By Lauren F. Friedman, published on March 13, 2012 - last reviewed on April 30, 2012
Discussing a painful experience typically helps people cope and find meaning in it. So it's not unreasonable to assume that rehashing the details of a happy event magnifies the joy—and indeed, we tend to want to talk about positive experiences more than negative ones. Unfortunately, researchers now find, recounting some happy memories can diminish your pleasure. The simple act of sharing can:
Talking about a sensory or emotional experience—the taste of your mom's pecan pie, the beauty of a sunset—can dampen the emotions attached to it, according to the Journal of Consumer Research. The act of putting feelings into words is essentially analytical, explains Sarah Moore, a professor at the Alberta School of Business, and "rethinking an emotional experience in an analytical way alters it fundamentally."
When people share stories, the focus is often on being entertaining, not accurate. In the process, the memory can be rewritten, obscuring the facts. "What people remember about events may be the story they last told about those events," observes Duke University psychologist Elizabeth Marsh in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Talking up your goals—telling everyone about the language you're going to learn or the LSATs you're going to ace—might get in the way of actually achieving them. Recent studies by New York University psychologist Peter Gollwitzer suggest that making public what we hope to do can offer a premature sense of accomplishment, reducing the drive to actually get it done.
"Not everyone is good at responding to good news," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California Riverside. Sharing even the best news with someone who is passive, unresponsive, or negative "can actually make you feel worse." Sometimes it's best to just replay good experiences in the privacy of your own head.