Yes, Emotional Contagion is a Real Thing

Ever walk into an office and think: Something feels off?  Or out of a big meeting and think: The vibe in there was so negative?

That is because emotions are contagious. Indeed, “emotional contagion” is a real thing - meaning the feelings you are experiencing and the mood you are in can really be felt by others and vice versa.


The human brain’s limbic system is an open loop — not closed like the circulatory system. And an open loop depends on external resources to manage itself. That means we rely on connection with other people for our own emotional stability. Other people can change our physiology and our emotions. It’s called “mirroring” or “catching” others’ emotions.


According to emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, 50% - 70% of how employees perceive their organization’s climate can be traced to one person: The leader. Goleman’s research shows that high levels of EQ create climates of trust and information sharing while low levels of EQ create climates underscored by anxiety and fear.

Bottom line: The boss creates the conditions that directly determine people’s ability to work well. This, in turn, impacts the other bottom line - that of the business.

Ultimately, it’s up to you, as a leader, to cultivate a positive mindset and to learn to reign in your negative emotions. If you are having a bad day, perhaps feeling the stress of the fundraising process or heat from a top client, consider canceling some meetings or perhaps taking a walk to collect yourself. And certainly refrain from saying or typing things in the heat of the moment that you will later regret. Of course, this is easier said than done in the fast-paced, high-stress startup world.

To become a better manager of your moods and your mindset, we advocate creating a "Self-Soothing Toolkit." Suggested tools include listening to a calming music mix, doing a deep breathing exercise, or searching online for humorous memes that will make you smile and laugh. Your Toolkit is basically your user manual for staying calm (or regaining composure) in the face of stress, anxiety and fear. Use it to slow down, quell emotions, clear your mind, and regain control.

Be on the lookout for our Self-Soothing Toolkit Cheatsheet coming soon.

Interested in learning more about EQ? Be sure to read our EQ>IQ article

Want more tips on how to harness your Emotional Intelligence? We're dishing out more advice in this month's newsletter. 

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