Yes, emotions are contagious. Not just anectdotally. I mean from a physiological point of view. They are contagious. We have these things called mirror neurons in our brains that light up when we see someone across from us experiencing an emotion. The mirror neurons light up and we experience that same emotion. We do an exercise where we get a partner and try not to show emotions for seven seconds. Then the partner puts a big smile on their face. It’s almost impossible not to react. Even if you can keep a straight face, your mirror neurons are crying out. People with autism have mirror neurons that don’t light up the way a normal brain does. That’s part of the problem. They can’t read emotions on that emotional level. They have to learn emotions from a cognitive level (an angry face, a sad face, a puzzled face, etc).
As one neuroscientist put it, “We are only separated by our skin.” Think of the power of this at work and at home. You can actually affect the physiology of the person across from you. That is a powerful thing. I do a speech on presentation skills and turn off the screen on purpose and start to scramble, acting like my computer has died. Of course, the audience gets anxious for me and start to try to help me solve the problem. Then I finally tell them I did it on purpose to make a point. When you are nervous in front of an audience, that is what the audience is feeling. And that is not only awkward for the audience, that is the one thing they will remember. They will remember that your speech made their skin crawl, and they may not even know why.
Frances Wilshire put it this way: “People do not remember you by any intellectual idea or concept you may have given them, but by some subtle emotional impression you may have made consciously or subconsciously. It is what one thinks about you after you have left him that counts.”
So keep in mind that the emotions you are feeling are being picked up by everyone around you. So the only question is: How are you going to affect your world?