“Don’t be stupid.” “You’re an idiot.” “You are a lazy bum.” Ouch, what a slap to the face. Three of them in fact. Just reading an insult hurts a little, doesn’t it? Each one is like a “mini slap to the face “… literally. At least that is what Dr. Struiksma, the lead author of a study published in Frontiers in Communication, reports. She and her colleagues had 29 females read a series of statements that were either insulting, complimenting, or neutral. Half the statements used the participant’s name while the other half used someone else’s name. The participants’ responses were measured using EEG’s and skin conductance measures.
Even in this lab setting, with no real human interactions and with statements coming from fictitious people, insults “got under the skin” of the participants. Each insult elicited an early effect in the brain; and it did so every time a participant heard it…. even if it did not include their name. EEG readings from this study suggest that an insult immediately “grabs the listener’s attention” as they attempted to assess the insult and its meaning in the current context, just like a “mini slap to the face” grabs our attention and shocks us emotionally & physically.
I don’t know about you, but I find it very disturbing to even imagine someone slapping another person in the face, let alone slapping a family member in the face. Yet we live in a society where one person will insult another person at the drop of a hat, without even a thought. Don’t believe me? Recall the elections and political debates or skim through some Twitter and Facebook posts. Read them sparingly though. After all, in the study described above. even an insult given to someone else was like a “mini slap to the face.” Perhaps that is why so many political ads remain bothersome to us. Each one, each insult, becomes a “mini slap to the face” for the candidate and for each of us who hears or reads the insult. One can only tolerate so many “mini slaps to the face.”
This insult as a “mini slap to the face” can also hit close to home, can’t it? Too many family arguments elicit an insult. But I don’t want to become the source of a “mini slap to the face” of my spouse or my children or my parents. Do you? Let’s not give our family a “mini slap in the face.” Let’s commit to NOT insulting anyone in our family (or outside our family for that matter). Instead, we can act on Fred’s determination regarding the opportunity to insult his Uncle Scrooge: “his offenses carry their own punishment and I’ll have nothing to say against him.” Rather than getting caught in a cycle of insults, let’s determine to offer gratitude, compliments, or even constructive criticisms instead. I’m making that commitment. Will you join me?