The Stupid Pill

It’s been suggested that you can learn what someone really thinks of you when they’re angry. However, research on brain functioning suggests that this simply isn’t true. As you become emotionally charged and your physiological arousal escalates, parts of your brain actually goes off-line. As activity in your brain’s emotional centers increases, activity in your cortex (the part of your brain that sets you apart from your dog or pet rabbit) decreases. As a result, your ability to access certain cognitive processes (reasoning, intuition, empathy and self-awareness to name a few) is restricted while your inclination to “react” increases. By the time your heart-rate is above 90 beats per minute (which happens pretty quickly – especially for men!), you’re barely able to hear what your spouse is saying to you, no less understand it and respond to it thoughtfully or honestly.

In effect, getting angry is like taking a stupid pill. So, if you want to find out what someone thinks of you when half of their brain is turned off, then seeing what comes out when they are angry is a pretty good idea. But if you want to know what someone really thinks of you – or perhaps more importantly – if you want to make sure that what you say is an honest expression of who you are, then it's probably a good idea to calm down before you open your mouth.

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