Influence, we all have it to greater or lesser extents. We influence those around us every day, whether by how we dress, how we behave, the way we speak or what we believe. Sometimes influence is passive while other times it is very much our intention and we engage in active influence by trying to convince someone to come around to our way of thinking.
You’ve heard the expression ‘leaders lead by example’ — this is because someone is always watching. I know that sounds ominous, but it is true. People can sense the way we feel about things, the energy and diligence that we put into our projects. People see our kindness and also any rudeness or lack of care. If you have children, especially teenagers, you know this is true. What parent hasn’t caught their child mimicking a behavior that isn’t particularly one that should be emulated, be it use of language or a bad habit?
influence: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
I love looking up the definitions of words. We all know what influence means, but let’s break it apart. We have the ability to change other people just by our proximity. What a responsibility!
Certainly, we all strive to be a positive influence in the world, but how often have you ever thought about your influence on others? Probably not a lot.
Let’s talk about active influence, the behavior we engage in when trying to change someone else’s thoughts and behaviors.
We all know of influential people, famous people, politicians, tycoons. Personally, we can probably think back to very influential people in our lives, perhaps a grandparent, teacher or perhaps even a friend. Responsible influential people don’t bully or push, they don’t force their opinions on others. In fact, they are most characterized by not doing those things. The most influential people tend to be authentic and sharing. Oprah comes to mind. She is incredibly influential but she never says ‘This is the only way’, or ‘you must do this’, instead she shares openly about ideas and things that she loves, that excite her. She exerts responsible influence.
It’s the others we have to watch out for, those that exert their influence irresponsibly through coercion, bullying or threats. A great many people influence through fear, ‘if you don’t do it my way then there will be grave consequences’. (Politicians come to mind!) This is negative active influential behavior.
Now, imagine you woke up late, were racing around trying to get ready for the gym but your gym bag isn’t where you left it. When you inquire as to where your gym bag is, do you ask gently with kindness, or is your tone frustrated and accusatory? On the way to the gym traffic is terrible, a taxi has pulled over blocking your lane and it’s just sitting there. Do you take a deep breath and find a good song on the radio or do you honk and shout, maybe even roll the window down and yell? When you finally get to the gym how are you influencing those around you? Are you short-tempered, abrupt and annoyed? The point is, we all have the tendency to view life through our own experience of it, with very little thought to how we are affecting those around us.
If you were cranky during the above scenario you’ve started the day out on a negative note with your family, you’ve angered a taxi driver and probably shifted the mood for the worse for everyone near you at the gym.
This is passive influence, and don’t think for a minute that it isn’t powerful. Remember, we are influencing everyone around us, at every moment and through our behavior and consciousness we have immense impact on our families, our companies and our social circles. Your influence has the power to create unity and harmony among people, just by the way you feel and the kindness you express. Influence others well today! (and every day.)
Thought Into Action
Are you affecting and influencing the people around you positively or negatively? Are you in a joyful mood, do you approach life with generosity and optimism? Are you kind?