Audience question: How can I make my happiness more contagious than my coworker’s unhappiness?

by Scott Crabtree

Scientific data clearly shows that happiness is contagious – and so are negative attitudes. In graphics showing the distribution of happier and less happy people, you will find obvious clusters of happiness and unhappiness–not a random distribution.

But in what direction do positive and negative attitudes spread – and can we influence it?

An audience question about spreading happiness at work.

This interesting question from Logan at Boeing landed in my inbox last week: “I just watched your training, The Science of Being happy and Productive at Work, that you gave to Boeing. I really enjoyed the training and have a list of a few things I’m going to implement and change.

I do have one questions though: You talked about how happiness is contagious. I want to know how I can be a person that acts and is not acted on.

For example, if there’s me and one other coworker, how do I get my attitude to spread to my coworker’s, versus my coworker’s attitude being spread to me?

It seems to me that being grumpy is contagious too, so if you have one grumpy person and one happy person does the science suggest that you will pull each other to a middle ground or is there a way for both of you to get to the higher ground?

Experiment, and spend time with people who boost your happiness.

The good news is that positive emotions seem to be more contagious. But like most studies, these are averages from large groups and your mileage will vary.

And of course we influence each other but don’t control each other.

I suggest experimenting to find what works in your situation. If you can occasionally boost your coworker’s mood, great! If your coworker brings you down, go spend time with someone who picks you up.

Do you have a question about the science of happiness?

Whether you have been to a Happy Brain Science presentation or just landed on this website curious about how you can bring more happiness to your workplace, I’d love to answer your question next. Post it in the comments or on the Happy Brain Science Facebook page, or send it to

I also encourage you to share your own insights and thoughts on the topic!

(Photo by Fabrizio Sciami on Flickr.)