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Why does no one at work care about my lovely summer holiday?

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Regaling stories of your summer adventures falling on unappreciative ears? You’re not alone, with most people finding familiar stories much more pleasing.

Why does no one at work care about my lovely summer holiday? © Dan Bright

It may seem that way, but rest assured, it’s probably not that they don’t care, and it’s probably not all down to jealousy, either. It’s likely that they just find it difficult to fully appreciate what an awesome time you had.

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Psychologists at Harvard University have been studying the social dynamics that play out when we share stories. They’ve found that most of us (storytellers and listeners alike) think that it will be more pleasurable for all involved to hear stories  of extraordinary experiences rather than more mundane tales.

Yet the converse tends to be true – it’s actually more rewarding to share stories that everyone finds familiar. A key reason is that it’s such a challenge to convey exciting or unusual experiences in words. Your head may be filled with memories of astonishing views or hilarious nights out, but unless you’re a gifted raconteur, when you try to articulate those experiences, your audience is likely to be left cold. So, paradoxically, the more remarkable your summer escape, the more you risk alienating your audience.

By contrast, if you went somewhere familiar and did what many others in your social group do, your colleagues will probably enjoy hearing about your holiday more, as they’ll be able to chip in with their own anecdotes.

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Authors

Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.

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