We all know someone with the ability to suck the positive energy out of a room and someone who can bring positivity to even the direst situation.
The other day, I received a handwritten note from my supervisor. In it, she let me know how much she appreciated me and the work my team has done to support employees throughout the pandemic.
In the note, she also asked if my team had capacity to take on any extra responsibilities. This request—without the appreciation—may have landed differently.
I almost immediately sent out a message to my team, acknowledging all their hard work and asking them to consider how we can continue to help.
This is an example of emotional contagion. She approached me with appreciation and joy, and I eagerly spread those emotions. Had she approached me with frustration or agitation, I would have struggled not to spread those same emotions.
Emotions are contagious. So, how can you spread more motivation and encouragement? Start with these three steps:
1. Be Aware
We often don’t realize how much our attitude and words impact others—especially those who report to us. If you are someone’s supervisor, what you say has a greater impact. Compliments mean more, and criticism means even more. If you supervise others, you are in a position of power—whether you feel powerful or not. Use your power to spread kindness and compassion.
2. Listen Deeply
Let people know you’ve heard them and empathize with their situation before trying to move to problem solving. Most of the time people don’t want you to solve their problem; they want you to listen. Ask questions to guide them to their own answers, rather than trying to solve everything for them.
3. Focus on the Positive
This doesn’t mean being inauthentic. When someone is putting in effort there is almost always something to praise. It may be as simple as letting them know you appreciate them taking on a project that stretches them and staying committed to it.
What you say and how you say it lives on long after the encounter. We are all more powerful than we realize.
Leah Valverde is the Manager of Learning and Talent Development at Central Washington University. She has worked with leaders at all levels for over 20 years—in Fortune 500 companies like Starbucks Coffee Company and Costco, smaller companies, and higher ed institutions. The pandemic reinforced her belief that relationships are the most important aspect of work life—and successful relationships start with emotional intelligence and compassion.