Your colleagues don’t want to hear about your awesome vacation

Having a great time away can make you feel more isolated back at the office

 
Guy regaling a bored colleague with his vacation stories
(Kagan McLeod)

Are you gearing up for your next holiday vacation? When you return to work, keep those stories of hiking the Inca Trail, bungee jumping in New Zealand and wine tastings in Tuscany to yourself—nobody wants to hear about them.

According to new research from Harvard University and the University of Virginia, when people seek out extraordinary experiences like vacationing in exotic locales, those who had the experience enjoyed that their adventures were superior to ones their peers had, but during subsequent social interactions the adventurer ultimately felt excluded and worse off than they would have felt if they had an ordinary experience like everyone else.

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In one experiment, the study’s authors divided 68 subjects into four groups. Each participant was sent to a cubicle where they watched a short video alone. Within each group, one person watched a clip of a talented street magician performing tricks for an audience, while the three others watched a low-budget animation video. The researchers told all participants what video they were watching, either the magician, which was considered the best, or the cartoon, which was considered the worst. They also told the participants what videos their peers got to watch.

The researchers found that those who watched the superior video reported feeling happier than those who watched the inferior one. But once participants started talking about the videos they had viewed, it became apparent that those people who watched the magician felt worse than those who watched the cartoon, and they also felt more excluded in the conversation than their peers.

“The participants in our study mistakenly thought that having an extraordinary experience would make them the star of the conversation,” study author Gus Cooney told Science Daily. “But they were wrong, because to be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities.” So, having uncommon experiences can leave people feeling isolated without realizing that their extraordinary experiences are the cause.

Take-away: If you expect your super-awesome vacation to lead to great conversations with friends and colleagues when you get home, think again—and hide the photos.

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