Every action we take, word we express, and thought we allow to permeate our minds has the power to be influential. They influence those around us, rippling out like the rings that emanate from a rock thrown into a lake. Even one small action on our part can cause a ripple effect and lead to a much larger, greater action. Being alive means being influential.
Think about it. We are all products of every word or deed that has influenced us. Our thoughts stem from a culmination of all that we’ve learned from the individuals who have influenced us throughout our lives.
We generally don’t know when our actions, words, or reactions cause an influence-ripple. Nor do we usually know who they may affect. But by understanding that each of us matters, as does the influence we create, we can live more consciously aware of the effect we have on others, even if we can’t see those effects.
Our responsibility is to be the best influence we can in every interaction. For example, maintaining composure in situations where someone lashes out in anger toward us demands an understanding of our own negative impulses and our ability to keep those impulses under control. This isn’t easy, as our fight or flight response kicks in. We may be tempted to respond with our own angry outburst and say or do something that not only escalates the encounter, but can be difficult to recover from if we hope to salvage the relationship. Yet maintaining composure under duress — even if we’re fuming inside — demonstrates upstanding behavior that will positively influence the others involved, even if they’re simply bystanders.
In every encounter, reminding ourselves of the influence we project and the effect our words and actions have on others will keep us on the high road, moving in the direction of positivity.
To be a positive influence for others, adopt these essential practices.
1. Define your personal values. Your values are the ideas, philosophies, and actions you find most important in your life. These may include kindness, respect, honesty, and more. When you take the time to define your personal values, you’re able to move forward with a kind of moral compass that points you where to go so that you’re able to be your best in every interaction.
2. Think of others. To be a positive influence, you need to consider more than just yourself. One of the key traits of someone who has a positive influence is the ability to view themselves and situations multi-dimensionally. You must be committed and put forth effort for more than just your benefit.
3. Hold yourself and others accountable. Being accountable means being honest with the people that your misstep may have affected and accepting the consequences. Many people feel that holding others accountable requires confrontation or aggression. But presented in the right way, it can be amazingly positive. When you hold yourself and others accountable, you create an environment and culture of trust. It takes providing clear communication about what went wrong and considering the steps needed to fix the issue together. Resolving the slip-up in a positive way influences the team to move forward without getting caught up in blame.
4. Recognize your biases. Understanding yourself and where your opinions come from is important in order to not become trapped in an echo chamber of your biases. You must hone your ability to accept and include others with opposing views or different life circumstances. Allowing yourself to be open to others’ views of the world helps to further your knowledge and positive influence.
5. Show appreciation. Leaders who bark commands, set unrealistic expectations, or ignore the efforts of workers are using their influence in a negative way. No one accomplishes goals alone, and giving credit where credit is due will positively influence those who have helped you. Showing appreciation means that you respect those on your team, remember the things they do for you, and express your genuine appreciation at every opportunity.
Having a positive influence in this world is paramount. We’re all capable of being a positive influence when we understand the responsibility entailed in wielding our influence.