How will you use yours?
Countless books and articles suggest how we can we get more of it. Magazines write lists telling us who has the most of it. The majority of us probably feel on a day to day basis like we don’t have much, or any, of it.
‘Influencers’ seem to be the new celebrities. But influence isn’t just for those who have massive online followings and are paid to advertise products or brands.
Think about it. Have you ever bought something because someone you talked to recommended it? And what about that one negative Amazon review that made you rethink clicking ‘add to basket’?
We are all influencers, and we are all influenced.
Who are you influencing?
It happens on a small as well as large scale. The casual words we speak, the images we choose to portray of ourselves, even the photographs we share – they all have the ability to make people feel differently, think differently, and maybe even behave differently.
The way that we are built psychologically means that we don’t live in independent bubbles. Our lives interact and intersect, and each interaction we have with people, online or offline, are moments of influence. Some maybe more so than others, some maybe more subtly than others. Often, we probably aren’t even aware of it. The question to ask is not whether or not we have any influence, but how are we influencing?
Influence doesn’t automatically come hand in hand with a leadership position or job title. The people who have the most influence on me are often not in any traditional positions of leadership at all, but are just getting on with life, in whatever situation they happen to be in, with integrity and authenticity. It comes down to being a lot less about job title or status, and a lot more about character.
What is it that is influencing you?
Oscar Wilde wrote in one of his letters “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” (De Profundis). He laments how easily people inherit their views and opinions from those around them without much individual thought. Many of us are probably a bit more discerning, but there is some truth in how easily we are influenced by what surrounds us. Other people, marketing, the subtext of our culture… What is it that we are we making the material of our lives?
So often, we don’t consciously think about what we consume, and yet we spend most of our waking hours doing it. We don’t realise that we are being influenced because we are in control of the things we watch, the things we read, and the feeds that we scroll through online. They probably mostly agree with what we already think, or project an image we are already attracted to. But do we fall into the trap of building a safe little monoculture where our horizons are never widened or challenged?
The people we live alongside shape who we are, whether consciously or subconsciously. We might find ourselves assimilating our view with someone else’s, or distancing ourselves from it. But that interaction has contributed to our own opinion. Although we may form our own, unique points of view, we build them with a selection of bricks borrowed from others. It’s helpful to be aware that we are being influenced so that we can engage with what we consume. What we allow to influence us will have a ripple effect on how we influence others.
The way that we choose to interact with people will determine the kind of influence we have. Do we build people up or tear people down? Do we help people see their worth, or do we water their seeds of self-doubt? Are we honest about the reality of life, or are we guilty of pretending that we have it together when we don’t?
We often hear and use the phrase, “I just want to make a difference”. As we add our own fingerprints to the shape of the thoughts and opinions of others, we need to decide what we want to be influencing and shaping us. Imagine the difference we could make once we realise that we are making a difference!