Who Are You Influencing?

Bill Abbate

Are you aware that who you are and everything you say and do in the presence of other people affects them? It is true. You are not only affecting them; you are conditioning them as well.

Who you are and how you show up is a result of how you think. How you think determines your demeanor, every word you speak, and every move you make. How you think is the core of who you are and determines how you come across to everyone else.

I came upon this line of thought the other day when I read the following quote:

"Read not books alone, but men, and amongst them chiefly thyself." Francis Quarles (1592-1644)

Quarles' words led me to consider how we are affected by everyone we see in life and how they condition us during each interaction. Of course, this goes both ways as they are affected and conditioned by every person they see, including us.

What factors into influence?

Your thoughts create who you are and how you are around others, but how do they come to affect those around you? They do so because your thoughts create your demeanor (attitude), as well as what you say and do.

The interesting thing is our attitude influences everyone around us whether we speak a word or not. We pick up a lot of information by observing how people look and move.

Two research studies done in 1967 claim 55% of communication is in our body language, 38% is in our tone of voice, and only 7% is in the actual words we speak! Also developed around this time was something called the 60/40 formula. This formula represents the importance between our facial (60%) and vocal (40%) components, which determine how others perceive our attitude.

Those studies show at least 55% to 60% of what we communicate comes without speaking a word. Notice how little the words themselves add! Is it any wonder we affect and condition those around us by simply being in their presence?

Every interaction matters

"True influence over another comes not from a moments eloquence nor from any happily chosen word, but from the accumulation of a lifetime's thoughts stored up in the eyes...the secret smile in the eyes of a friend." Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)

You affect each person you are around, regardless of how small the interaction is. This effect is on not some, but on every single solitary last person that sees you. So long as you are alive, your thoughts will drive your demeanor, behaviors, and everything you do.

Since our thoughts create who and how we are, they determine how we interact with others. This effect determines how they see and respond or react to us. Yes, it is true; every thought, action, word, touch, the way you carry yourself, everything about you affects those around you.

For example, if you abruptly rush into your workplace, not acknowledging anyone, heading straight for your office, closing the door behind you, it speaks volumes! You have just affected the emotions and feelings of each person who witnessed this. How would you expect them to interact with you?

Take the opposite approach and enter your workplace with an upbeat, cheerful attitude, a courteous hello, or good morning. Entering your office, you leave the door open. How do you think you will have affected everyone? Far differently, don't you think?

This concept applies everywhere you go. Whether you arrive home grumpy or happy, it will be not only noticed but felt by all. If you are in a store, your demeanor affects how others respond to you.

Even when you are driving, your demeanor can come across to other drivers. This effect can even be felt and observed over the telephone in your voice! Any form of communication tells someone else about you and who you are and affects or conditions them in some way.

Wherever you go, the one consistent thing you carry with you is your attitude. Where you go, it goes, and it will affect everyone around you.

How authority magnifies the effect you have on others

To be a leader people want to follow, those in a position of authority must be aware of their thoughts and demeanor. Their impact is far greater than that of the average person.

I learned this lesson early in my management career and was acutely aware of my effect on others as I rose through the ranks. I found too many people tell you what they think you want to hear and not what you need to hear. Rather than blame them for this, consider how you have conditioned them to respond in such a manner.

Think about an employee working in a company at the bottom of an organization. Do they influence others? Absolutely! What they do and say will affect those around them. Whether its effect is good, bad, or indifferent is another matter.

The higher you are in an organization, the more powerful what you do, say, write, or otherwise communicate will become. Put yourself in the shoes of a low-level employee in a large company and imagine the president saying to you, "We can do that better, can't we?" Now imagine a colleague or your supervisor speaking the same words. The impact is not even close, is it?

Why not experiment a little?

To see firsthand how you affect others, try a little experiment. Say or suggest something to someone and pay attention to their reaction, noting what happens afterward.

For example, tell your spouse they look particularly beautiful or handsome today and pay attention to the effect. If this is not something you have done for a long time and they are wary, it is because of your past impact. This is how you have conditioned them. If they accept it happily, your effect on them differs from their dismissing it, right?

Why not try the same thing on an employee or colleague. If you can honestly tell them they are doing a great job, say something like, "You have been doing a great job, and I just want you to know I appreciate it." What does their response tell you about them and how you have conditioned them?

Why not try this same thing with one of your children, a friend, or someone else and pay attention to their reaction and what it tells you about them and about the way you have influenced them in their response?

Final thoughts

One of the greatest things we can do in our life is to become more self-aware. As you grow in self-awareness and how your very thoughts influence the world around you, you will find the world begins to make far more sense than it would otherwise. Is this not enlightenment in the fullest sense of the word?

You experience significant change by becoming aware of what you say, how you act, what you do, and how you affect and condition others and are affected and conditioned by them. Why not work on yourself today and every day you live? What do you have to lose other than your old self who has not seen the world as clearly as it could have?

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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