The sneeze of your seatmate on an airplane sends a bolt of disgust through your mind. “Now I’m going to catch what this bozo has!” From popping endless vitamins to dousing with hand sanitizer, we go to great lengths to protect against germs. We don’t want to catch what someone else has.
Or do we?
Emotions and ideas can also be highly contagious. When you spend an hour with someone who is full of energy and has a positive outlook, you leave the meeting feeling pumped up and ready to take on the world. This is how motivational speakers make a living. If you have a thought-provoking, intellectual conversation with a group of friends, it leaves you with fresh ways to tackle your own challenges.
On the other hand, if you are berated by a boss or screamed at by a customer, you will unconsciously need to purge that negativity. Your anger becomes contagious as you unload on your spouse or kids. In the same way positive thoughts and ideas are contagious, so are the sinister ones. Fear, hatred, bigotry, and jealously are all easily transmittable afflictions.
Most of us don’t realize the impact of our own perspective on others. We fail to see that we have the power to energize or deplete, inspire or enrage. When you are curt, grumpy, and dismissive you are performing the emotional equivalent of coughing in someone’s face. And when you are encouraging, positive, and compassionate, you are spreading vaccine instead of disease.
Knowing that each of us can be the carrier of both helpful and hurtful emotional bacteria, let’s make the choice to infect those around us with energy, laughter and hope. Negative outbursts and soul-crushing criticism have no place in our companies, communities, or families. If these are your feelings, we all prefer that you keep them in quarantine.
If you’re going to spread something, why not unleash a positive, helpful, encouraging virus? Hopefully it will spread faster than a cat video on YouTube, and we’ll all be better off as a result. Your prescription comes with unlimited refills, no side effects, and is fully covered by all insurance. Take ample doses, several times a day. Doctor’s orders.