Saturday, October 30, 2010

World Series: Lesson in Emotional Contagion

That 8th inning with the four consecutive walks by the Ranger pitchers was painful to watch. I kept thinking someone would break the cycle. One of the commentators referred to wild pitching as being contagious. There are many examples of references to bad hits being contagious, good hits being contagious and the like.

And what do you know, happiness is contagious too. Neighbors, family members, people you come in contact and the people they come in contact with can increase your happiness. It’s just like knowing someone that quits smoking; it too is contagious and will help you quit. And yes, unhappiness is contagious too, but not as much as happiness.

The thinking is that we “catch” people’s emotions from their facial expressions and other nonverbals. Without being aware of it, we mimic and track the nonverbal behavior of others and respond to nuances of their vocalizations. Think about what happens when your best friend calls. You can assess your friend’s mental state from the first three words.

But, how do we keep bad things from being contagious? The following are suggestions for not getting caught up in the negativity, bad luck or difficulties of people around you. I’m not saying don’t be empathetic, but if you’re on the field getting ready for your wind up, or the equivalent to that in your life, it’s not the time.

1. Breathe and focus inward on your personal power. Relax your body. Notice your face and adopt a slight smile. Notice when your breathing gets more rapid and body tenses, and get back to this calm, alert state.

2. Be present in the moment. When asked if tonight is a must-win for the Rangers, Ron Washington said that type of thinking would take his players out of the moment causing them to miss things on the field, which was not what they needed. Exactly! Your outward focus is strictly on what’s important for your task.

3. Use your personal pump up routine (see Maintain your Focus Under Pressure) or focus on a happy memory or song to get you in a success mindset.

4. Evaluate later. You can deal with what you did right, wrong or indifferent later. For now, your sole focus is on what you’re doing.

Later, when you’re day is over, or your game is over, and you’ve packed up and gone home, you can figure out how to help the people generating the negativity and unhappiness around you. For now, just play ball!

Study on contagious happiness: Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network.

No comments: