The Chemistry of Positive Social Interactions In Leadership


 

 

 

 

 

Oxytocin has been described as the molecule of social connection associated with positive traits like trust, cooperation, and empathy.

Judith and Richard Glaser published an article in HBR on the results of a study that analyzed the hormonal response of positive and negative behaviors in managers. Source: blogs.hbr.org

Oxytocin is the hormone that we produce when we feel good during a conversation like positive feedback. Cortisol is the hormone of stress produced when we have fear of being criticized or rejected.

Cortisol stays much longer in the blood than oxytocin that is why we remember more negative comments than positive ones.

So the article suggests to be mindful of the behaviors that open us up, and those that close us down, in our relationships:

Behaviors that send positive messages:

  • Concern for others
  • Curiosity
  • Paint picture of mutual success
  • Open to difficult conversation

Behaviors that send negative messages:

  • Don’t trust others
  • Focus on convincing others
  • Pretend to be listening

Separately  I found other interesting studies showing that oxytocin levels increased in dog owners and their dogs after physical contact: Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin

There is also evidences that oxytocin doesn’t make people more moral or immoral. It shifts people’s focus from themselves to their group or tribe . As a consequence, people may also exhibit more racism and intercultural or inter group clashes when those behaviors favor the group interests (Carsten de Dreu: Does the ‘love hormone’ foster racism? ).

“When you give preferential treatment to your in-group as ethnocentrism, you implicitly indirectly discriminate against people who do not belong to your in-group. And they feel that, they feel resentment, they may protest, so indirectly, it could be that oxytocin contributes to inter-group tensions” Carsten de Dreu

What oxytocin does is that once you see people as [belonging to your] in-group, you come to like them even more. Oxytocin doesn’t make you a racist; it makes you like and commit to your in-group.

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