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What Are You Catching From Your Network?

What Are You Catching From Your Network?

Ever heard of social contagion? No, it’s not about spreading and catching germs; it’s about inadvertently spreading and catching emotions – for better or for worse.

Here’s the skinny of it. When we feel happy, our brain makes us smile. And the reverse is also true: when we smile, our brain thinks our body is communicating its positive mood. So when we see someone else smile and we naturally smile back because our brain’s mirror cells mimic the facial expressions we see, we are inadvertently catching their good mood, which is a very helpful thing.

But here’s an important caveat: mirror cells mimic negative emotions too! If anything, frowns may be even more potently contagious than smiles. In fact, I learned from my friends at Work the Pond! – a fun positive networking company that is also research-savvy –  that 90% of anxiety at work is created by 5% of one’s network. That’s huge, so make sure to watch for those nay-sayers in your environment!

If you are a business leader or an executive coach, you’ll also be interested in this: researchers at the University of Michigan found that when business leaders were in a good mood, their team members find it much easier to accomplish their tasks. Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania also concluded that optimists sell more (a LOT more!) than pessimists. Further research at University of North Carolina also demonstrates that we can be more creative when in a good mood.

So what kind of mood are you spreading today? And what are the moods and attitudes of those you surround yourself with? Pay attention, because the answer not only impacts your mood, but also your productivity.

For more detail on the research supporting brain mimicry, see my colleague Emiliya Zhivotovskaya’s article on the Positive Psychology News. For more information on how it impacts your business life, check out this article from Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin. And for more tips on spreading good vibes, see Kindness: The Most Reliable Mood Boost Ever! on p. 166 of our book.

MJ Shaar – in 20 seconds


MJ is one of the most sought-after experts blending positive psychology and health promotion. She spent over 15 years coaching, teaching, speaking, researching and testing smart health habits. Marie-Josée Shaar received her undergrad at McGill University in Organizational Behavior, followed by a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She's certified as a Wellness Culture Coach, a Personal Trainer, and a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant.

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