You might not be aware of it at first, and it can occur within a fraction of a second. Without thinking, you might be inclined to reflect someone’s thoughts or actions. That’s why people in leadership roles need to be especially aware of their thoughts and behaviors. People will turn to them and be more influenced by their interpersonal cues.
This happens deep within the brain. The neurons that cause one person’s actions can trigger the same neurons in someone else. Seeing a smile or a frown touches those same parts of the brain. If we see examples of stressful behaviors at work, it resonates and strengthens those stressed-out feelings within us. Even if we acknowledge the stress within us, the stress of others could cause us to make mistakes at work.
Emotional contagion doesn’t necessarily have to occur in face-to-face interactions. Posts on social media can have an emotional influence on us. A news feed with positive messages can maybe uplift you, but negative posts might sink your mood (via Positive Psychology).