Emotions are contagious

Dennis Sparks

Emotions are contagious. Leaders’ emotions are particularly contagious.

That’s why I read with great interest a sign posted in a long-term care facility:

“Emotional Contagion is the transferring of emotions from one person to another. Residents with Alzheimer’s Dementia have a heightened sensitivity to emotional contagion. They tend to mimic the emotions of those around them. This is a way for them to connect with others even if they’re not able to understand their current situation. If we as caregivers are anxious or upset, residents will pick up and copy the same emotions even if we think they are not aware. Being calm and happy while providing care may go a long way in keeping our residents calm and happy as well.”

Like Alzheimer’s patients, individuals in high stress environments have a “heightened sensitivity to emotional contagion.”

And, unfortunately, many schools, for a variety of reasons, are pressure cookers of stress.

That means that it is essential that administrators and teacher leaders pay special attention to whether they are anxious or upset and do all that they can to bring their best selves to school each day so that they spread positive emotions rather than negative ones.

I offer 8 suggestions here for leaders on ways they can bring positive energy to their school communities.

What have you found helpful in bringing your best self to school each day, whatever your role may be?

5 Responses to “Emotions are contagious”


  1. 1 Tagrid Sihly June 10, 2015 at 8:26 am

    This is absolutely true. Unorganized and stressed out leaders tend to promote unnecessary stress and frustration among the people they work with. This negative energy leads to burnout and willingness to implement change. I don’t respond well to stress and, regretfully, I just gave up in the past when things became too overwhelming. Today, however, I try to have a more positive outlook by seeking out the value in the situation. That is, to define the purpose for what I’m doing and try not to be deterred by all the distractions. I think that if we focus on “why” we do what we do and use our discretion in prioritizing, we will not be affected by the stress-causing factors around us.

  2. 2 Bob Jackson June 10, 2015 at 8:45 am

    To bring my best to school each day I always focused on building positive relationships and interactions and lived by the motto, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

  3. 4 Maida Williams June 10, 2015 at 10:31 am

    There is coherence in the school or organization where things fit together into a meaningful whole and people understand and see this.

    • 5 Dennis Sparks June 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

      Excellent point, Maida! People (students and adults alike) feel energized when they are doing meaningful, coherent work and deeply understand how that work fits into the bigger picture….


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