Are Invisible Conversations Preventing Your Success?

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation on “Great Connections Lead to Great Ideas.” Last Friday, I gave a mid-conversation roll-up so we can all stay caught up with where the conversation is. Today, Jonathan Fields tells us about the invisible conversations we’re often in with out knowing it.


Jonathan FieldsTwo team leaders sit in adjacent rooms. One is shown a screen with images of puppies, kittens and various other upbeat images and leaves the room feeling great. The other is shown horrific war footage and leaves agitated, anxious, and a bit depressed.

They’re then sent back to their teams and within minutes, every person on each team takes on the emotional state of the leader. 

It’s a phenomenon known as “emotional contagion,” a/k/a the invisible conversation.

An interconnected network of brain cells known as mirror neurons respond to the emotional state of those around us by mirroring that same state. This immensely powerful conversation happens without intention, and much of it can be nonverbal. Though it’s as powerful as any deliberate, verbal conversation, if not more so.

And like a virus, it can spread  emotional states from a single person to large numbers in an astonishingly short period of time, bypassing the normal conscious filters and gates that would allow for a more deliberate weighing and response.

For those who tend to work in isolation, it’s a lesser issue, but for those who work in groups, organizations or creative hives, collectives or even co-working spaces, the mood of a single person, especially one in a leadership position can determine the mood of the entire group.

This is especially important for any kind of creative quest. 

Bringing great art and business to life requires the ability to lean into the unknown. To live for extended periods of time in a state of uncertainty and take action without perfect information.

Your ability to do this is largely dependent on your state of mind. The more anxious, fearful, depressed or agitated you are, the less capable you are of handling the psychological demands of that place.

So, if you’re on a quest to do great things in the world, pay attention to the literal conversations you have with those around you. But, also, pay serious attention to the general emotional states of the people you surround yourself with and less-obvious emotional and invisible conversations they foster.

These things can play a major role in facilitating or destroying the mindset needed to do what you’re here to do.

More about Jonathan Fields: Jonathan Fields is the author of the new book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. Take the free Creative Mindset Audit to see your Creative Mindset Profile and learn where to focus to better optimize creativity, innovation, mood and performance.

Tomorrow we’ll continue our core conversation with Shama Kabani discussing the three types of conversations to seek out.

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  1. says

    This is why I am so passionate about Bollywood….’desi’ culture is all about uncertainty, and the importance of staying in touch with positivity, Its shown me a way to embrace uncertainty and its a ‘resource’ when I need to tune into positivity…Bhangra,Bollywood…..pure unadulterated joy…:)

  2. says

    This affects people who work at home as well, when the other person in their household is in a mood or is a pessimist. This was a good reminder of how important it is to find strategies to cope with this in order to stay creative and focused – thanks!

  3. says


    Thanks for your contribution here and to Charlie for featuring your work on his blog.

    With due respect, I beg to differ. It is not always the case that great works in art, business or any other sector have been created with a zen-like mindset. Not at all.

    In fact, some of the greatest cretive work has occured in a heightened sense of awareness. Throughout history, our greatest creative minds have been known for their outrageous habits: hooked on alcohol, drugs, etc.

    In any field or sector, creative people have been diagnosed with depression or bi-polar disorder. Many creative people are loners and have been known to abuse others or indulged in negative behaviour which would make us shudder with repulsion.

    Vincent Van Gogh created his greatest works in an agitated state of mind. Many entrepreneurs are known to be short-tempered and inconsiderate of their colleagues, demanmanding perfection at a time when their colleagues cannot deliver it. Creative people can be melancholy and yet stand and deliver. Abrahman Lincoln suffered from melancholia his entire life. Steve Jobs was broke when he created the personal computer. Many creative people prefer to work in “splendid isolation” instead of working in a group.

    Throughout history, anxiety and fear have sparked great innovations and changes in society. Many of our entrepreneurs have suffered from panic attacks and insecurities, but they forged ahead with their projects anyway. Thus, even people with a negative state of mind have been known to contribute wonderful things to our society. Cheers.

    • worldmegan says

      I feel like I was a part of a conversation along these lines in the last few months, but for the life of me I can’t think of where it happened. I seem to remember it being a really interesting thread, though, and if I recall where to find it I’ll come back here and share.

  4. worldmegan says

    This was completely awesome. I’ve always believed this was the case, but I never had anybody suggest science to back it up; emotional states are definitely contagious, and it’s super interesting to hear a bit of how it works.

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