Emotional Contagion: How to Avoid “Catching” Negative Emotions

Did you know you can catch someone’s emotions (positive or negative)? Just like catching a cold or the flu, emotional contagion can happen quickly and without you realizing it.

Protecting yourself comes down to awareness about how people show up in our lives. Though we are not equipped to figure out what people are feeling, we can notice when people lift us up or bring us down – and we can do something about it.

This is a great topic to kick off Emotional Intelligence Month. I define emotional intelligence (EQ) as using your emotions to help you, not hinder you. Being able to protect yourself from catching negativity or someone’s bad mood is extremely helpful.

Here’s how to avoid negative emotional contagion:

1.      Notice that you feel different around someone.

2.      Identify how that person makes you feel.

3.      Take action, like setting boundaries or spending less time with them.

Think of someone you spend a lot of time with who often seems upset or in a bad mood. Maybe it’s your coworker Dan who has a victim mentality. He’ll walk out of a meeting saying, “Our VP never likes my ideas. I doubt I’ll get approval on this project. I don’t know why I even bother.”

When Dan talks like that, you notice and identify how he makes you feel. “Wow, I just walked out of that meeting in a great mood, excited about our goals for this quarter. Dan immediately brought me down with his complaining. I can’t let his negativity squash my enthusiasm. I really like my job and our VP. I have to spend time with Dan, but I don’t want to become him.”

Put boundaries around Dan. Every time he falls into that victim mentality, you could say, “I don’t want to talk about our VP, Nancy, or the projects we’re working on negatively. I like Nancy, and I am excited about these projects.”

You’ll probably have to do this a few times, but eventually, Dan will learn not to complain to you.

Want to raise your awareness about emotions? To celebrate EQ Month, we are giving away a gift each week. Email us with one area you would like to improve in your Emotional Intelligence and we will email you a personalized EQ Strategy that you can implement to improve your EQ!