Do you have a colleague in your office who constantly whines?
- She shows up every morning grumpy and starts the day by declaring, “Yup, it is going to be a hell of a day!”
- She randomly says, “Why do I even bother, if no one appreciates me?”
- She often snaps to let everyone know she is not happy.
If yes, have you ever noticed what happens to you when you are exposed to such energy? Do you feeling anxious or down?
On the other hand, there are some other people or colleagues at your workplace who:
- Find humor in anything.
- Go with the flow and have a pleasant liveliness.
- Are upbeat and rarely fret over the small stuff.
So, how do you feel around them? Do you feel recharged and maybe a bit cheerful?
“When people are in a certain mood, whether elation or depression, that mood is often communicated to others. When we are talking to someone who is depressed, it may make us feel depressed, whereas if we talk to someone who is feeling self-confident and buoyant we are likely to feel good about ourselves. This phenomenon is known as emotional contagion.”(Hatfielf, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1994)
Emotional Contagion & Evolution
Ryan T. Howell, a psychology professor explains that according to the evolutionary psychology, emotional contagion is crucial for survival. When a tribe is threatened, emotional arousal disperses within the tribe through facial expressions, postures, and voice tone, which enables the people to escape the threat.
“Researchers at the University of Chicago observed that rats became distressed when they saw other rats in distress, and they displayed pain behavior if they saw other rats in pain, suggesting that the most principal form of empathy is well-known to other species. Emotional contagion serves human beings as well, it was helpful to our ancestors, enabling them to understand each other in a time before verbal communication was possible.”
Although the esteemed Ryan T. Howell offers an interesting explanation, the question still remains — what do we do with the negative office tribe that we encounter each morning?
Back to 2017
As complainers and whiners can gradually blend into the office, you stop noticing them. It is just like that abandoned desk that no one wants to use, but everyone knows it is there. Their energy is still very much existent.
Consequently, you may think you have developed immunity to the negativity, but in fact, you are still getting infected, experiencing all the symptoms and you have merely learned to live with the unease.
Even though I love the idea of not being responsible for everything in my life and just blame Miss Complainer there for my bad mood, I am as much accountable as she is. Because, at the end of the day (beginning, in this case), what I do with what I got (emotion) is within my control… right?
But then, it is not all bad; here are few suggestions:
There is a powerful way to deal with unwanted emotions that have got nothing to do with you.
Dain Heer shares an easy tool that can provide you awareness and relief instantly. According to Heer, most of our thoughts and emotions don’t belong to us but are subconsciously collected from our environment.
Solution: When you are feeling down, angry, or just confused, ask yourself:
Who does this belong to?
More often than not, you will realize that whatever you are feeling does not belong to you, but instead, you have caught the emotion from a raging driver next to you during rush hour — your upset partner, your angry manager, or your grumpy colleague.
Something will happen when you ask this question; you may feel lighter and relieved. The lightness indicates that the feeling does not belong to you and you have caught it unintentionally at some point.
So, after realizing that this emotion does not belong to you, take a step back and consciously decide to release it or send it back to the sender! You don’t always have to bother finding out who struck you with that emotion; just take charge of letting it go and reconnect with yourself.
The best way to test this out is to try it for three days. This can also help you identify sudden mood swings.
On the other hand, if you do know the source of your contaminated thoughts and feelings, completely avoid that source! You can put limits to how often you interact with them or you could ask to move your work space or limit your hangouts…get creative!
- A friend of mine takes a warm bubble bath when she feels some heaviness after working hours.
She checks in and asks herself, “Whose story am I carrying with me home?”
She has basically created a system to wash off that discomfort.
- My other friend takes time washing his hands with cold water after spending some time with his clients.
He gets very present and just senses the water on his skin and uses that small time to wash off any unwanted energies that stay with him.
- You can also recognize the negative influence and decide in their presence that you will not allow the negativity in.
- Let go of any attempt to change or fix other people’s chronic negativity; this could drain you and leave you frustrated. Instead, you could help them by setting the example.
- Spend more time with up-lifters. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, just listen to Kevin Hart!
So, choose whatever arrangement works for you; anything that can help you shake the negativity off. What is important here is the process of being aware and taking the charge.
Keep in mind that you are always in control of what is true and real to you.
Because as someone very wisely said,
“Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.”
Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (n.d.). Emotional Contagion. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521449480
Howell, R. T. (2012, April 17). Why Are Emotions Contagious? Retrieved July 29, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cant-buy-happiness/201204/why-are-emotions-contagious