Are you feeling cheerful, melancholy or irritable?How about the person sitting next to you? If they feel the same way,there’s a good chance you may have “caught” their mood. Studies haveemerged that indicate moods actually are contagious (just like thecommon cold) – and the worse the mood, the more contagious it is!
But there’s a bright side. Take laughter, for instance: When you’re in the presence of laughter, it’s almost impossible to keep from cracking a smile and laughing right along. An awareness of moods and their power can help you understand and even shift the dynamics of a tense or unproductive situation – at work and home, and with friends, family, partners and even perfect strangers. First, however, we have to understand how moods are transmitted.
Monkey see, monkey do!
When it comes to social interaction, it’s monkey see, monkey do. Human beings are hard-wired for mimicry. Studies have shown that when people view images of happy and sad faces, they unconsciously mimic those expressions. We mimic not only facial expressions, but also gestures, movement and tone of voice. This mimicry is subtle and unconscious. Even if it isn’t externally apparent, our body is responding on a neurological level, helping to create the mood of the person we’re trying to understand and relate to.
Case in point
It seems like a normal day at work, but Jack notices he’s feeling irritable. Examining why, he traces his irritability back to his boss Laura, who was short with him that morning. Now that he realizes her irritation was transmitted to him, he’s able to work on changing his mood, and he also makes the decision to engage Laura with only the most important matters that day. By being conscious of how the mood created a negative dynamic, Jack was able to make a sound decision about how to best interact with Laura and shift his own mood.
Laura, on the other hand, arrived at work ready to put together an important report for a meeting that afternoon, only to find her computer was infected with a virus. This put her in an irritable mood and as a result she snapped at several co-workers. She spent half the day trying to get her computer back in action. Just before her afternoon meeting, she realized her mood was doing nothing for her or her team members. By acknowledging her mood (and taking some calm, deep breaths) Laura was able to run a successful meeting – and she didn’t bring her bad mood back home to her spouse and children.
Transmitters and receivers
We are all transmitters and receivers of other people’s moods, but some of us are more one than the other. The more outgoing and expressive you are, the more likely you are to transmit your mood to others. Conversely, people who are sensitive observers are generally more affected by the moods of others. Knowing where your susceptibilities lie will help you manage your moods more effectively.
Blessing or curse?
Mood interplay can be insidious, but it can also be a boon. Think about how many times someone else’s good mood made a difference for you, and you’ll realize we really can’t live without each other’s moodiness!
Although it’s not always possible to control our moods and emotions, being conscious of them can help protect us from our own emotional swings (and those of others), and potentially improve the dynamics of our lives.
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