Recently in a BBC radio broadcast one of the erudite guests refer to the term “mood contagion.” Hmmmm, fascinating, but what is it? He went on to explain it this way: Picture a couple enjoying a sidewalk café….a very loud motorcycle passes close by…the conversation is disrupted…frustration is expressed…the conversation shifts to complaining about other frustrations…then irritations with each other…then with the service…couple leaves disgruntled….without leaving a tip…waiter gets peeved…etc, etc, etc. I think we’ve all experienced something similar.
However, mood contagion could work in the other direction, right? Could it be that because of a smile or a “thank-you” or a “can-I-help-you” that the mood of someone near you changes from frustration to facilitation? From obstruction to cooperation? I think so. Try it sometime. I’ll call it the “contagion of kindness.”