A friend and I recently ran into a woman I’ve known for years. I respect her and yet, whenever we interact, I depart under an anxiety cloud, thinking, ‘Why do I feel so flat now? Does she not like me?’ As we talked, she gossiped about someone I didn’t know and seemed to vibrate with negative energy. After we left her, my friend turned to me and said, “Why do I suddenly feel like crap?”
Every human interaction imparts some feelings for either side to process. While it’s obvious that you’ll walk away stung if someone insults you, conversations often pack more subtle undercurrents. It could be a matter of disconcerting words, an odd look, an eyebrow raising text or just a mood that descends like a fog when a person departs. This after-effect is called an emotional wake – the feelings churning behind a conversation like the waves behind a speedboat.
Sometimes the wake is an uplifting one, but walking away from a negative exchange can leave us feeling somewhere between vaguely anxious and downright destroyed. And often people aren’t aware of the effect they’re having, says leadership expert Susan Scott, who believes it’s key for all of us to examine the wake we leave.
The aura we create
Think of the phenomenon as ‘catching’ someone else’s feelings, which our brains are wired to do. When we see someone making a face, for example, it&rs