The Power of Social Contagion

A few years ago, I was attending a dreadfully boring conference, where we were listlessly sitting around a table.

During a break, out of sheer boredom, I picked up a bottle of water to drink. As soon as I did that, 2-3 other people on the table also picked up the water bottles.

I am pretty sure they were not thirsty, nor was I. It was just a reflex action. In fact, there is a name for this kind of behavior — social contagion.

Humans influence each other way more than we imagine.

When sitting with people who are seriously discussing the stock market, you won’t crack jokes. But if you are in a party where everyone is cracking jokes, you won’t discuss stock markets; and if you do, you won’t get invited to another party ever.

While this may seem like a curiosity, it also has an interesting lesson. Pick your company wisely. After all, there might be some merit to the saying, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’

Whether you want to build discipline, focus, physical fitness, or learn poetry — start hanging out with people you want to be like.

Good company can teach as much as good books, I guess.

– Rajan



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