I started listening to the Work Life podcast, by Adam Grant. I love it! Super-interesting.
Since they’re relatively close to the beginning of the podcast, I started at the beginning.
Season 1, Episode 3 was “The Problem with All Stars,” and while it was interesting to listen to, the piece that was most striking to me was not about the main topic at all.
From the transcript:
“Emotional contagion is something that I became interested in many, many years ago when I was working with a colleague, ‘Meg’ as a pseudonym, and I wasn’t even reporting to her, she was just working in my environment. I knew she was negative but I didn’t think much of it. And then one week Meg went on vacation. And it was amazing. Like suddenly the team, me, everybody — our shoulders lowered, we were more relaxed and happy. And then she came back and everything went back to the way it was and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how amazing that this person, who I didn’t even report to could have such a tremendous influence on not only my mood, but the mood of everybody else.”
This isn’t surprising, but it brought to mind a lot of scenarios from the past few years. Times when I’ve been frustrated to be consistently in the presence of constant negativity. Times when I’m sure I was the one bringing the group dynamic down. Scenarios from longer ago, also from both sides of the fence. Which brings me to…
The concept applies to family dynamics, of course. When one person in the house is always (or even just often) miserable or angry or high-strung, it takes a toll on everyone in the house. And because this typically develops over time, it follows the boiling-a-frog fable. (In that case, the person who points it out is more likely to be ostracized than the person causing the problem … but that’s a tangent I’m not going to ride out today.)
Really, it applies to anywhere with people you’re in proximity to. At the grocery store and someone ahead of you is chewing out the cashier? Changes your environment. Someone unpleasant on the train? Next table over at dinner is full of crankiness or anger or vitriol? These change your experience, even if they’re not chronic, like a coworker or housemate would be.
Obviously we don’t have control over all of these situations, but it’s worth the time and effort to see where we can eliminate or reduce contact with negative people … and also to be introspective enough to know when it is us. (Not self-deprecating and assuming it’s always us … introspective and having a solid guess as to when it’s us.)