Have you ever noticed that when you smile at someone, they usually smile back? That’s the Law of Psychological Reciprocity, or the Boomerang Principle, and you can use it to make your days, and everyone else’s, that much brighter.
Facial expressions and the moods that accompany them are contagious. This probably evolved as a means of non-verbal communication between people way back in our cave-dwelling days. That’s why giving a smile and getting one in return can jump-start a great day for you and for your whole team. (And next time you see a team member looking a bit grumpy, pay them a compliment and watch what happens!)
Putting on a happy face does something else for you, too: it influences your brain positively and short-circuits any sad or pessimistic feelings you have. Lots of studies show that looking happy actually makes people feel happy, even when they didn’t start out that way.
There’s a biological reason for this based on what I call the feedback loop between the body and the brain. Just as your mood affects your body language, you can use your body language to direct your mood (for better or for worse).
The next time you’re feeling gloomy, don’t let your frowns confirm your misery to your brain — send it a different, positive message. Your mood will begin to change accordingly.
And so will your team’s mood. As you may remember from Chapter 13, Building effective teams, mirror neurons are located throughout the human brain. Their job is to help people detect another person’s emotions and empathise with them, and to instruct them to mimic, or mirror, what the other person does as a way of reflecting empathy.
Your team members watch you closely, and your behaviour and emotions create similar responses in them: When you feel positive, so do they; when you feel despondent or worried, so do they. That’s one important reason that being positive and friendly, having a laugh and setting an easygoing tone builds your team’s cohesion, morale and productivity.