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  • TheEmotionalContagionThe Secret To Making An Impact

    A Scottish Centre of NLP Ebookwww.scottishcentreofnlp.comScottish Centre of NLP 2013 Steven Burns

  • A Scottish Centre of NLP Ebookby

    Steven Burns

    Scottish Centre of NLP 2013

    For more informaiton on our range of courses and trainings, go to


  • ...And the next day the dog died

    This is probably the last time a line out of a book made me cry...

    Its from the book I am Legend by Richard Matheson (the book is way better than the Will Smith film). It centres on Robert Neville, the last man alive, following a virus outbreak thats turned the worlds population into vampires. The disease has claimed his wife and daughter and he was forced to kill his wife after she became a vampire and attacked him.

    After several bouts of near suicidal depression and alcoholism Robert, being a scientist, decides to research and try and find a cure for the vampirism. About half way through the story he comes across what he believes to be an uninfected dog. Its an incredible moment as its the first living, breathing contact hes had for years. The first thing thats moved that hasnt tried to suck the blood out of his veins.

    He spends several wonderful days with the dog until he eventually finds out that it too has the disease, it just wasnt showing signs at first.

    Then...the next day the dog died...

    Im not exactly sure why this line had such a powerful effect on me when I read it. I started welling up uncontrollably. It was really difficult to describe. The strange thing was, while it made me feel sad, I really enjoyed it. I was totally engaged. It made me feel alive.

    The great film director Stanley Kubrick once said that a story is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, whats behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.

    Its true and the line had a powerful emotional effect on me.

    Emotions are engaging. When it comes to social communication the absence of emotional intensity and variety can be a killer. If


  • youve wondered why you dont capture peoples attention as much as youd like then theres a high chance you need to ramp your intensity up a bit. You dont even have to be positive and bubbly all the time you just need to have a bit of an emotional edge.

    When you watch a film or read a book, not all of the emotions you experience are positive. The film usually takes you through a whole range of emotions. Some positive some negative as you go on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

    Successful and engaging human interaction is like this. Life is like this! Emotion is the vehicle that drives us to do the things we do. Its what captures our attention and makes us feel alive. When I read the line about the dog dying my neurology lit up. I wasnt happy about it but I was totally engaged. My neurology was vibrating in a way that felt good but sad at the same time and its drama most definitely helped make the book one of the most enjoyable reads Ive ever had.

    Lack of emotion --- The biggest Social Killer...

    Some people say that negativity is the biggest social killer. Its not. The biggest social killer is boredom. The easiest and quickest way to make people run the other direction is to bore them into it. Boredom is born through lack of engagement and lack of engagement is created by an absence of emotional intensity and variety.

    If youve ever watched the UK version of X-Factor youll most likely remember Portuguese contestant Wagner Carrilho (He was unforgettable!). He came up for a lot of criticism but it was impossible to deny his charisma.

    It was a breathtaking watch as he managed to get to the eighth week of the show without being able to sing, move or even speak that well. The guy really was a human emotional rollercoaster. He even publicly lost his incapacity benefits because of his dynamic attempts at dancing on stage. It didnt stop the nation being gripped and mesmerized by his progress though. It merely


  • fuelled the flames of the enigmatic package that was Wagner.

    Now Im not saying you should purposely be crap just to be engaging. My point is, just dont be boring. Learn to feel comfortable expressing your emotions a bit more.

    There seems to be a desire for some (certainly more relevant with men than with women) to suppress our emotions, especially the negative ones, for fear of showing weakness or vulnerability. Its a shame because its those very emotions that make us interesting. I dont mean you should spend your day divulging intricate details of your most intimate pain, anguish and torment, just dont be afraid to let your emotions out a bit. Youll add more colour and depth to your character.

    Certainly dont ever think that you have to be an emotionless robot that never shows any of the bad stuff. Can you imagine going to a movie and it only contained happy, positive emotions? No struggle, transformation or redemption? How dull would that be? Its the contrast that makes it interesting, the variety that keeps you hooked.

    Theres nothing wrong with feeling and expressing a whole range of emotions. Its obviously a problem if you become stuck in a bad place and cant get out but theres nothing wrong with going there from time to time. Its what makes you human and helps you relate and connect. No-ones perfect after all so why should you be?!

    One of the most popular self help books of recent times is a book by Personal Development Guru Tony Robbins called Awaken the Giant within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny.

    Its a really good book actually but it does reflect the sometimes toxic need people have for control.

    Complete control is something you think you want when your life isnt working out but its not really what you need. Its an unobtainable illusion. You cant get it so stop trying. By all means


  • work towards resolving your problems but if your end goal is complete control then its time to re-evaluate it.

    Theres a phenomenon in the personal development world my business partner and I like to talk about called All smile and no soul. If youre into self help then its a trap you can fall into quite easily. I fell into it myself when I was a bit younger.

    Its where you become so hooked on self improvement that you forget to be human. Your pursuit of becoming better and better as each day goes by turns into an obsession for perfection. Youre seduced into striving for complete control and utter dominance of your inner and outer world. A noble goal you might think but one that has some pretty weird by-products.

    Of course you dont have to be a self help addict to fall into the emotionless zombie trap. For a variety of reasons some of us switch off our emotional switch. Perhaps youve been hurt in the past and subconsciously decided to suppress your emotions. Maybe youve been teased in the play ground or at work for showing emotion and bought into the myth that its a sign of weakness or perhaps its something you learned from your parents (Heterosexual Men tend to be more susceptible to this as power and strength are so strongly linked to their chances of sexual selection).

    I can totally relate to all those things as Ive been there. Stepping out of the shadows comes with its hazards but the huge benefits to the colour and shape of your character totally outweigh the negatives. Youll become infinitely more engaging, interesting and more comfortable with yourself. The ones who criticise? Well I guess theyll just have to get over it.

    A Guide to Becoming more engaging The power of emotional contagion...

    Theres a lovely story i heard about an American Platoon during the Vietnam War. They were situated down in some rice paddies, in the heat of a fire fight with the Vietcong. All of a sudden a line of six monks started walking in between the gun fire. They didnt


  • look right or left towards either of the soldiers they just kept walking calmly and peacefully across the battle field. Interestingly enough not one person from either side fired a shot at them.

    One of the American soldiers recalled the incident as one of the most bizarre experiences of his life as, after they walked past, suddenly all the fight was out of him. He said that, all of a sudden he just didnt feel like he wanted to fight anymore, at least certainly not that day. It must have also been the same way for the Vietcong because they too just stopped fighting.

    On a less dramatic level we all regularly experience this strange yet powerful emotional transfer when we are around other people.

    When we meet someone who is so enthusiastic and passionate about what they do its almost impossible for some of it to not rub off on us and change the way we feel. On the flip it can be equally mesmerizing when someone is strongly negative. Its the intensity that pulls us in, the high drama that captures our attention and leads our imagination.

    We like to think of ourselves as logical, rational beings but in reality were not.

    We tend to make most of our decisions through feelings and emotion then back them up afterwards through logic and reason.

    The monks ability to pacify the soldiers in the heat of the battle is probably one of the more dramatic examples of how contagious emotions can be. On a more subtle level though, emotional exchange occurs in practically every conversation and interaction were involved in. So it goes without saying that learning how to manage this exchange is incredibly important.

    In 1994 Elaine Hatfield, John T Caciocco and Richard L Rapson wrote a book called Emotional Contagion