So you walk into an office and your boss is visibly unhappy about something. Or you are an athlete, and your team member is upset, or a fellow competitor starts to get under your skin. The probability that you will subsequently adopt the emotions of the environment and people around you is very high, and mostly subconscious. We have “mirror neurons” in our brain that simply mimic the emotions of people around us. Why would we be designed for this? Because our physiological makeup was not wired for the world many of us live in today. It was designed so that when we saw danger in someone else, whether rational or justified, we would trust that danger as a sign for us to fight or flight. And for thousands of years, that served us well as a survival mechanism.

Today, that same design principle is causing a great deal of confusion and under performance. It is good to have empathy – to “understand” what someone else’s emotions are. But it can be harmful, with the shear abundance of human interaction we have today(social media, email, in person, in groups, etc), as opposed to even a 100 years ago, to be vulnerable to unhealthy emotions of other people or the environment and adopt those. If you are an athlete in an away game and the home team is booing you, it can be devastating to adopt that negative emotion as it could ruin your performance. In the same way, we face countless interactions where each one has the potential to either be a “boo” or a “cheer” – and it takes a tremendous amount of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills to both empathize and be adept at not adopting the negative-impacting emotions that are pervasive in just about all situations.

This week, as you progress through your day, ask yourself at the end of each interaction – “Did this experience make me feel more empowered or less?” I have had many people do this and they are stunned at just how many experiences actually have a negative impact. Worse, they then do not know how to stop this cycle. This is why taking breaks in your day to assess where you are emotionally is key and if you are not GREEN, in a high performing state, then you are both going to under perform and also, put others you meet into an underperforming state. Build your emotional awareness this week