We have all been there, without thinking we say things that we don’t mean or that we shouldn’t say. Why do we blurt things out?
According to recent research, stress makes us blurt things out without thinking, even those things that we think but we carefully conceal and then out of nowhere, without planning, we speak our mind or say things in the heat of the moment that are not a reflection of our opinion.
According to Brent Coker from the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics, arousal can be defined as the degree to which we are awake and alert and it can cause people to say things without thinking, automatically, without any warning not only to others but to ourselves as well. We might be surprised by what we said. On the other side, automatic responses are those autopilot responses that we would normally say to conceal what we think. For example, saying: “Of course, no problem. I will complete that in an hour.” That’s our automatic response. The concealed response is the truth that we might feel the frustration of being overworked and tired. And the proper communication is somewhere in between. Meaning communicating how you feel without blurting things out or without putting any thought into your response.
Coker from the University of Melbourne said:
“Ironically, the times when we’re most awake and alert are also the times when we have to be very careful about what we say — like job interviews, media engagements, important work meetings, or even romantic encounters.”
The published paper outlines three of the eight experiments that Coker and Professor Ann L. McGill from the University of Chicago conducted. The results of their findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
In the first study, participants were asked to write a dating profile and they found that those who are more aroused tend to disclose emotional and intimate, even more, embarrassing and incriminating information about themselves. Those who were more relaxed are going to share less intimate and personal details about themselves. Another study of the same data showed that aroused participants were found less attractive than those who had a more relaxed approach suggesting that sharing private information can negatively impact someone’s attractiveness.
Also, online trolling is a type of behavior that indicates aroused behavior where someone can be malicious and mean to others online. The study also found that people are more likely to disclose information when in the state of arousal and somewhat aggravated frame of mind. Furthermore, people tend to disclose highly intimate details after physical exercise.
“Saying the wrong thing in the wrong moment may create awkwardness, be offensive, damage trust, or harm perceptions towards our character. Politicians and CEOs seem to do it all the time. We need to make an extra effort to control what comes out of our mouths during times of stress — which might explain why so many people have arguments over Christmas.”
To increase the accuracy of what we are saying we must adopt strategies to reduce stress since stress is closely related to arousal.
What can you do? Here is advice from Cooker:
“Consciously controlling your breathing and listening to chilled music are two strategies known to work. Then there are the more traditional strategies such as reducing how much coffee you drink, getting enough sleep, and eating well. As any interrogator will tell you, there are limits to how much stress someone will take before they ‘spill the beans.’ Our research suggests that it actually doesn’t take very much stress at all before people will say something, they might later regret.”