Remember the first time you gripped the remote control in your hand. Ahhh…the feeling of power! The slightest pressure of your finger on a button and VOILA! A movie appears. Don’t like it? A light caress and a different show comes on the screen. Another press and thunder pours out from the speakers. All without moving from your couch. We do love to be in control, don’t we?
Now, try pointing the remote at your kids. Doesn’t work does it? They just haven’t figured out how to make a remote control with a Listen To Your Parents button. Nor have they designed remote controls for directing spouses, employees, or customers.
And it’s probably just as well.
That doesn’t stop people from trying. Many of us spend a good chunk of our lives feeling frustrated because we just can’t seem to get the people in our lives to do what we want. In fact, life would just be a whole lot easier if it weren’t for the people around us. Unfortunately, rather than doing what YOU want, they insist on foiling your plans, gumming up the works, and just generally doing their own thing. Hence the burning desire for the truly Universal Remote Control – the one that controls people, not just electronics.
In fact, many of us do try to deal with difficult situations by increasing our level of control. We demand attention, require obedience, train, instruct and lecture, and when all else fails, we reward and punish. And often it works – for a while. And it usually results in at least some damage to the people involved and your relationship with them.
Trying to control people is like using a hammer to drive a screw. You can put the screw in the wood that way, but it does violence to both the wood and the screw. Sooner or later the screw is going to come out and the failure can be catastrophic. You can control things, but it is unwise to attempt to control people.
The concept of control implies complete and direct power over something. It is the ability to cause a definite and immediate result every time through the exertion of your will. Control is limited in span. We can only exert control over a limited number of things for a limited amount of time because it requires a great deal of focus and vigilance to exercise control. This is why we cannot really control people. It’s like shooting at a moving target. You cannot keep your employees (or anyone else) in front of you every second of every day. At some point, they are going to be on their own. What then?
This does not mean that control is always a bad thing. Control over things (resources, schedules, inventory, materials, systems, money, objects, etc) is necessary and good. When we control such things, we give it words like effective execution, and people who do it well are highly valued. But with people, we must recognize that control has limitations. There are times when it is necessary and good to be highly directive and controlling with people (such as life threatening emergencies, or when first learning a new skill). Generally, however, it is much more powerful in the long term to learn to increase your level of influence.
Influence is the ability to cause a change in direction or focus by subtle application of energy. It is not about brute force. It is about learning to bring people in alignment with you by drawing them willingly into your way. If control is about power, influence is about authority. Power is taken by the wielder, and creates behavioral responses that are external and reluctant. Authority is granted to the wielder, and the behavioral response comes from within, and is wholehearted and enthusiastic. If I hold a gun to your head (a pretty direct exercise of power) I can probably get you do many things. You will do them promptly, and you will hate me and fear me every second. By using force in this way, I can control your external behavior. What I cannot control is that which is internal – your thoughts, feelings, desires and basic motivations.
Now picture the one person in your life that you respect and admire more than anyone. If that person asks you to do something, your response may be just as swift. It will also be enthusiastic and heart-driven. Your respect and admiration influences you, but it does not control you. You willingly bring your own internal values, goals and actions in alignment with theirs so that you move together in the same direction.
You can see how much more effective this really is. Energy is no longer spread out by having to focus on controlling you. Instead, you add your energy to my energy, and our ability to effect change and achieve our goals increases geometrically. This is the power of influence.
So where does your ability to exercise this influence come from? If you want to be the kind of person that can influence people rather than control them, what can you do? There are three steps you can take.
1. Practice Alignment
First know what is the most important thing in your life. Know your purpose and the highest values that you live by. Having defined those, determine what goals will bring you in alignment with your purpose and values. Then, as much as you can, make every action every day bring you closer to those goals. The speed of your progress is not as important as that you are making progress. When you are truly living out your highest values and purpose each day, you are living with integrity. This creates such an upwelling of personal power that people will be attracted to you, and will accept your influence in their lives.
2. Create Value
Seek to make the world better in some way, large or small, with every choice you make. It may be something as simple a smiling to brighten someone’s day. It may be taking a stumbling company and turning it into a profitable one. It might be doing the very best work you can do at your job so that your boss gets more than he is paying you for. When you are the kind of person who creates value wherever you go and whatever you do, people will value you and your influence will increase.
3. Earn Trust
Demonstrate practical concern for the welfare of others. Listen carefully before you speak. Always seek to achieve an outcome that is positive for all stakeholders – the win/win. Work with others to find new and creative solutions to old problems. Practice grace and forgiveness. Encourage people and build them up. Even when it is time to get tough, always do so with the best interests of the people involved, not simply to exercise power. When people know they can trust you, that you will always be fair, even if you are demanding, they will go the extra mile for you. Your influence will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Raising your level of influence this way is not instant. Influence must be cultivated. It takes time and patience. It is agricultural rather than industrial. Practicing control is like manufacturing. You have certain inputs and you get a certain output. Results are defined and quantifiable, and relatively quick.
Raising your level of influence is more like farming. You prepare the ground, you sow the seed, and you tend the field through dry spells, and floods, locusts and hailstorms. Somehow, after weeks, or months or years, your seed sprouts, and yields an abundant harvest many times what you put in. It is the same way with influence. You cultivate it by planting the right seeds in the people you know, and tending those seeds over time. It is long patient work. But when the rewards come, the harvest is great.
This article was written by David Denis owner of http://www.rocksolidwriting.com
David is a freelance writer for hire offering article writing, sales letters, training manuals, speech writing, seo content, sales writing, blog articles, copy-writing service, sales scripts and business name ideas.
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