The Four Hour Hangover

I love going to conferences. I can never tell in advance how much of the information will actually be relevant and timely, but I enjoy hearing new ideas from effective speakers. Their energy sparks my imagination, and sometimes a phrase or factoid will stick. Like this one, quoted by Dr. Izzy Justice yesterday:

A negative experience will stay with you physiologically for four hours.

It’s an average number, and there are probably a couple of inches of footnote in some professional journal somewhere, but still, four hours?

It seemed high. But then I remembered times at work when something really got to me, and I could feel that physical effect for a long while after the incident. If it happened after lunch, the commute home was going to be affected for sure. Close to quitting time, relaxing in the evening was going to require extra effort.

To me, knowing that four-hour effect is motivating. I try to be even-tempered, to be appreciative, and to be supportive with my colleagues in difficult situations. I don’t always succeed. Knowing the consequences of failure in tangible terms — a four-hour physiological hangover for my colleague — motivates me to try a little harder.

The devil in me says that the researchers who proved this little fact were in cahoots with the Southern mamas trying to raise their little girls to be “sweet, kind, and good.” But the angel on the other shoulder just smiles, and tells me that Mama was right.

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