This week’s assignment in one of my classes was to select a positive emotion such as gratitude or kindness, share it intentionally and note the effects. I had three group interactions where I shared a positive emotion, though it was only intentional two out of the three times. The results were mixed, but I believe I still learned a valuable lesson from this exercise.
My first intervention was unintentional: I had a feeling that I should share my electronic assignment list for the distance learning period with the class. I sent it out and immediately got many, many expressions of gratitude. I also noticed that others then shared what they’ve been reading or compiling for assignment organization. I then wondered whether this was an uptick in sharing or whether I was just now noticing sharing that was already occurring. Thus, I went back and reviewed the postings on Facebook for the class (I had only just joined so I didn’t know) and saw that sharing has been ongoing through the entire distance period. I did notice, however, that after I started sharing, I then was more inclined to keep sharing with others. In other words, sharing had a larger effect on me than I think it had on the group.
The second interaction that I reflected upon was a small group meeting that I had with the team for our new student development program. I shared with them excitement for my ideas that I had gotten from class and how I wanted to integrate them into our program. It did not surprise me that my enthusiasm was shared by the others. I noticed the team smiled more, they spoke in an animated manner, and made supportive statements in response to hearing about the project. They expressed gratitude and a wish to participate. Awesome!
The third trial was at dinnertime with my family. My son and my partner are similar in personality and our dinnertime conversation is rarely serious. After a few rounds of lighthearted banter and teasing, I shared my gratitude for how they each enrich my life. I received a lot of sarcastic and disbelieving comments (good-naturedly) since they thought I was just playfully trying to maneuver my way out of the doghouse and onto their good side. They weren’t taking me seriously, though I was being serious with my affirmations.
My conclusion from this limited exercise is that I suspect that groups that are already high in a certain positive emotion are less likely to noticeably respond in kind. I think my class and family are already quite accustomed to sharing and positive affirmations, respectively. Perhaps positive emotion in groups reaches plateau and it’s difficult to increase after a certain point.
In contrast, I believe at work we’re comparatively short of inspiration and excitement and are likely on the escalating part of the asymptote. Therefore, I think my colleagues are more responsive to my attempts to grow these positive emotions in our discussions. Therefore, I will especially be more intentional about sharing excitement, gratitude and kindness with groups that tend to be lower in positive emotion.
Though we were instructed to introduce an emotion into a group for class, I’m not sure I’m the origin of the positive emotion in either case. It seems just as likely that my class and family created the positive emotion in me, not the other way around. Positivity resonance theory would suggest a positive feedback loop with regards to positive emotion; perhaps naming the origin of the positive emotion is semantics at this point. Regardless of whether I’m the instigator or beneficiary, I will continue to share positive emotion with others. Not only is it fun, but helping others feel better is an opportunity I can’t resist.
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