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What emotional wake are you creating?

Have you ever sat in a meeting where someone yawns and the next thing you know everyone is yawning? While the effect is not as obvious, emotions are just as contagious. NeuroCapability CEO, LINDA RAY, looks at what emotion contagion is and its implications for the workplace.

What emotional wake are you creating?

Humans are highly attuned to detect emotion in others.  When others are happy, we are infected with their joy.  When others are sad, anxious, cranky or on the warpath, it’s easy for us to have a heightened reaction to that as well.  When someone says they are ‘fine’, yet their body language or tone of voice is incongruent, our highly tuned detects a threat and makes us pay attention because what may be making the other person not fine could also be a threat to us. Our brain’s primary purpose is to keep us alive and safe so it is always on the lookout for these subtle signals and making predictions about possible threats or rewards.

What is emotion contagion?

Do yourself a favour and watch this short clip. It is a wonderful example of how contagious emotions are. I challenge you to not smile or laugh when you watch it!

Emotional contagion is the phenomenon in which a person or group influences the emotions and affective behaviour of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious indication of emotions.  Or to put it more simply, moods are catchy.

The ‘Emotional Wake’

What kind of impact does it have on your colleagues when you are having a bad day?  How do you feel when you are around someone who is upset? This impact is known as an ‘emotional wake’. The concept of the emotional wake is another way of thinking about emotional contagion.

Think of it as a wave of emotion that enters the room with a person and it is a wave in which others in the room can’t help but be swept up.   Our brains are finely tuned to others’ emotional states and able to detect subtle signals about mood and emotions. The implications in the workplace can be enormously good or enormously bad. An emotional wake can be either a positive experience or a negative experience, based on the mood of the person bringing it to a situation. If a leader enters a room, happy, smiling and full of energy and enthusiasm, it will rub off on the team. They will feel more enthusiastic and may even comment about what a great motivator or “breath of fresh air” their leader can be. Alternatively, many of having experienced a workplace where a visit from the boss who is struggling with pressure and deadlines leaves everyone flat, unmotivated, and a little edgy.

We all need to be aware of the emotions we bring into a room and find ways to shake off negative emotions, so we don’t spread them to others and infect their mood. The next time you enter a room think about the emotions you are bringing in and the emotional wake you want to leave behind.

Register for our next week’s free webinar: Wed 24 June, 12 noon QLD
Emotion Contagion – What kind of emotional wake do you leave behind?
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