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The Power of Influence

I wish I had a penny for every person who got into trouble because they acted out of feeling disrespected by someone else. Why do we do that? Allow other people have such control over our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? It's like they tap a button on my brain's controller and my anger explodes or my anxiety and depression engage! The more they play the game, the better they get at knowing when and how to push those buttons, too.

How can you regain self-control?

  1. Decide whose opinion matters

  2. Understand your "buttons"

  3. Change your response to button-pushing

If a 250lb woman walks into a room, what may you perceive about her appearance? Many people may judge that she is obese, lazy, or self-indulgent. Yet, those who know her may be amazed at her weight loss after a severe health problem that resulted in significant weight gain. You cannot judge a book by its cover... but people do it anyway.

When people inevitably make snap judgments, assumptions, or take offense, they start mashing our buttons and we have this involuntary reaction that does not always turn out well. But, if we take a step back and ask ourselves:

  • What authority does this person have to make this judgment?

  • What information do they have to form their opinion?

  • What might they gain from what they are saying/doing?

You may be surprised with how illegitimate those opinions are! You would never have a carpenter appraise your vehicle, nor a mechanic inspect your home! Why do we allow people to do this to our lives?

There's still more work to do by understanding where those reactions come from. A reaction is involuntary, but a response is a thoughtful choice. Rather than living reacting to life, we can be proactive and choose the life we want by taking control of our responses. When someone says or does something that taps into a deep emotion (e.g., rage, hurt, anxiety, fear), that may be an area that you need to work on. For example, if a stranger berates you on your driving abilities and you feel anger toward that person, what are you most upset by? Is it their language, tone, body language, the content of their complaint, etc.? Once you figure out where to start, you can take control of how you respond to similar situations in the future.

So, once you identify a button, how do you change the response? That is up to you. Think about your life as a video game. What does winning look like? The goal helps determine how you need to "play the game" to win. You can choose responses that get you closer to your goals.

A few months ago, I was driving home from work when I stopped at a red light and allowed a little extra room for a car to enter my lane from a gas station. The car behind me started to honk their horn and gesture aggressively. Usually, after a long day and feeling tired, I would have become enraged and huffed and puffed my whole way home thinking about how I was just trying to do the right thing. Tthis time, I began to giggle. The driver behind me looked so foolish and I drove home in a great mood.

Self-control means you control you (no one else). It means people can say and do whatever, but you decide how you respond (not react). Does that mean it's ok for people to be mean, rude, disrespectful, hateful, aggressive, etc.? Absolutely not! But it means you don't allow it to control you anymore. You're free to make your own choices and live your own life.

That sounds like winning to me!


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