Don’t Just Do It For Yourself – How our positivity affects those around us

 In Better Life, Relationships

Do you brighten a room when you enter or when you leave? I really like this phrase!! It’s a great reminder that our attitudes and emotions have a strong influence on the people around us. Most of my tips focus on how we, as individuals, benefit when we train ourselves to be more positive. Another very important result that we seldom hear about is the effect that our increased positivity has on our family, our co-workers, and our community in general.

If you supervise or lead others, your emotions have an even stronger impact on the emotions of these people.

Scientists call it “emotional contagion” – the idea that humans synchronize their personal emotions with the emotions of those around them, whether consciously or unconsciously. Research indicates this phenomenon is partly due to an interconnected network of cells in the brain that make up the Mirror Neuron System (MNS). The MNS picks up on the details of people’s facial expressions, body language, and even vocal tones.[i]

Here’s an example of an amazing study.[ii] Participants were shown a face with either a happy, angry, or neutral expression, but only for 30 milliseconds. The expressions weren’t on the screen long enough for the participants to notice, so they had no idea that they were being subconsciously exposed to them. Still, the participants who were shown the happy face displayed increased electrical activity in the muscles used to smile and mimic that face, and vice versa with the angry face.

What can we take from this? Our efforts to get better at noticing the good around us are not only an investment in our own wellbeing, but also in the wellbeing of our family, colleagues, and friends. Because our positivity can affect those around us, there is a domino effect that spreads to our teams, departments, families, and communities. You have more influence than you know!

Reflect on how being a positive influence could impact the people in your life

[i] Emotional Contagion by Elaine Hatfield et al. in the scientific journal Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, Volume 2, 1993, page 96.
[ii] Facial EMG Responses to Emotional Expressions Are Related to Emotion Perception Ability by Janina Künecke et al. in the online scientific journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) One, Volume 9, 2014.


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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.

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