Careful, you might catch it

Posted on July 27, 2023


On a warm sunny afternoon, Michelle and I visited the fabulous Epocha Restaurant on the outskirts of Melbourne's CBD. We were keen to try their Sunday roast with all the trimmings and were led to our table by a waiter who immediately made us feel welcome—like family. His positive energy, happiness, and enthusiasm infected us: elevating our mood, resulting in us staying twice as long and spending three times as much.

What happened to us is known as emotional contagion—where one person's emotional state influences another's feelings and, thus, their behaviour. We effectively mimic the emotional states of others, and these cause us to act in certain ways.

We caught the waiter’s happiness in this specific situation, and our actions responded accordingly. In other situations, we might meet people who are angry, distant and remote, or sad. We subconsciously mimic their condition, with our moods and behaviours altering accordingly.

I mention this because it’s important for those of you who manage others or are in customer service or sales roles. Your emotional state is contagious, so it’s important to be as self-aware as possible. And it doesn’t mean you have to be happy happy all the time, but it does mean that you shift your behaviours in certain situations that demand positivity, confidence, and a smile.

As one business owner said: I always check my attitude and adjust my demeanour before I walk through the office front door as I know it impacts those around me.

And I think that’s a great daily practice for us all to incorporate.


PS. For more on this topic and the effect emotional contagion has on mood, cooperation, conflict, and task performance, you can read the following piece of research called: “The ripple effect: Emotional contagion and its influence on group behavior." Administrative science quarterly 47, no. 4 (2002): 644-675. Barsade, Sigal G

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