Good Mood - Blog Top Image

Good Moods

They're Socially Contagious

It wasn’t quite 6:30 in the morning, and she was smiling. What? It’s been several years now since that remarkable morning, but I’ll never forget her navy blue sedan, facing west, stopped at a traffic light as I was facing east, stopped at that same light. She had her turn signal on, and appeared to be headed to an office building. And she was smiling. And not a cheesy smile-for-the-camera thing, not an over-the-top-Cheshire-cat-grin, not an I’m-up-to-something sly smirk. A genuine, authentic, all-the-way-to-her-eyes smile.


I will never know what she was smiling about. 

I will never know her name.

I will never know her story.

But I know she made a difference that day.


At 6:30 in the morning, on what appeared to be her way to work, this unnamed woman was smiling, genuinely content with her lot and with what faced her. Did she just hear a joke on the radio? Maybe. Did someone just call her with good news on her hands-free device? Possibly. But what struck me was not so much what happened to her to make her smile, but what her smile did to me.


Here are four thoughts prompted from that smile.


What kind of job would make a person smile like that?

Well this got me thinking about my own job, how much I love what I do and how convicted I am that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I love my team and my customers and the level of flexibility and consistency that exists in my line of work. I love the variety and the challenges I encounter, and the wonderful people I meet on a daily basis. So my question morphed to…I, too, have a job that causes me to smile that broadly, how come I’m not smiling right now? 

And I started to smile.


What kind of person smiles at this hour?

This one got me thinking about the difference between “morning people” (which I am not) and “not morning people” (ah, these are my peeps). Many of us who are not morning people are not particularly keen on the idea of getting up and ready or being out and about that early. But effective emotional intelligence says that knowing ourselves is only a small fraction of the puzzle: we have to manage ourselves as well. And even if I’m not thrilled to be up and about at a given hour, if I’m on my way to connect with other humans, it’s up to me to put my best foot forward. I can get to bed a little earlier at night if I know an early morning is coming; I can get up a little earlier to give that cup of tea or coffee a chance to soak in; I can choose to focus my mind and energy on the things that make me smile. I can choose to smile, so I should. 

And that very moment, I did.


What’s next for her today?

I got to wondering if she was going to see someone she really appreciated, deliver something she’d worked really hard on, solve that puzzle she’d been wrestling with, try her hand at something new, share an insight with someone else who was stuck. And as I enumerated the things that might cause her to smile, I reflected on things that would cause me to smile, and I thought with gratitude about times I’ve had the opportunity to do those very things, and the recollection of those things made me smile.

As I focused on my gratitude, I gained new energy for the day.


Will she even know the impact she had?

I’m wildly confident this woman had no idea that she’d lifted my spirits for the day, that she’d set a bar for me for what a great start to a day might look like, that she’d put a smile on my face that hadn’t been there before I saw her. But I am equally confident that I took on the challenge right there to help someone else smile that same day. Knowing that something as simple and inexpensive as a smile had a lasting impact on me, I was committed to doing the same for someone else. 

That early morning, I started smiling more, even in my car, even before 7am.  


Today, whenever I find myself in my car before 7am, her face comes back to mind; I reflect on those same topics, and I smile, knowing that somehow, I might be able to help someone else have a better day, too!  

An article I read a few years back pointed out that “bad moods are socially contagious”. Well, so are good moods. And in our current world, good moods and smiles are just the kind of thing we should all want to spread - even behind a mask.  


Topics: Faith, Sinikka Waugh, Communication & Collaboration

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


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