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Sharing your feelings of stress with someone who has a similar emotional reaction to the same situation reduces levels of stress more than sharing with someone who does not share your stress. Afraid to make a presentation? Sit next to the person who feels the same way.
“For instance, when you’re putting together an important presentation or working on a high-stakes project, these are situations that can be threatening and you may experience heightened stress. But talking with a colleague who shares your emotional state can help decrease this stress,” explained study leader Sarah Townsend, assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles.
The research team invited 52 female undergraduates to participate in a study on public speaking. They had to prepare and deliver the videotaped speech before a crowd. Prior to giving the speech the women were paired up and encouraged to discuss their feelings about making the speech. They measured emotional states, and how threatening they perceived giving a speech. They also took measures of cortisol, the stress hormone. The results showed “that sharing a threatening situation with a person who is in a similar emotional state, in terms of her overall emotional profile, buffers individuals from experiencing the heightened levels of stress that typically accompany threat.”
“Confirming our hypotheses, greater initial dyadic emotional similarity was associated with a reduced cortisol response and lower reported stress among participants who feared public speaking,” stated Townsend. When similar fear levels were shared, the stress was measurably reduced.
Townsend suggests professionals think about ways to leverage these findings. Can people with similar emotional mindsets be put together to reduce and overcome their stress? How can you generate emotional similarity among co-workers? These strategies may improve workers’ sense of well-being, improve results and decrease time away from the office.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Social and Psychological and Personality Science
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