Posts tagged ‘Influence’

May 21, 2012

What’s Your Story?

Most of us do not realize the power of our own internal story telling. We assume that our identity if fixed and we are just experience life as it comes to us. What we may not realize is the fact that how we choose to experience our life is influenced by many unconscious assumptions related to how we are “writing” our own story. Once we realize that we are authors of our own story, we are better able to guide the narrative of our lives.

Setting:
The setting is really just where you are in the moment. It is your specific location in time and place. The setting is just part of our story. It can have an influence on us, and our actions. Our current setting does not define us. Just because you may have lived in the same location for your entire life does not mean that that will always be the case. You can change your setting is you so desire. If you do not like a particular setting such as living with someone who gives you more frustration that affection, then you have the ability to leave. Our setting has an influence on us, but it does not control us.
Character:
You have control over the elements of your character. Your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits and attitudes guide your actions. How you frame your role in different situations will affect your response and possible outcomes to these events. The role of your character may change depending on the setting, how you view your involvement in the current “plot line” and in relation to the others around you. You may perceive your role as:
– the victim
– the hero
– the complex misunderstood character
– the comic foil
– the central character
– the social observer
– etc.
Remember, you are the one constructing the narrative in your own mind. How do you want to see yourself?
Plot:
We are in control of the perceiving meaning that we discern from our life’s events. However, we do not have control over many things that happen to us. Based on our beliefs of our role in our lives settings and routines, we will distill meaning from what happens to us.
If we see ourselves as the unfortunate victim of life events, the coffee that we accidentally spilled on ourselves on the way to that important job interview will be construed as a tragic element in a series of unfortunate events. We may proceed even further with our internal plot line by acting in some unfortunate subconscious way that leads to a nervous unflattering job interview that leads to losing the prospective new job.
When we see ourselves as the fortunate protagonist, the coffee spilled on our dress shirt will just be a minor obstacle to conquer. Our plucky character will find a napkin and soda water to clean the stain or even would use the incident as a humorous anecdote to start the job interview. Even if this perceived “champion” does not get the job, our internal dialogue will weave the story as just one step of many in the quest for optimal employment.
How we “write” our plot will control how will remember the event. When we tell stories about our lives at the end of the day, it is clear to the plot lines that we see ourselves in and the role our character plays.

In closing, I realize there is so much more to say about this topic. I want to give a shout out to Lem at  The Identity Specialist  (http://identityspecialist.net) and Karen Wan at Writing your destiny (http://writingyourdestiny.com) since they thing about these concepts as well.

Now go write yourself a good story!

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May 3, 2012

Embrace the continuum

I have found that life is rarely “black and white” and most things have at least some “shades of gray”. Though our brain typically likes to organize things into neat little categories such as “black or white” or “good or bad” since this easy heuristic helps us process 400 billions of pieces of information per second. We may notice that when we ponder situations that we are more familiar with, we are able to understand that these situations are best expressed in the forms of a continuum.

When I was a teenager, I was introduced to the “yin-yang” symbol. I felt that this symbol is an excellent representation of the balance of life. Some things are more “light” than “dark” and other things are more “dark” than “light”. For example, people are rarely “all bad” or “all good”. When considering the political spectrum, there are people that are “all the way to the right”, there are people “in the center” and people “all the way to the left”.

As I write my blog of “influence versus control”, I fully acknowledge that the line between influence and control can be expressed as a continuum as well. When we consider health, we have control of all the habits that lead to good health including getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. However, we cannot control if we get sick or not. When considering wealth, we can control how much we spend. If we earn a paycheck, we can control how much comes in each month. If we earn a commission, we have greater influence on how much money we could earn in a month, but we cannot control weather other will buy our product. We also do not have control of unforeseen expenses such as flying across country to visit a sick family member.

All in all, it is wise to consider the shades of gray. When considering an action, it is helpful to write a list of the pros and cons and see if this action has a greater chance of benefit than detriment. Life is too colorful to be seen as just “black and white”.

 

April 5, 2012

Day 4 – Serenity and Surfing

ImageOne irony about vacations is that one imagines having an almost endless amount of time to get everything accomplished. I am finding that although I am able to do lots of fun things with my family and that I am able to go surfing and mountain biking, I have not made the time to write. I have included pictures of where I surfed this morning and where I went biking this afternoon.  I have been able to find the time to meditate and to complete my journalling (as promised). 

One idea that I had about my little blog o’ mine is that the main idea of “Influence Versus Control” could be summed up in the “Serenity Prayer”. I find that these words also make a great affirmation statement. In the very small chance that you have not heard it before, I am including it below.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

April 2, 2012

Acceptance (Habit Change Challenge Day 2)

Hello Beautiful Blogging World,

I was successful for day one with all of my target goals. I meditated. I exercised. I read affirmations and I journaled my gratitudes and my successes. I am going on a vacation with the family and I am very excited.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about acceptance. I plan on spending more time on “acceptance” in a later post. Today, I will just share my affirmation about “acceptance”

I accept everything element that is a part of my life.

I accept all aspects about this  moment in time.

I accept that all my previous thoughts feelings and actions have brought me to where I am in this present time and place.

I accept all forms of feedback from my environment.

I realize that when I resist all those factors that I can not control, I feel “stressed” and powerless.

When I accept all that I can not control and realize that I can always control how I react, I feel empowered.

–Have a great day!

 

March 27, 2012

Responding to Gossip

I have wanted to write something about gossip for some time. I thought it would be easy. I thought I could just write “gossip is bad, avoid it at all costs”. Unfortunately for me, this is much more of a nuanced subject. In 2006, Jennifer Bosson published a paper demonstrating disliking a third person creates a more powerful social connection than a mutual preference for somebody. This supplies us with another example that the world is not simply “Black or White”.

When reviewing the literature on gossip, there are challenges on how to define gossip. Is gossip just a conversation about a third party without the third party present? Is it gossip only when we are talking about someone we know, or is talking about a celebrity count? Is it gossip if we are “talking smack” about someone who is in earshot (like children have been observed to do)?

In Eric K. Foster’s paper “Research on Gossip: Taxonomy, Methods, and Future Directions” (Review of General Psychology, 2004, Vol. 8, No. 2, 78–99) it is stated that a common definition of gossip for research purposes is: “In a context of congeniality, gossip is the exchange of personal information (positive or negative) in an evaluative way (positive or negative) about absent third parties.

Eric K. Foster’s paper breaks down gossip into major social functions including: information, entertainment, friendship (or intimacy), influence and evolutionary utility.

Information: Gossip can be an effective tool of distributing information. Historically, before the advent of print media, radio, television and the Internet, most information was passed through an oral tradition (gossip). In smaller social groups, gossip is how group members exchange information about each other.

Entertainment: Gossiping for entertainment’s sake does not need to be malevolent in nature. In this instance the gossiper and gossipee may just exchange information about third parties without any salacious details. However, more “sensitive” or controversial information is often seen as more entertaining gossip. In this context, the enjoyment of the gossip is considered more important than the information itself.

Friendship: “The friendship or intimacy function of gossiping refers both to dyadic interchanges and to the way in which gossip brings groups together through the sharing of norms, thereby establishing boundaries to distinguish insiders from outsiders.”

The 2006, Jennifer Bosson study on gossip fits into this category. When two “strangers” meet and find they have a mutual dislike for a third party, the gossip about the third party creates a new “in group” and the “strangers” now feel that they have something in common. Gossip for the sake of friendship can be positive in the sense that gossip can enhance the social bond between select people. The downside of this type of gossip is being on the out-group, where this type of gossip may lead to one feeling like a victim of the gossip of the in-group.

Influence: Gossip has the power of significantly influencing our behavior. Many of us fear being “caught” engaging in a behavior that our “in-group” may deem odd, eccentric or a violation of a social norm, since this violation will be likely topic of gossip. If we know that rule violations are spread quickly through our social group, our behavior is greatly influenced. This type of social functioning is “positive” if gossip is used to dissuade a group member of engaging in an activity that is harmful to a group. However, the influence function of gossip is “negative” if this social mechanism targets freedom of self-expression, religion, political affiliation etc.

Evolutionary Utility: This is the type of gossip that keeps cousins from marrying Cousins and alerts community members to the health risk of interacting with “infectious” people. In the old days, the matrimonial custom of “speak now, or forever hold your piece” was essentially a query to the local community of; “Hey folks, the word has been out for a while that these two are going to get married. Does anybody know if these two are related?”  In Malawi, a country in southeast Africa, gossiping is used to alert community members as to who has HIV and who does not (see This American Life).

As we have seen, gossip does provide some social functions. However, as many of us has experienced, there is definitely a “down-side” to gossip.

Reputation – Gossip can be used as a tool to harm someone’s reputation. During every political cycle, one party brings up a tawdry piece of gossip about the other party. This type of gossip can be based on truth, or completely fabricated.

*Response: When you hear about a piece of gossip that is obviously designed to “take someone down”, remain objective. Look to a neutral third party for verification. If this piece of gossip does not affect you ignore it. Do NOT pass it on if you have any doubts to the intent or veracity of the gossip!

Productivity – Idle gossip, though “entertaining” is unproductive. Excessive gossip at work or school lowers overall productivity. If the work environment allows any gossip that maligns the character of any employee, there is a great chance of a “toxic work environment” being created where gossip wars are fought by varying in-groups.

*Response: When you hear co-workers gossip on a continual basis, resist the urge to join the chorus. Sometimes it can be valuable to change the topic to something more positive or at least something bases on facts. Whenever possible, it is best to stay out of gossip between “warring factions” at work.

Self-Esteem: Hearing gossip about oneself can be harmful to your sense of wellbeing.

*Response:

  1. Remember that you are in control of how you choose to think, feel and react. You can always ignore gossip if you have the feeling that it is innocuous and it will just go away.
  2. Be wary of the truthfulness of all gossip. Avoid being “Iago-ed”! In Othello, Iago continued to fill Othello’s ears with lies until (SPOILER ALERT) Othello killed his wife. If someone is telling us gossip that they heard someone else say, consider their motivation. Are they trying to get you in their in-group? Are they trying to socially isolate you? Are they honestly trying to be helpful?
  3. Refrain from retaliation. Once you retaliate, you are an active participant the “gossip game” and with any game, there is a great chance you may lose. Spreading gossip makes you a target for more gossip.
  4. Set the record straight.  If someone is saying something that is untrue, make sure the truth is known. If gossip is happening at work, it is best to inform your employer. However, it is your boss that is spreading gossip about you, it may be wise to consider human resources or your union representation.
  5. Share what you want shared. Sometimes it is best to keep your private life private. If you don’t want your co-workers to think that you are an “irresponsible drunk”, don’t talk about the one time that you drank too much.

It would be easy to say, “gossip is the problem”. However, gossip has historically been a positive force of social communication. The challenge comes with how we use gossip or respond to gossip. I hope that you are able to learn to be mindful of gossip to strengthen social bonds as well as being able to respond to gossip so you can maintain high self-esteem.

All comments/ feedback are appreciated. (Rumors and innuendo are discouraged).

 

 

 

March 24, 2012

Events + Response = Outcome

One of the most influential equations that I have learned in my life has been:
E + R = O
For this equation;

  • E = Events
  • R = Your chosen response to an Event
  • O = The overall outcome

In the model, the “Event” is neutral. It is not “good” or “bad”, it is just a life circumstance. It is our Response to an event that will shape how we label or perceive the event in our minds. How we choose to Respond to an event directly effects the overall outcome.

For example, imagine you are a school-aged kid being called a name by one of your classmates. You choose to respond by calling the other kid a worse name. The outcome is that the other kid hits you.

Imagine this scenario with a different response. You are a school-aged kid being called a name by one of your classmates. You ignore the other kid and move to the other side of the playground to be with a group of your friends. The outcome is that you have moved on with your day without conflict.

Let us look at this equation from an “Influence versus Control” perspective

  • E = Events – These are things that you typically can’t control. You may be able to influence factors leading up to events, but the event would have happened without you. Life events can be the small events such as being cut off in traffic or misplacing your house keys to major life events such as your house burning down or losing a family member.
  • R = Response – This is where you have some control. You can choose your response. When a life event happens, you can remember that there are multiple ways to respond to any situation and you can practice taking the time needed to evaluate your response. Since your response has a strong influence on the outcome, it is important to take personal responsibility for your responses to all life events.
  • O = Outcomes- This is an areas where we have influence. If we react “positively” to a situation, we are more likely to experience a “positive” outcome.

The next time “life happens”, do your best to take the time to evaluate your response and observe how the outcome unfolds.

March 18, 2012

Blame vs. Personal Responsibility

 “The search for someone to blame is always successful.” – Robert Half

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”  –Dr. Robert Anthony

“Yes, there are times when something is legitimately not our fault. Blaming others, however, keeps us in a stuck state and is ultimately rough on our own self-esteem.”   Eric Allenbach

Blame

1. to hold responsible; find fault with; censure:

2. to place the responsibility for (a fault, error, etc.) (usually followed by on ): I blame the accident on her.

As exemplified from the definition and the quotes above, blame is the act of holding someone else or something else responsible. Every time we blame, we avoid personal responsibility. When we blame a circumstance or other people for our failings or our current state of dissatisfaction, we hinder out ability to move forward. It is very difficult to learn from the results of our thoughts, feelings, actions and beliefs if we continually blame “God”, “Nature”, or “Them” for our current reality.

Robert Half was correct when he said, “the search for someone to blame is always successful”. It is easy to blame others. When we do we no longer feel the possible emotional discomfort associated with  owning our mistakes. If our boss is angry about the result of a current project, it feels safer to blame a co-worker. In the workplace, blame can be harmful since it can facilitate a cycle of blame – defensiveness- attack –blame cycle.

Just think how easily blame can creep into our own lives. If we are late for work, it is customary to blame the traffic or other life circumstances. How many times have you been at work when a co-worker arrived and stated; “I apologize for being late. I did not adequately plan my time so I am responsible for my tardiness. Could you please write me up so I am discouraged from continuing my pattern of poor time management?”

When we blame, we have a negative influence on others. If we model the pattern of blaming at home, our children will imitate our pattern of avoiding accountability. When we blame our spouse/partner for our own emotional responses, our spouse/partner will likely feel resentful.

Blame is a habit that we are in control of. Once we become aware of our tendencies to blame, we can move away from blame and move towards personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility arises from acknowledgement that we are in control of our beliefs, habits, thoughts, feelings, responses, words and actions. When we accept personal responsibility, we understand that we are responsible for our general life circumstances. If we are dissatisfied with how things are, personal responsibility will lead us to changing our situation whereas blame will allow us to be complacent and stick with the status quo of dissatisfaction.

I accept full responsibility for this post!

March 16, 2012

The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements is an great book by Don Miguel Ruiz.

If you have not read it yet, I strongly recommend it. These four agreements and really help you reflect on how you are choosing to engage with others and react to life events.

Below are quotes from “The Four Agreements”

  Be Impeccable with Your Word

Words are important. Words have power to create positive or negative messages. The truth is the most important part of being impeccable with your word. Nurture the seeds of truth, empowerment, kindness and discretion with your Word.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.  To take things personally means you make the assumption that everything is about “me.” If someone gives you an opinion, it is they who are dealing with the feelings, beliefs or opinions.  If you take it personally, you take on the message, and make it yours.  You set yourself up to suffer for nothing.  You are personally and ethically responsible for your own actions and words, and no one else’s.

Don’t Make Assumptions

The problem with making assumptions is that you believe they are the truth.  All the sadness and drama you have experienced was rooted in making assumptions, and then taking them personally.  You assume that others think, feel, judge and abuse the way you do.  We make assumptions about ourselves. The way to keep from making assumptions is to ask questions.  Make sure communication is clear.  Have the courage to ask questions, including of yourself.

Always do Your Best
Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good. No more and no less than your best. If you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself.  Your best does not overdo, because you deplete your body and go against yourself. If you take action because you have to, then you cannot do your best. Action is about living fully.  Inaction is the way that we deny life.  Live your life, and always do your best.

March 13, 2012

The Complaints of Others

Yes, I would like a complaint free world. As I stated yesterday, I am still working on that complaint free me. We did conclude with the realization that only we can control our own habit of complaining. The “Complaint Free World” approach of moving a wrist band from one wrist to another is a great form of personal accountability to shape our own behavior.

What about the complaints of others? Since we can not control other people’s habits, we can only control our own responses. It is helpful to remember that we have different options when other people complain so we don’t fall into the socially accepted pattern of complaining ourselves.

The first thing that we should consider when a friend or colleague starts to complain to us is that person’s possible motivation to complain. Do they want to complain for the sake of complaining? Are they complaining because they are in a challenging situation and are seeking emotional validation? Are they complaining about a situation in the hopes that someone has a possible solution? The second thing we should consider is how close the relationship is of the “complainer” to ourselves. For example, if a stranger in front of us in a line starts complaining about how frustrating the wait is, we should not feel compelled to join the chorus of “this line is a pain”.

For the “constant complainer” that we know, it would be appropriate to acknowledge their concerns as well as setting boundaries.

“I hear your concern about the new procedures. I now need to finish my project before my deadline”.

For someone complaining about a life situation where they have no control and appear to desire some emotional validation, it would be appropriate to demonstrate compassion and understanding about their feelings. You are not obligated to complain yourself.

“I can understand how tough it is. I can only imagine how your are feeling right now. That seems to be a really challenging situation”.

One of my personal challenges is that I sometimes do now intuitively know the difference when someone is complaining about something just to vent and feel heard or if that person is seeking advice or assistance. For these situations it is beneficial to listen intently to the person’s concerns. When if feels appropriate, you could ask if the other person needs assistance in this matter.

I would appreciate any comments on how you choose to respond to the complaints of others.

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

March 12, 2012

Why Complain?

One thing that we truly have control over is the habit of complaining. I wish that I could tell you that I have mastered the art of avoiding complaining, but that would make me a liar (and lying is another habit that does not serve me). As I have said before, I am a recovering cynic, which means that I have occasional lapses in failing to appreciate the world around me.

I believe that a conversation about a problem that acknowledges a problem/challenge as the first step in addressing that problem is significantly different than complaining. Often when people complain, they tend to stay in the realm of problem admiration and they may even become resentful if you going in to “problem solving” mode

One odd thing about complaining is that people rarely complain about things they actually have control over. People will complain about the weather, the cost of gas and even the temperature of their latte not being up to their personal standard. When people complain, they tend to stay in the realm of problem admiration and they may even become resentful if you going in to “problem solving” mode. Complaining may reinforce depreciating unconscious beliefs such as “I am helpless to solve the world’s problems”, “things will never get better”, “life is unfair” or “I am a victim”.

An interesting social dynamic about complaining is that once one person complains, the other person joins in a chorus of complaining. What is even more interesting is that complaint based conversations can appear to become competitive.

Man 1 – “Man, I had a awful night last night. My neighbors had this loud party and I only got 4 hours of sleep”.

Man 2 – “You think that’s bad, my kid was sick last night and he woke up every hour throwing up”.

Man 3 – “You guys have it easy, I work the night shift and my house is under the flight path. I rarely get any sleep”.

In my more cynical past, I had a friend who I often engaged in complaint conversations. I found myself collecting things to complain about. I even remember thinking “I can’t wait to tell Bob (name changed to protect the guilty) about this horribly annoying and yet insignificant think that happened to me this morning”.

The most frustrating pattern of complaining is the act of complaining about things that you can do something about. In the example above, Man 3 could make the decision to find a different job, take a different shift, move to a new place, or invest in high quality sound cancelling headphones.

The good news is that we are in control of our own tendency to complain. We can evaluate our beliefs related to complaining and we can make a conscious effort to avoid complaining (see http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/ ). When can choose to look at all aspects of a situation and see the areas where we can be grateful.

Man 1 – “I am grateful that I got at least some sleep last night!” 

Man 2 – “I am grateful that even though my child is sick today, he will most likely be well by the weekend.”

Man 3 – “I am grateful that I still have the job in these challenging economic time.”

 

-Have a great day with no complaints (even though it is a Monday) and remember “It’s all good”!