Emotional Contagion WLT

Emotional Contagion WLT

Hi, it’s Paul Krismer here with another quick teaching on emotional intelligence and how we can use these tools to better affect and better impact our teams, where we get better results, more productivity, and people’s commitment and motivation grows when we’re really operating with a lot of emotional intelligence.

This topic today is all about something called emotional contagion, and it’s this bizarre idea that says we express our emotions in a way that becomes the weather for everybody around us. And it’s much more true than we think. Like, we all know we’re impacted by other people’s emotions, but we’re also often in a lot of denial about it. That scientists call this the third-party effect. It’s this idea that we say, “Hmm, so and so is having a bad day, but I’m not going to let it impact me.” And the truth is, people’s emotions are clinging on to us in a way that happens precognitively. We don’t actually get a chance to think about it. It just happens automatically, and it’s much more true than you might think.

There’s even something bizarre in human beings, one of the few species on Earth that have these. It’s called mirror neurons, and a mirror neuron works like this: it says the emotions I see on somebody else’s face, I put on my own face almost immediately, literally at 33,000 of a second. So fast, we’re picking up somebody else’s emotion and it becomes our emotion. And it happens pre-cognitively for lots of good, kind of evolutionary reasons about survival. But what it means is that most of the time we’re rationalizing a decision we’ve made based on emotions we felt beforehand.

So we get into motion and we go, we got to do something, and then we rationalize and try to find some logic to explain why we do it. And it may work out fine and it means kind of trusting our gut, but it just means that you’ve got to be aware that emotions are dominating the workplace all the time, all the way that your teams work. And we kind of say, “Whose emotions do we collectively feel in this contagious expression of emotions?”

Well, there are two fundamental ways that emotions spread. The one is sort of whoever’s kind of got the most dominant emotions or the most on display, most expressive emotions. So, somebody who comes in really angry and they’re pissed about something, well, we’re probably gonna look around and go, “Oh, hey,” and we get some of that emotion. Or even someone who comes in and they’re just bouncy and high energy and positive and encouraging, well, we see that, we go, “Hey, that’s cool,” and we automatically, we feel that way.

But the other way that’s kind of interesting is that we also tend, as a tribal species, to look to our social hierarchy and see the people who are most powerful. Often in businesses, that’s our leaders, and it’s their emotions we’re looking at. We’re kind of viewing the world saying, “Hey, how are they feeling?” And then we feel the way they feel, which is potentially really good. If the person comes in and they’ve got good energy and high motivation and they’re encouraging and they’re positive, optimistic, and they’re excited to get going on something, well, we feel that way. But if they come in and they’re all knife hand and you know, toxic masculinity, angry about this and angry about that, and shouting and being a kind of jerk most of the time, well, guess what? We mostly feel that way too. And we tend to role model that style of leadership because that’s what we were watching, and a lot of this is happening subconsciously, but it is simply true.

So, the encouragement I have for all of you is just simply to be aware that this weather is everywhere, all the time. Emotional contagion is much more real than we think. We tend to deny it, and yet it’s happening all the time. And maybe I could encourage you to break into small groups now and just have a conversation about this. Maybe there are two questions you could ask. The one is, you know, who have I been most influenced by in the past? Some past leader, it could be school, it could be a sports team, it could be in your family. And say, “What was the emotional weather that they brought?” And contemplate how much of their influence was a result of their emotional tone, the way that they felt most of the time. Similarly, a second question might be, “Hey, how could I use what I’ve just learned about being the weather that I want other people to bring? How could I use what I’ve just learned to have a positive influence in the groups that matter to me most: my family, my friends, maybe the community organizations, or the teams that I work with?”

It’s two conversations: who influenced me, what was their weather, and how can I use what I’ve just learned about emotional contagion to get the best out of the people I work with? Thanks for watching. We’ll see you again next time.