Why harm to our ‘image’ hurts us

Look around – at LinkedIn profiles, Facebook DPs, Whatsapp status, Instagram updates! What do you see? Well! You will see a natural tendency of us – the social animals – to look good, to gain attention, to seem superior, to sound wiser, and to be seen as an achiever. Even the most self-driven people relish the moments of spotlight, the most stoic of us cherish the standing ovation, and the most aloof of us smile with pats on the back.
Yes, we are not called social animals for nothing. We all have an instinctive desire for praise, reward, accolades, and commendation; and we all have a natural repulsion towards criticism, rejection, defamation and being ridiculed. It is because, deep down inside, we all care immensely for our image and status. Before we discuss this point in details, watch this video to get the gist of what we are discussing, why it is important, and how it is relevant in professional and personal context…

You heard it right – people are extremely sensitive towards any perceived threat to their status. No matter how modest we become, the fact is that for each one of us, our status in our professional orbit or social circle is extremely important. Yes, our social connections, and our place and value in them are very serious matters for us. Each of us thinks about it, keeps doing its ongoing appraisal, and never takes even a hint of any reduction of status lightly. Well, like for any behavior, the root of this point lies in neuroscience.
If we look at our brain then we will find that when we feel ‘better than’ some other person, a part in the deeper portion of our brain – Striatum – gets activated, which secretes feel-good chemicals. On the other hand, a real or even potential ‘reduction in status’ activates a brain region Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) which usually gets activated during physical pain. That’s why a negative feedback given to someone in a slightly offending manner, that too in front of someone else, will be seen by them as a potential reduction of status.
As a result, brain of the recipient of feedback will generate a strong threat response, and they will not be able to stay receptive or objective towards the feedback. Moreover, morale as well as their rapport with you will also get adversely affected. To acknowledge this subtle phenomenon at work and do the needful, social & emotional intelligence is required. This ‘emotional & social intelligence’ is a lot about one’s cognizance of the design and functioning of human brain, and how they affect our behaviors and choices.
This interrelationship of neuroscience and psychology builds the base for developing emotional & social intelligence – the skill of managing self and connecting with others. Yes, this root-skill of all intrapersonal & interpersonal skills can be learnt, practiced and mastered. However, it all begins with some important realizations like…“People are extremely sensitive towards any perceived threat to their status”.

Dr. Sandeep Atre
‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert
Founder – Socialigence
Note: Socialigence (www.socialigence.net) offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Social & Emotional Intelligence’ with content that has relevance across the globe, and delivery specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.