Influence… the word always conjures up a bit of intrigue and images of wealth and ambition. John Gottman, marriage researcher and pioneer in the area of marital therapy talks about influence in another way.
Allowing another to sway your view, taking into account how your spouse sees the world, being willing to consider that maybe he is right this time, letting your teenager know that she may know something you don’t know. “ I see what you mean.” These are all examples of influence.
We all know that we are influenced by the late night TV ads for Taco Bell…otherwise why else would those commercials air?
Most of us are influenced by what the style maven’s tell us are the latest trends, best colors, newest style of jeans.
The candy rack at the check out stand…. Clearly the merchandisers know that we are influenced by the rows and rows of chocolate and goop just waiting for us to give in and buy one or two.
And to many parents chagrin, we also know that adolescents are highly influenced by their friends despite the fact that those friends are as wise and as smart as any 13 year old can be.
In our world today there are many ways to be influenced; so many opportunities to be talked to, preached to, sold to. Between TV ads, promos for movies, Facebook ads, People magazine at the hair dresser, network broadcasts that call themselves news, you name it there are so many perspectives , they try to tell us what to believe, how to dress, how to act, who to hate, who to vote for.
So it is clear we are all influenced. So whom do you allow to influence you?
How do you decide what is worth listening to and what is hog wash?
How do you decide that what the salesgirl said about you is true given that she just met you 2 minutes prior?
How do you decide that the news program you watch is accurate it it’s depiction?
How do you know what to believe about your faith?
How does the teen know the difference between what he has been taught and what the guys are saying in the locker room.
If you don’t have a good role model in your life, seek one out. Each of us can use a sounding board, a reality check, and an interested party who we allow to influence us.
Too many of us only allow the world around us to define our belief system and our point of view.
Being an influencer is a great joy and a huge responsibility. I find it to be a great privilege to speak into other’s lives; but only when given permission.
As parents we are so fearful of our children’s sorrow and mistakes that we try to influence our kids by telling them all the things they shouldn’t do and maybe that includes the dumb things we did as well.
Being an influencer begins with integrity, trust and respect. It is followed by empathy and acceptance. It requires a great deal of listening. It demands that the listener be able to see the perspective of the other. This process can be lengthy. And when the moment is right and the speaker asks “ So what do you think?” then and only then do you get the chance to jump in.
To influence you must consider the speaker, remember what they have shared, who they are, who you have known them to be. Share carefully what you know to be true.. And remember the process of influencing is usually not about your childhood, your life, your regrets, and your mistakes.
Modeling influence allows the speaker to determine the good and the greater good, how to effectively and assertively take a differing position, how to think..
As a therapist who works with teens, I have found this model to be very effective in helping teens think out loud, truly an honor that their parents often miss out on.
Try this with your spouse, your sister, your friend even your teenager.
May you have the chance to be a positive influence in another person’s life.