful in excess.
By balancing out how much you speak poorly of others with at least five positive comments about others, as well as the pretty awesome life you’re living, we can make a conscious effort to rise above the way we have been.
Not only is this sure to preserve your naturally fine features, whoever you are, but intentionally seeking out the good in others will also make you a happier, better person without sacrificing your wit or compulsive paranoia. It might also just be the key ingredient to perfecting the human race.
What do you say, Gen-Y? Let’s give it a try.
Ok, so I made the pledge in August to stop talking shit about all people, but especially to not comment on the appearances of other women. So far, honestly I’ve been doing pretty damn well. It is really difficult. For a while it was more awkward to refuse to contribute than just compromise with my closest friends, but I’m starting to get more comfortable opting out.
But it’s very, very awkward. It comes off as really self-righteous, and that’s why I’ve broken the pledge a whole lot. I keep telling myself it’s so difficult, but the truth is it’s just difficult to get others on board.
But it’s so incredibly worthwhile. When you stop talking shit about other people, you hear how much everyone else is doing it and it becomes so much harder to continue.
Because honestly it’s gross and there’s a reason your mother told you not to do it.