You’re Contagious. And That’s a Good Thing!

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Guest article from my friend and client Anese Cavanaugh

I was recently in Costco with my daughter. We stocked up on water, TP, her favorite ice cream bars, that extra kitchen gadget we absolutely had to have (and more things that weren’t on our list), and we headed to the checkout.

We stood in line. It was packed. Lots of people loading up their baskets with water, TP, and ice cream bars. Everyone seemingly in their own worlds. On their phones. “Killing time.” (I don’t love this phrase. Do you?) Waiting out the line. Not a lot of presence, connection, or intention happening in the grocery store line.

It was our turn. I handed my card to the guy and asked him to do two separate rings. He asked me for two cards. I was confused.

“Lady, if you’re going to do two rings, then I need two cards, how do I know you’re not getting this for someone else who doesn’t have a membership? That’s how we make our money.”

The Lowest Vibration Is Contagious

Oh. It hadn’t occurred to me I might be cheating in some way. I explained to him one ring was for my office supplies and the other for home, and that this just kept it cleaner in my accounting.  “Still, I need two cards. If you’re going to do that, you need one for business and one for home.” I flushed. My daughter watched. The look on my face must have communicated awe, or Bambi, or shame, or maybe he just wanted me out of his line (I’m betting on the latter), but he finally said, “Fine, I’ll do it this time. But be warned.”

I felt schooled. My great mood gone. My energetic field dinged.

My daughter asked me if I was in trouble with Costco and we unloaded our cart for checkout. As we unloaded, I watched this guy. His plate was full. He was dealing with a ton of people. A lot of them weren’t paying attention (texting as they unloaded—you’ve seen it or done it—I know I have), a lot of them not following The Rules. I, the non-two card-carrying lady, wasn’t helping things.

And none of these people were actually engaging with this guy. No real connection to the human. He was grumpy. I felt my energy sink. Previously energized and happy about my domestic goddess productivity role, I was now annoyed. I was matching his vibe. He was contagious and I was catching it. All of a sudden, I felt crowded, it felt noisier, I wanted to get home, I lost presence and started to stress about all there was to do, I started judging other people’s carts, in my head I crafted a sharp clever retort to his comments.

I hit snarky, and quick. All because I let myself go there.

The Highest Vibration Is Contagious

And then I chose to take a different route. What could I say that would be authentic and not manipulative?

“Hey, thanks for letting us slide by with one card for this transaction. I didn’t know, I do appreciate it. I don’t want you to get in trouble—if it’s easier for you, feel free to put it on one, I’ll separate it out on the receipt.”

I meant it. My body meant it. He stopped unloading mid-lift and just looked at me. “No, really, I mean it. I didn’t know and I appreciate you making the exception. You guys have so many people coming at you every day with requests and such, it’s got to be exhausting. Thank you.” He softened. He looked different. “Ugh…really, it’s not a big deal, happy to. I just want you to know so next time you come through someone doesn’t give you a hard time. Do you want a big box for all of this?”

“Yes, cool, thanks. So how’s your day?”

And we were off.

The energy shifted in a matter of minutes. I felt better. I think he felt better. Humanity was exchanged. We flipped contagious for good.

I paid (two transactions), and walked out with my daughter.

“Mom, that was weird, what just happened? You were totally in trouble with him. I thought he was going to yell at you, and now you guys are like best friends.”

And then after a quiet moment, she said (I’m not gonna lie, it was a little sarcastic)… “Ohhh… I get it. You were being Contagious.” We have a lot of that going on in our house right now.

Your Culture Needs YOU to Be Contagious

It’s true, though. I have bad moments, and I’ll bet you have them too. We encounter them daily. But it’s our choice in every moment how we’ll show up, how we interact, how we hold our space, and what move we make to contribute to things going better or worse. We walk into a room, we have impact. We step into a conversation, our presence has impact. We stand in a line, there’s impact. We’re putting “stuff” out there all the time, and people respond to it. And we can choose to shift that “stuff” in a moment.

Likewise, they’re putting stuff out there too—your team meeting, your spouse’s bad day, that angry customer, your employee, your boss—you never know what’s happening. Stop, breathe, check in, and step in. You can shift that “stuff” in a moment as well.

Are you feeling me on this one? I’ll bet you have 20 examples of this today alone.  So go forth… Show up and use your contagious super powers for good, not evil. Our culture is counting on you.

Find more on being intentionally contagious and creating a healthy culture—whether it’s in your organization, your family, your community, or the crazy culture that lives inside your head—in my book Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization That Thrives.