Have you ever been with a friend when something really makes them laugh? Or they are telling you a story that cracked them up, and they can barely get it out because they are laughing so hard? What usually happens? I’m guessing you start laughing or at least smiling – right? The reason is laughter is contagious – it is a scientific fact. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you is no longer just a feel good phrase but a proven scientific fact. A study in 2007 from the University College and Imperial College London found that positive sounds like laughter trigger a response in our brain that is similar to the one activated when we smile.
Research has also confirmed through the years that emotions are contagious both positive and negative. Have you ever been with someone who has high anxiety, and is sharing why they feel so anxious? In time, you will begin to feel some of that anxiety. Sometimes we start to feel anxious and we may not even know why. Emotions can be passed without either party even realizing it, almost like a cold can be passed around daycare.
Lately, I’ve noticed a couple of my friends live with a tremendous amount of anxiety, much of it manufactured by them. Their anxiety shines through in their emails, their voice, facial expressions, really every facet of their life. On several occasions, I have been in conversation with one or the other of them and asked: “What’s wrong?” In every instance their initial response is: “Nothing, what do you mean?” And in every instance, as we have dug a little deeper, they will say they are anxious or worried about something, but are not feeling it at that moment. Even though they are not cognizant of it, I can often times feel it, as do the other folks they connect with during the week.
Our emotions are contagious, and whether we are cognizant of it or not, we are spreading them just like germs where ever we go. And as a brand, this is especially important, as your customers can often see through your “loyalty” program or promotions. Your customers know when it is a desperate attempt to generate revenue. Or if you are in customer service or support and have had a bad day, the customer on the other end of the line can feel your frustration. However, they assume it is with them.
One of the things I truly enjoy about doing business with Zappos is that every interaction is positive and upbeat. They say their brand promise is delivering happiness, and in my opinion, they definitely follow through on it. Just this week, a friend of mine approached them about selling her brand through the Zappos channel. From the first phone call, to her most recent email, with them their responses and sense of urgency have been incredible. On her first call, she noted that her products are outside of a category that they currently carry and the Zappos person on the other end of the line replied: “That’s okay, still send us your info and we will make sure it get to the right person!” Now my friend is patiently waiting on a response, but super encouraged by the process, and that a company with thousands of inquiries a day has been so responsive, courteous, and clear about the process and next steps.
I could probably rattle off several more stories – even today as I had lunch at Moe’s Southwest Grill (I have a standing date every Friday with a good friend) they were on edge because the manager was out. And there was an air of anxiety in the room that the regulars all noticed.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s agree that laughter and anxiety are contagious. Then my question is what are you spreading? If you are a business, are your employees passing along their passion about the brand or anxiety to your customers? And as an individual, are you finding goodness? Ask your family and friends, are you spreading anxiety or laughter? Should you lighten up a little? Life is short and my question is how do you want to be remembered? As someone who had an infectious laugh, or someone who was filled with anxiety? Has anything made you laugh today? Think about it…I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.