Emotions are contagious

Parents, children, spouses, friends, bosses and employees can all “catch” emotions from each other.

by Kathy Gates — 

The crying could be heard all the way outside. When I walked into the house, I saw my mother and my sister holding her screaming baby. All of them were tense and frustrated. I took the baby, patted him, whispered to him and cuddled him. Within minutes, he was quiet.

The first time I did this, my sister was almost angry. “How did she do that?” she asked, whirling to face my mother.

“He picks up on what we’re feeling,” Mom replied. “She’s calm, and that helps him be calm.”

My mother was my first life coach. She knew early on what Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, taught many years later: Emotions are contagious.

I am sure you have experienced it. Think of a time when you went into work or caught up with a friend, spouse, parent or sibling while you were feeling happy and s/he was grouchy or tense. Did you change to be more blue and unhappy? Or did your positive mood rub off on them?

Sometimes it is impossible to leave your emotions at home when you go to work or to leave them at work when you come home. You are tired, angry with the boss or tense from a busy day. You pick up the kids, and within minutes they are whiny, irritated and frustrated at the smallest thing. Parents, children, spouses, friends, bosses and employees can all “catch” emotions from each other.

So what can you do, now that you know emotions are contagious?

  1. Notice your own and others’ emotions; then notice their effect on people.
  2. Learn to build up an insulation so you can tolerate negative emotion without it dragging you down with it.
  3. You may not be able to decide how you feel, but you can decide how you act. In other words, just because you catch someone else’s frustration, you can still contain it.
  4. Lead with positive emotions. This will affect you, as well as others.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people, so you catch their positive emotions.

You are capable of spreading either happiness or grouchiness. You cannot choose what you feel, but you can choose how you respond.


Kathy Gates is a professional life coach in Scottsdale, Ariz., who helps people deal with the stress of everyday living in a more organized and efficient manner. She is the author of several e-books and e-courses. 480-998-5843 or www.reallifecoach.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 3, June/July 2006.

, , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics