Did you know that colds and flu are not the only afflictions that are contagious in your office? So are your moods…and they can have a significant impact on your patients, your staff, and your family. It turns out that people "catch" the emotions of others, even if we are not aware of it, according to a researcher at Yale University.
Contagious is an apt term — the mood of one person can spread to another person or to an entire group, resulting in a collective team mood state. Emotions (subjective feelings) are spread both consciously and unconsciously (through automatic processes and physiological responses), although the latter is more often the case — for example, emotions are picked up through nonverbal cues, unconscious and synchronous nonverbal mimicking and feedback. Once a person engages in the mimicking behaviors, they experience the emotion itself. Because physicians are frequently seen as an authoritative figure, your status makes it more likely that others will pay more attention to your moods.
So if your personal happiness and contentment are not motivating enough to practice "physician wellness" behaviors, then hopefully knowing that you can spread your mood to others provides sufficient incentive. Consider the people who you are affecting:
• Patient interactions — What do you want your patients to experience when they are with you? Your mood leaves a lasting impression.
• Your staff — Consider how your mood affects not only each individual staff member, but the team as a whole. Because when a positive mood is caught, it leads to increased cooperation among the group, decreased conflict, and improved work outcomes. And when a bad mood spreads, the opposite occurs.
• Significant others in your life — If you value quality interactions, then paying attention to what emotions you are experiencing is an important factor for you to focus on.
Did you know that your mood affects the clinical decisions that you make? For example, a 2010 study at Ben-Guiron University in Israel revealed that a physician's mood had a significant impact on their medical care — a good mood was associated with spending more time talking with patients, writing fewer prescriptions, ordering fewer lab and diagnostic tests, and making fewer referrals to other providers. Naturally, a negative mood had the opposite effect.
The good news is that there are some simple strategies you can employ to improve your mood when the need arises and to increase the percentage of time that you experience positive emotions. Above are six, in particular.
1. Barsade, Sigal G., The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion and Its Influence on Group Behavior; Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Dec. 2002), pp. 644 – 675.
2. Montgomery, Anthony. "The Inevitability of Physician Burnout: Implications for Interventions;" Burnout Research, Vol. 1, No. 1 (June 2014), pp. 50-56.
3. Grandey, A., et. al. Is “service with a smile” enough? Authenticity of positive displays during service encounters. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Vol. 96, Issue 1 (January 2005) pp. 38-55.
4. Interview with Daniel Gilbert. "The Science Behind the Smile," Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012.