Monday, February 27, 2012

Using Emotional Contagion to our benefit


I was having a bit of a frustrating day the other day. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed…a little late. My alarm hadn’t gone off. I had only two minutes to get ready if I wanted to be there on time.

Of course I hit traffic on the way there. Groggy and discombobulated, I stumbled into work. The day would have been destined for failure, early on if I hadn’t had some positive influences.

My co-workers were great. I had some uplifting customers pretty early on. My brain was a little fuzzy for a bit longer, but soon I was in a good mood…and I woke up.

I found out that this is called emotional contagion. Amanda Enayati’s wonderful piece on the subject, Is your boss ruining your weekend? 

Wikipedia defines emotional contagion as the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. I was inspired to write about this after reading

I have written much about the bad side of so called, emotional contagion without even knowing the term, so I was inspired by her post to write about the good side of it. With intention, we can perhaps, influence someone’s mood the right way.

How many times has the sound of someone else’s laughter caused you to laugh? How many times has a smile from a stranger, or a friendly interaction with a clerk you don’t know brightened your frenzied mood? I know we can all name instances when the opposite has happened.

If you are around unhappy people, it’s going to bring you down. Every interaction with an unhappy person is going to be tainted or influenced by their mood, often unconsciously.

As a clerk myself, I can name numerous times when my own bad mood has been lifted simply because of the smile of a friend or the kindness of strangers. Interacting with positive people can help me forget myself and influence me for the better.

I’ve benefitted from genuine positive emotional contagion many times, so
I’ve made a commitment to be a positive force in the emotional contagion cycle.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

c. 2012


  1. I've definitely benefitted from positive emotional contagion myself. At Target, where bad moods were prevalent, it would only take one smile, laugh, or joke from a co-worker to turn my frown around. And I was thankful for that because I never would have gotten through the shift without it!

    1. I can totally imagine that, Sabrina. I think anyone who has worked in retail has experienced this, whether they choose to remember it or not. [The bad experiences seem to stand out more]. Thanks so much for sharing your story....b