You can become anxious simply by being
with anxious or stressed people. One factor
making anxiety contagious is a psychological
phenomenon called pacing
stressed people breathe shallow, rapid
breaths, and speak fast/frenetically;
if you talk with them, you increasingly
match these breathing and speech patterns.
This works like yawning infectiousness
its not usually conscious.
Unintentional hypnotism occurs between
people all the time. In addition to physical
suggestibility such as pacing, belief
systems are involved. Stress carries certain
distorted beliefs of what is important
("business has to come first",
"the deadline must be met",
etc) workplaces clearly encourage
these notions of 'importance'. You can
picture two employees, one stressed and
one calm, as two opposing hypnotists,
each trying to resist the others
hypnotism. The work setting gives the
stressed person a territorial advantage
he may not have a bigger stick
but he has a more 'important' concern,
making him the more potent hypnotist in
In most workplaces, to be carefree is
seen as a negation of commitment, ie stress/anxiety
is tacitly encouraged. Working full-time
tends to desensitise you to low-level
chronic stress (many dont notice
until their health suffers). It takes
a long holiday (not just a weekend) to
bleach out the 'invisible' stress
20 days annual leave doesnt leave
much room for experimentation.
The best way to avoid stress infection
is to literally avoid it, ie not go to
work. As this isnt an option for
most people, you could instead try the
i) Spend the least amount of time possible
ii) Get away from colleagues (especially
stressed ones) at every opportunity.
iii) Go to extremes to avoid meetings.
iv) Never try to reason with stressed/emotional
people leave the room instead.
v) Dont speak unless absolutely
necessary (95% of workplace conversation
is stress-inducing bovine excreta).
None of these measures are antisocial;
work and stress are antisocial.
Stressed people may attempt to make you
feel antisocial for not joining in (theyre
not to blame its normal behaviour
when youre stressed). Beware those
who hide their anxiety under forced joviality
and excessive verbalisation.