Here’s a phrase that you’ve often heard –
You are the company you keep.
This adage is so common that we don’t pay too much attention to it.
But did you know that this concept has neurobiological and psychological validity?
The notion that you pick up behaviors from the people around you is called behavioral contagion in psychology.
There are real consequences that appear from spending time with a group of people. Have you ever spent time with someone and realized that you’ve started speaking like them? Maybe you follow their speech patterns, word choices, and even their accent.
Often, this type of behavior is completely unconscious, which makes it even more difficult to catch.
This has a few important implications in your life. The more you spend time with people who’s behaviors and beliefs don’t serve your goals, the less likely you are to achieve what matters to you. After all, 40% of Millennials actually go into debt just to keep up with their friends. The company you keep can affect your finances and overall life satisfaction, not just your social life.
But if you find and connect with people working in areas you care about, and you’re more likely to see improvements in life and succeed in your endeavors.
Let’s look at how behavior contagion can be leveraged to create better outcomes in life.
Improve your skills
If you are starting a new career, a business, or trying to grow in your current role, then joining a community will help you. It’s also useful to work with a mentor.
When you connect with a mentor with expertise and experience in what you are trying to do, you’ll start to emulate their behavior and learn from their advice.
As you work with them regularly, you’ll pick up on their knowledge and adopt behavioral queues on an unconscious basis. The same is true when you join a community for building skills. As you watch others learn and share their knowledge, you’ll be inspired to work too and share what you know.
There is a very good reason why the fitness industry has strong and connected communities online and offline to help members become fit and healthier. They know the power of behavioral contagion.
There are many studies that show that if a friend or family gains weight, you’re likely to gain weight too. Likewise, if you grew up in a family with unhealthy eating and food habits then it will be very challenging for you to make changes in your own life because such behaviors become entrenched.
To leverage the power of behavioral contagion, join online membership sites to find people with similar goals as you.
Doing challenges, sharing your frustrations, asking for advice, or just participating will help you get support. Not only that, through behavioral contagion, you will develop the right mindset needed to live a healthy lifestyle.
Whether you are a leader, a parent, or just trying to become a better friend, behavioral contagion will help strengthen your relationship.
Spend time with the people you want to connect with. Pay attention to them and listen actively. As you do this, other people’s emotions and words will create a response in you by activating your mirror neuron.
You’ll develop empathy and understand the other person’s point of view. In time, you’ll communicate better and offer support that is helpful and relevant.
Empathy is also a powerful leadership trait that helps you communicate with your employees. Ask your team and customers for feedback, do regular meetings, and actively listen to people. Simple actions like these lead to greater empathy and better leadership.
Behavioral contagion is a powerful phenomenon that can either make or break our lives – and we wouldn’t even be aware of it. The saying ‘You are the company you keep’, has solid reasoning behind it that science now supports.
Unconscious patterns of imitating others help us to belong in groups and belong to society. The important thing is to be mindful of the people we spend most of our time with.
Whether your goal is to study well, be mentally and physically healthy, or to grow a successful business, staying in the company of people who are already aligned with your own needs will drastically improve your life.
So try to grow a network of people who are aligned with your best goals, and you’ll see a tremendous boost in happiness.