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4 Reasons to Bring Love into the Workplace

I recently finished reading Barbra Fredrickson’s book, Love 2.0.  In the book, her main thesis is that as human beings, we are made to love.  While there are a host of positive emotions we experience (e.g. joy, curiosity, interest, amusement, delight), the benefits of love are greater than all of the other emotions.  In fact, she argues, research suggests our bodies are wired for love.

Most of us think of love in a relatively traditional way that focuses on romance with an intimate partner or devotion to a child.  However, Fredrickson defines love in more scientific terms, calling it “positivity resonance.”  In a nutshell, positivity resonance occurs any time two people share a positive emotion.  So, according to her definition, positivity resonance can occur with your spouse, your coworker, or even the barista who sells you your coffee in the morning.  Data suggest that the more positivity resonance you experience, the better off you are.  Read her book for an in-depth explanation of all of the interesting research in this burgeoning field.

With the disclaimer that I am promoting Fredrickson’s definition of love (sorry – I am not advising embarking on a torrid affair with the person down the hall), here are some key reasons to focus on producing positivity resonance in the workplace.

1.  Love gives us a blast of oxytocin, which bonds us to others – You know how moms who have just finished delivering their newborns have an overwhelming feeling of love for the wet and wrinkled creature they just expelled?  That is due to a hormone called oxytocin.  (I feel at liberty describing a baby this way, given that I have a 4 month old).  For those of us who do not have the time to carry a baby for 40 weeks, positivity resonance is another way to get a blast of oxytocin.  And, while it is unlikely to make you feel about your colleague the same way it makes you feel about your son or daughter, it has been shown to create a deeper sense of trust between people, help you deal with pressure-packed situations, and make your more sensitive to subtle interpersonal cues.  Oxytocin also helps decrease your blood pressure, minimize depression, and increase your pain tolerance.

2.  Love has a positive impact on emotional intelligence – There could be a science-based reason that we tend to associate love with the heart – it actually regulates the way your cardiovascular system works.  Although it is too complex to go into here, positivity resonance increases a measure called vagal tone, which is essentially an indication of the efficiency with which your heart works.  People with higher vagal tone are better able to control their attention, emotions, and behavior, three factors that are critical for effectively interacting with, and cooperating with, co-workers.

3.  Love makes you a more helpful colleague – Research shows that when you are experiencing positivity resonance, you become less self-centered, and more interested in others’ plights.  This allows you to better consider others’ perspectives.  Understanding others’ points of view is a necessary part of effective problem-solving, negotiating, and influencing in business.  Positivity resonance is also associated with less of a sense of “me,” and more of a sense of “we.”  Given the importance of good teaming to produce results, fostering love in the workplace can provide you with a competitive advantage.

4.  Love makes you wiser – The broadened awareness that comes with positivity resonance makes you better able to deal with the vicissitudes of life, by giving you greater wisdom and perspective.  And in addition to wisdom, which is defined by the English World Dictionary as “the ability…to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight,” positivity resonance makes you smarter.  For example, one study showed that a 10 minute pleasant conversation with someone increased subsequent performance on an IQ test.

As Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians,” And now these three remain: faith hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  Strive to find ways to bring more love into your work environment.  Everyone will be better off for it.


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If I understand correctly, there's at least three forms of “positivity resonance” in the workplace:

1. Positivity toward what you're working on.

2. Positivity toward the people you work with.

3. Positivity toward the organization and mission.

Am I understanding correctly?

Good question - I think I didn't explain it very well!  Here's Fredrickson's definition, "Love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people - even strangers- connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong.  To put it in a nutshell, love is the momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person's biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other's well-being that brings mutual care." 

So, positivity resonance (which I must admit, I find to be a bit of an unwieldy term) is an interpersonal event that involves shared positive emotions.  She has done a lot of research that shows about how this creates all sorts of positive effects in each person's physiology.  Interestingly, in a talk I heard her say that based on how she defines it, positivity resonance can only occur during in-person interactions.  So, if you and your significant other are talking on the phone and both feeling positive, she wouldn't define it as positivity resonance, because you both wouldn't be having the same physiological markers that occur in-person.  

Her research has shown that lovingkindness meditation (amongst other things) helps to foster positivity resonance/love.

Thank you for the clarification, Patricia!

So it sounds like Fredrickson's definition of positivity resonance is specifically between people.

Therefore it is most applicable to my scenario #2 above, rather than love of work or love of mission.

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