Wendy Dickinson: Follower of God, leader of people. Explorer. Traveler. Psychologist. Believer. Thinker. Communicator. Strategic and efficient. Lover of friends, movies, wine, shoes, chocolate, obscure vegetables, and drinks with bubbles. Joyful.
Have you ever notice when you are around someone who is angry, your blood pressure starts to increase? Or when you are in a group of Negative Nancys, your grouch meter starts beeping? Do you have some friends who just make you feel happier when you are around them? If you’ve noticed this phenomenon, you are not the only one. Researchers who have studied this process, call it emotional contagion.
The idea is that we transfer moods or emotions to those around us. When we are around happy people we become happier, when we are around pessimists we start seeing the ways that things can go wrong. The research data backs up what our moms always told us – “you are going to become like you’re friends.” Oh wait, your mom didn’t tell you that? Well if she had, she would have been right.
Another application of this phenomenon that I find fascinating extends to culture within organizations. Do you have someone in your organizations whose negative outlook is rubbing off on those around him/her? You might be trying to build a culture of generosity, hard work, optimism, or courage within your organization but notice that there seems to be a dark cloud hovering over a person or group of people. The reality is that it’s only a matter of time before emotions start “contaminating” the organization. The question becomes how do you make sure that the group is inoculated against the negative ones, and receptive to the positive ones you want to cultivate? The surest way is to root out the emotions that you don’t want to spread. I have a friend who is addicted to using those little bottles of hand sanitizer…it would help if they sold tiny bottles of emotional sanitizer. It might help arrest the growing epidemic of bad attitudes, entitlement, and pessimism that seems to be growing within cultures and organizations.
On a personal level, what is it that people going to “catch” from you? Are they going to be more joyful? Encouraging? Creative? Positive? Courageous? What if we could track the “contamination” of courage as it spread from one person to another? What problems could we change? What people would we see? Would we step out of our comfort zones? Oh that courage would contaminate!