The Human Connection: You’re Wired for It

Spread the Joy!

‘Tis the season of sneezes and sniffles, but ya know what else is contagious? Emotions!

Yes, according to the Emotional Contagion Theory, human beings can spread their emotions to others as well as “catch” them from others. This theory, initially formed by Charles Darwin and later explored further by William James (aka “The Father of American Psychology”), states that human beings synchronize their emotions with the expressed emotions of others around them, whether consciously or unconsciously.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why would we ever want to do that!?!”

Humans are designed to live in community for many reasons. For one, it’s a leftover survival instinct from when we were roaming the Earth dealing with apex predators and other threatening forces of nature. Back then, being a part of a group was a life-or-death reality and that reality still lives in our instinctual “older” brain.

Remember the old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”? Extensive research in neuroscience has found that we’re neurologically wired to mimic (imitate) others. We have specialized brain cells called mirror neurons that are specifically designed to give us the impulse to “mirror” or mimic the observable behavior of others. We instinctively know that if we behave like others, our chances of becoming part of that group increase significantly. We feel safer and more connected to people who behave as we do.

Why the heck does any of this matter to you?


At the heart of that impulse to mimic is the beginning of empathy, which is the ability to feel what another person feels. Empathy leads to trust. When the people around us — our colleagues, clients, friends and family members trust us, we work and live better together. And, surprise — there is a business perk! People want to work with people they like and trust.


Be conscious of the emotional climate. Take a moment to observe the emotional state of the people around you and adjust when appropriate.

Be aware of the emotions you are “spreading” into the meeting, gathering or situation. You can affect (infect) how people feel.

Be a champion of praise and encouragement. Highlighting good work and good deeds makes people feel better about themselves. Those good vibes have the potential to positively “infect” everyone in the room.

Stick to these three Be’s and make this holiday season one of spreading more joy!

— Joe
Graceworks Cleveland

Tales from the Field

Tales from the Field

I’m on vacation with my family in Florida, and I’m leading my six nephews and two daughters in a conga line through the living room. We’re all chanting, “Who won the interview? We won the interview!” The elder members of my family are looking at me like I’m crazy, but I don’t care. Why? Because Fanning Howey just officially won the biggest interview of the year, and now I’m spending the rest of vacation on cloud nine.

The process of getting into a big and bold impromptu conga line actually began very deliberatively. Graceworks introduced us to a new approach to interview preparation, and it worked. By encouraging our team members to share their personal, positive passion, we turned hesitant presenters into powerful ambassadors in a way that was authentic to the personality and expertise of each person.

It was an amazing interview, and we got some great initial feedback. The client told us we knocked it out of the park!

So, when I checked Twitter on that hot Florida evening and saw that Fanning Howey won this hugely-important, absolutely-must-win interview, was I surprised? Nope. But did it make the rest of my vacation oh so much sweeter? You bet it did.

We’re implementing this new interview approach on all pursuits moving forward. And as a result, I’m looking forward to many more conga lines in the years to come.

Zach Sprunger
Director of Communications
Fanning Howey

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