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Episode 75: Navigating Emotional Contagion with Jackie Insinger

Brief summary of show:

Have you heard of the term ‘Emotional Contagion’? I know it sounds scary, but it’s crucial when it comes to understanding our emotions, how to regulate them, and identifying the ways in which we want to show up in the world.

Jackie Insinger joins me on my podcast to talk about this.

Throughout her career, Jackie has brought her expertise in Cognitive Psychology and Interpersonal Dynamics to the business world as a sought-after Leadership and Team Dynamics Coach.

Using her research-based, action-oriented methodology, Jackie helps leaders and teams focus on unique strengths and authentic connection in order to increase performance, results, and fulfillment. Her Positive Psychology-led framework, Platinum Leadership, has been a game-changer for thousands of people and businesses throughout the world.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:50] What emotional contagion is

  • [4:40] How to navigate our moods according to the energy in the room

  • [7:00] Can you change the emotion and energy around you?

  • [8:55] Staying calm in challenging situations

  • [12:40] Why we can’t be responsible for other peoples’ moods

  • [17:40] Modeling behaviors and how to regulate emotions

Jackie has a psychology degree from Duke University and a master’s in human development and psychology from Harvard. She is a member of both the Forbes Coaches Council and the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and lives in Denver with her husband, Rob; two sons, Simon and Miles; and enormous Newfoundland, Hailey, aka Big Nazty.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Jackie

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Hi everyone. And welcome to the Natalie Titel podcast. If you're joining for the very first time, it's great to have you here. And if you've been here in the past, that means that you probably like what you have heard. And I am so glad that you're back for some more inspiration today. We're gonna talk today about the power of emotions and what's called emotional contagion.

Sounds like a really. Odd concept, doesn't it? It can actually work for you. If you let it work for you, it can work against you if you're not aware of it. So I wanna take just 30 seconds and ask you to do me a favor, and then we'll get more into emotional contagion. First of all, the favor, if you could take just.

30 seconds and leave a review here for the podcast. Like the podcast, give it five stars, share it with someone doing that helps me grow and helps these positive messages get to more people. And it really does mean a lot. So thank you for taking the time to do that. My guest today is a very dear friend and one of the most emotionally intelligent people that I have ever met, Jackie and singer has studied emotions and the power.

Positive psychology. And she has coached families and executives worldwide helping them form better relationships while growing as leaders and as individuals, this work is so powerful and it really does work a little more about Jackie. She has a psychology degree from duke university and a master from Harvard.

Her work with individuals and teens has positively impacted thousands of people and businesses. Throughout the world. She has a best selling book called spark brilliance. She will tell you more about that as well. So let's get right to the podcast today on emotions and emotional contagion.

[00:01:46] Natalie: Jackie your second visit here on the podcast. And uh, that just means that the first one was so successful. We have to do it again.

[00:01:53] Jackie: well, thank you for having me back. I'll come back as often as you'd

[00:01:57] Natalie: like, well, I always learn so much and um, I've told everyone that we are good friends too. And I always feel like I come away from our conversations, a better person um, and learning.

And part of that is this concept that I wanna go into today that you write about in the book as well, your book, which we'll talk about. And, and that's the power of emotions and what's called emotional contagion, which I think sounds kind of like a funny disease. Yes. But

yes. But tell us what it is and why we need to be

[00:02:26] Jackie: aware of it.

Yeah. Ever, ever since COVID came out the contagion part of the word just sounds a little, you know, has a negative connotation. I wish we could rename it, but so emotional contagion. To me, one of the most exciting things to understand because of the power that we have, that maybe we don't have an awareness around until we understand this concept.

So emotional contagion is, is just like, it sounds the spontaneous spread of emotions from person to person or through a group, which neuroscience shows in 33 milliseconds. So super fast, right? 33 milliseconds. The part of our brain called the amygdala. We'll read and identify someone's emotions and instantly take them on.

Hmm. So that could be, you know, a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the emotion we're spreading and it multiplies. So emotions just spread outward. Um, The research is. Fascinating around this. So for instance, like study show, you can put three complete strangers in a room for two minutes. And in those two minutes, whoever has the most dominant emotion will spread it to the other two good or bad.

They don't even have to know each other. So this is happening all around us sometimes, really subtly sometimes not. You know, we all can picture those situations where say you're you're at, at a dinner and somebody walks in, right. And sometimes that mood just drops and the energy changes, and sometimes it can be the exact opposite.

Someone walks in the room and your energy just lifts and you know, so family members all, you know, All of that. We all, we all have that experience good or bad, and we do that to others as well. So

[00:04:02] Natalie: let's put this into like a practical situation, My cranky teenager walks in the house mm-hmm and you know, I'm having a great day and I'm get cooking dinner.

And the cranky teenager walks in.

What advice do you have you, you know what? That's like, you have teenagers as

[00:04:17] Jackie: well. Oh, I've never seen a grumpy teenager.

[00:04:21] Natalie: what do we do? Can we bring their mood up or do we just have to assume they're gonna bring our emotions and mood down?

[00:04:28] Jackie: So it's interesting. It could go either way, right?

Because generally from, from the understanding I have, of all of the research is it's more, whatever the more dominant emotion is and, you know, overwhelmingly bad seems to have more power over good in our lives. That's something we have. It's it's called like Cognitive bias toward the negative or negativity bias.

We tend to feel bad is stronger than good in so many areas. So it's almost like we have to have a stronger, good intention, like the intention behind it and be very deliberate about what we let in to our energy and what we don't. I almost picture like this invisible shield you can put around of like, oh, I don't wanna let that in.

I'm gonna let that stick, you know, on the outside of my, of my bubble. Yeah. And then decide what I wanna kind of project out. You know, there's a couple things. One is when you let that negativity in which we often do, right. Mm-hmm we feel, and it just pulls us down. If you like, there's a level to that.

There's one that you take it on. There's another thing, if you let it work you up or get you angry for even two minutes, research shows, it could take up to seven hours for that to leave your system completely. Wow. Yeah. So there's so much reason to decide and be mindful of. I need to make sure that I protect my own emotion and energy and decide what I wanna give back and, and possibly, and oftentimes if yours is strong enough and the positive, you can kind of project that back and have that grumpy teenager, depending on how strong that energy is, take that on.


[00:06:02] Natalie: let let's put it into another practical situation, because I know for a lot of people it's meetings meetings can. Positive. They can you can have a leader who might not have the best emotion that to lead the group. Yeah. But I'm often thinking when I go to a meeting and I feel that things are starting to come down or maybe there's some conflict, it could be, you know, it could be PTO meeting or volunteer meeting or a work meeting and you F.

Feel that, and you're sitting there and you're, you're thinking this sucks. Like, yeah. Okay. I feel this, how, as someone who's sitting there feeling that,

can you try to be the more dominant energy emotion in that room to change that?

[00:06:42] Jackie: Right. And I, you know, and I think that that's a good example. and the way that I look at it is sometimes we can predict or preempt, okay, this meeting, these particular people, this happens, right.

We know some patterns sometimes with certain people mm-hmm, that kind of bring the, that energy down. And. Sometimes preparing in advance, like almost visualizing, okay, I'm gonna walk into this situation. I wanna keep my positive mood. I wanna try to influence the energy of the room in a positive way. So how do I anchor myself in that and preempt almost okay.

If this happens, how can I respond? How can I stay in this positive place instead of reacting from or reacting instead of responding. Right? So keeping that, you know, that anchor for yourself in that. Of positivity or in your values that you wanna keep throughout that meeting. So sometimes we know in advance or, you know, if you're a, teenager's gonna walk in, in a bad mood.

Mm yes. After school, even if it's not because you get a text about it, but sometimes you just know, you know what, 50, 50, how they're gonna come in today. So just grounding yourself in no matter what I'm gonna stay in this place and not get, you know, thrown off, off kilter by this, because it's not gonna help anyone if I do.

Yeah, yeah. Right. So just, just staying true to yourself that way preemptively.

[00:08:29] Natalie: So I have, and our family, my husband started this, we have this saying, and I'm thinking this plays into all of this, so you can speak to it. And it is reminding yourself in conflict and in meetings and in anything calm Ms. King.

And so we always. Calm as king. Like if there's conflict or fear in a meeting, you have to, you know, you know, when you get that adrenaline, you're like, oh, I can feel this building up the negativity. Like, what do you agree with that? And do you have more to say

[00:08:55] Jackie: about that? Oh yeah. I think, you know, I, you know, I always say you wanna leave a situation without feeling like you have to apologize for something.

Oh yeah. You know, so staying in integrity because you can't control the other person. And I think recognizing that upfront, no matter what you do or say, you could do your very, very best, but all you can ultimately control is yourself. So how do you stay calm as he says, or how do you stay in integrity or in alignment with what you wanna project and, and what you wanna give so that no matter what, when you leave, you can say I did my very best.

Yeah. And so I think walking into situations like that is important, but you can see how. If you're having a bad day, say for instance, in a work situation and you come in and you're grumpy in the morning, you've had a chaotic morning and, or, you know, an interaction with your kid that was frustrating or bad start to your day.

And you know, you're sitting at your desk if pretending we're in all in person um, which some people are now, and somebody walks up to you with this big smile on their face. And it's like, oh my gosh, I have this story to tell you, it was so funny this morning when I went into the coffee shop and blah, blah, blah.

And what happens to your mood? Right? It goes up. Yeah. Yeah. And so even, so the good can outweigh the bad in a lot of situations. I think it's just having somebody come in with that influence and starting with that positive opening. Right. You know, I think there's that, you know, Michelle guideline who's.

A positive psychology researcher. She talks about the power lead and how you can determine the whole course of a conversation by how you set it up with the first sentence with your lead in and starting with this power lead of positivity and how it can completely change the course of an outcome, even of a hard situation with how you lead it.

[00:10:35] Natalie: Yeah. I think just being aware of this concept, this emotional contagion concept first as the person wanting to lead that. And second, as you said, protecting yourself when you feel it or seeing it coming and you're like, oh, I see that I'm not gonna catch that horrible disease. contagion. And so it it's

[00:10:55] Jackie: two side.

It is. And I know, you know, I know you so well, and I know you pick up on energy very quickly. Mm-hmm like, that's just who you are. Mm-hmm and you know, even with strangers in a table next to you at a restaurant, right. You'll feel what's going on at that table. So it's very hard for people who are such empaths and you know, and so intuitive, like you.

To be able to protect your energy from emotional contagion. It's one thing to protecting your own family, because it's more obvious. Sometimes there are things that are, you know, strangers that you're just picking up on, on that around you. So I often tell people too, is even, almost setting up your day with the intention of creating that bubble, creating that shield of deciding, like I'm gonna protect my energy.

you know, and keep it here and I'm gonna decide who I let in. I'm gonna be intentional about what I let in and what I let out. Mm. And sometimes even just, just again, being intentional about how you want to share and give and take with energy and emotion is really important cuz you might, you know, it might feel selfish a little bit when you're thinking about your children.

Well, of course I wanna give and take and share energy and emotion. Yes. And. It depends which ones, because it's not gonna help anybody if you're sharing the negative that way. Yeah.

[00:12:10] Natalie: Yeah. I find, and I, I struggle with this. You probably know this is that often I feel someone else's energy and I feel a responsibility to change it.

And I have to be aware that I'm not always gonna be able to change or help people who don't care to be helped or changed or assisted in some

[00:12:31] Jackie: way, like. Yes. And I think that's such a good point, Natalie, because there's also the idea of. We don't wanna just come on, like gangbusters in this like super positive over the top way to be like, well, my good is gonna be stronger than your bad feelings.

And therefore I'm gonna pull you to the bright side of things. Right. Because that can feel really inauthentic. And we know so much right now. More than ever how important authenticity is. And so, so many people in order to move from the negative space to the positive space. And I'm talking about people we, we feel close with and have a connection, not just strangers in a coffee shop, but people, we, we have relationships with need to feel seen.

Right. And they need to feel heard and they need to feel known like you, you understand me, you see me. And part of that is that listening and just being present without getting dragged in and down the rabbit hole of their negative emotions, but sitting with them in that space and showing them, I see you, I hear you, you know, I understand you.

And how can I then support you? And then that's maybe a slower, more deliberate play. Back to whether it's solution, whether it's lightness, whether it's peace, whatever that feeling is. But sometimes that's the way to get them back instead of just, I'm gonna have a stronger, positive than they're negative.

[00:13:49] Natalie: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's interesting that you brought up, cuz that was the other topic I thought we could, we could have spent. 2030 minutes talking about, and that's authenticity and part of what came to mind when you just said that is, you know, me so well also that authenticity is so important to me. It's one of the reasons I left the news businesses.

I often felt like I had to put on a happy face. When things were not happy. And I spent four to five hours a day smiling through a lot of hardships mm-hmm and it really got to my core where it was like, I wanna feel authentic and feel like if I'm having a bad day, I can have a bad day. I don't want that to spread to other people, but it was just, it was just this thing.

This authenticity thing kept coming up for me. Yeah. So how does that play into, I wanna walk into a room at work when I'm teaching and I want my kids, I want their emotions to come up. I wanna, I wanna spread positive. I wanna be the emotional contagion. That's positive, but if I'm having a crummy. It's

[00:14:53] Jackie: hard.

It is hard. And what I recommend is like, well, trust is through authenticity, right? You don't really have trust if you don't feel like the person's being authentic. Yes. And so. You know, I always talk with leaders, you know, when I work with leaders around that, it's about being authentic. And then, right. So looking at the reality, sharing the transparency and then looking toward the future of how do I find solutions in this situation?

How do I show up positive? How do we together, you know, move through this in a positive way. So maybe. In that situation in, in the class coming in and saying, you know, I'm sorry, I feel a little off today. I'm having kind of a rough day today, but I'm gonna try my best to be, you know, a hundred percent present with you and make this as positive and experience as possible, you know, for all of us, but even opening with that authenticity, I think is really fine.

You know, I think it's good. And,

[00:15:46] Natalie: and for them, your, your emotions can then come up from there, but it's it's, you can trust me cuz I'm gonna tell you really how I'm feeling. I like that. Yeah. I think that's really important. Yeah. For all of our meetings, just say I'm, I'm, I'm a little bit off today, but I'm gonna bring my

[00:16:00] Jackie: best.

Yeah. And sometimes it's, I'm a little bit off today. I need three minutes. You guys to just, you know, do what I need to do. Whether it's deep breathing, whether it's get fresh air outside, whether it's journaling really quickly, whether. You know, anything that you need to do that helps you thinking of three things you're grateful for, you know, there are lots of different tools that people have.

And I find that too, when, when a leader shows up in a zoom meeting and brings the mood down because they're stressed or pissed off or had a bad meeting or bad morning and they show up that way and then you get off the zoom meeting and the rest of the day. Everybody's taking that with them because that's the only interaction you have.

It's like a long distance relationship, right? Yes. You're like that phone call was our only, you know, our, our dating today, you know? So it's that feeling? That that's what you're left with. So I always say to leaders, like, you can show up and say, you know what, guys I need, I'm gonna be five minutes late. I just need a few minutes to kind of get my head in the right space because I've had a hard morning.

Mm. And just sharing that it's like, there's so much respect yeah. For that transparency and authenticity and modeling that it's okay to feel something that's not positive yet. It's my responsibility to you to not spread that to you and, and bring you down today. That is, but I'm gonna take what I need to do first.

And I

[00:17:12] Natalie: think that as a parent, too, cause I have a lot of parents who listen, leaders who listen, but. We're also in doing that, modeling that to either our employees or our friends or our kids that let me take care of myself for a minute so that I can bring my best to you. So to model,

[00:17:30] Jackie: that is huge, huge.

And you think about when you're having a hard conversation with your kid and you're getting worked up. Yep. And we all have those moments right. Where we have different ways of doing it that are not productive and yep. You know, it might border on something that you. Gosh, you know, those bad mom moments that we just wanna take back so badly.

And in those moments, when you start to recognize just saying, you know what, I'm showing up in a way I don't want to, I need a few minutes. Right? Cause you know, you're just gonna spiral down a path and it's, you know, it's hard to unwind it. So it's like, I need to pause. I need a few minutes. We can continue this conversation after, but I, I don't, I don't like how I'm showing up for you right now, or for yourself.

[00:18:09] Natalie: Yeah. Okay. We've talked about a lot of really great things. We've learned a lot. I know there are, people are thinking I want more of Jackie . I want more of all these things. So tell us about your book and your website and where people can find

[00:18:21] Jackie: more. Yay. Um, My book is spark brilliance and um, you can get it anywhere.

Online. Easiest is always Amazon. It's on, you know, print hardcover, paperback now on audible, which is fun and Kindle. So you can get the book there. You can email me at Jackie at spark brilliance. I always love hearing from people and any questions or feedback I've loved that. Not awesome on social media, but I'm on LinkedIn the most.

And then Instagram. Some and Facebook some, so anybody can reach out to me there. I will respond

[00:18:53] Natalie: super. Okay. Thank you so much, Jackie. I know you. Thank you. You have a busy day ahead. So thanks for taking the time and inspiring us today.

[00:19:00] Jackie: Thank you, Natalie.

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