You are becoming the average of the five people you spend the most time around.

By Emma Sanders-Edwards

Sep 17

Does this statement make you happy? Or scared? What are the five people you spend the most time with like?

Are they generally happy, or do they complain a lot? Are they successful and driven? Do they run marathons, do additional study, play sports? Turns out if they do, it’s likely you do too.

Why does this happen? Neuroscience tells us it’s the mirror neurons in our brain. Essentially we copy others because they activate ‘mirror’ neurons on our brain. Just clap at a baby and watch them try and imitate you. A boss who is easygoing and laughs a lot is more likely to trigger laughter from their team. Research has shown that top performing leaders elicit laughter from colleagues three times as much as mid-performing leaders.

Another phenomenon that is important is ‘emotional contagion’. It turns out it’s not just your cold that’s contagious, its your emotions as well. When someone around you is stressed and anxious, you’ll probably feel a bit that way yourself.

So, how can we use this? Catching others emotions and mirroring their behavior is useful for us. Knowing that we catch others emotions and mirror their behavior can help improve our own behaviors, influence and impact. Just as we get more excited at sports events when there are lots of other fans watching, and find it easier to stick with a healthy eating plan when we are with others who eat well, it’s easier to be an inspirational leader if you spend time with others who are.


  • What do you elicit from your team – what mirror neurons are you triggering?
  • Do you catch or emit emotions that aren’t useful?
  • Who are the key people around you and how do they impact you? Who should you spend more time with, or less time with?


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