What is influence? Is influence always positive? To influence is to have an effect on another’s thinking, mood or behaviour. Sometimes we confuse trying to control with influencing.
It is that time – the end of break and time to get the children back to their lessons. One teacher decides to stand by the door and use the idea that ‘I have the louder voice and I am taller than they are’… The second teacher in contrast walks out into the crowd of children and speaks at a normal level to the children. She tells the children to quieten down now and come inside. The children close by do quieten down to listen. The children further away also begin to quieten down, curious to know what the others are listening to… this is how influence works.
What influences you?
Is your mood ever affected by a sunny day, a rainy day, being out in middle of a forest or in a crowded train, other people’s moods, the atmosphere of the room, coffee or a feel-good film?
How about the company you keep? The people we spend most of our time with have a very big influence on us, there is, for example, the classic case of children copying each other in order to fit in with their peers.
How about the people or things that inspire you? Can you think of someone who inspires you, lifts your mood or spurs you to take action about something? What quality is it that they are using that inspires you? It is this that is influencing you.
We influence with our words and ideas, however, we need to watch we don’t overstep the mark into trying to control or not valuing others ideas.
What about the less obvious ways we influence others and our environment? Such as, take the quality you discovered above that inspires you. Now why not use that quality yourself to inspire others, lift their mood or spur them to act?
By being an active listener – paradoxically by listening we influence others. When someone has really listened to and heard you doesn’t it have quite an effect on you? More often than not though, as soon as someone starts to talk off we whiz to come up with some answers or we cut across them to tell them what we think or we wonder off somewhere else. To actively listen first face whoever is speaking, then become quiet – don’t comment or interrupt even to agree! – and next switch off your own thoughts, give then your full attention.
Silence also influences – in stillness and serenity first of all we come to have faith in our own value and abilities. We empower ourselves and become living examples of possibility for others. To influence by example is the most powerful form influence can take.