The Power of Influence

Means don't shit where you eat

This article is about how people affect our lives.

As we go through life, we will meet many people, and some of them will make us change our mind, make us think about a new subject, or even make us look at the way we live our lives in a new way. These are the people who have an impact on the way we think and feel about the world, and their influence will last a lifetime.

People who have a positive impact on our lives are generally called role models, and they can be anybody, from any walk of life, who has some long-lasting positive effect. However, role models can be both positive and negative. A negative role model is someone who we would never want to be like, but who has some effect on our lives whether we like it or not. Hopefully, you've dealt with more positive than negative role models in your life, but in the real world, you need to be prepared to deal with the worst.

Regrettably, not every person you meet as you make your way through this world will be a positive influence on you. You may come from a broken home where neither parent was a role model you could look up to. You may have personality differences with your teachers. You may have ideological differences with your coach. You may have moral, ethical, or personal differences with your employers. These are the people who influence us most outside of our families, and they can have a big effect on us, both emotionally and spiritually.

Over the past few years someone dear to me has had to deal closely with a person who has been a negative role model. In fact, this person has been a negative influence to many people in every respect. I'd like to tell you a little bit about this type of person, who I'll simply call Negative P, and how you can deal with these people when you meet them and have to deal with them.

Thankfully, most people like this are quickly figured out and generally avoided, but sometimes they are in a position of authority and you will have to deal with them. Here are a few strategies for dealing with people who may be a little or exactly like Negative P, and for dealing with the stress that they can cause you:

  1. If at all possible, remove yourself from the situation where Negative P is in charge. If notů
  2. Avoid them. Don't view this as being a wimp or cowardly. The less they see you, the less chance they have to try and hurt or demoralize you.
  3. Remember that anything they say or do to you is because they are jealous, spiteful, small-minded, unhappy, and vindictive.
  4. Document and gather evidence for all the cases where this person has done something unethical, immoral, or illegal, and when you have enough concrete evidence, turn it into the proper authorities. It's always best to have other people who will also back up your side of the story as well.
  5. No matter what, remember that Negative P is jealous of you and insecure about him/herself. And believe in Karma, because what comes around always goes around.

Let's say, for example, that you are a collegiate athlete and Negative P is your coach. Your athletic ability is paying for your college education, so you don't want to quit. Your ability is also scoring points for your college team, so your coach doesn't want to kick you off. But the coach does his/her best to make life miserable for you. What do you do? You can quit, but then you lose your scholarship. You can transfer schools, but face it, it was tough enough leaving your high school friends, and starting over again at a new college is not the easiest thing to do.

The same goes for employment. You can quit, but then you won't have an income. And your boss keeps you because you are skilled at what you do but often makes work miserable for you. You can transfer jobs, but that's often stressful enough to make you stay and deal with your current employer, because at least you know how bad they can be.

So you have a dilemma. Sometimes, in the real world, you will have to suck in your gut and remember that what people say about you and do to you do not define you as a person. You can rise above their scorn, ridicule, and persecution, and be the better person you know you can be. Yes, it's tough, but life isn't easy.

You may also have to learn when to say when, and become acquainted with the notion of firing your employer, your teacher, or your coach! When you quit a situation like this, you are not a quitter!! You are getting rid of a negative influence and moving in the right direction! Good riddance! My hat is off to those of you who have gotten out of this sort of situation.

Cut the dead weight and move on with your life, because life is too short to deal with Negative P.

That brings me to my final point. All of us have to choose who you want to be. Our actions, our words, and our gestures will have long lasting effects on the people close to us, and even on those who we may not know:

Remember how bad you felt when the kid down the street made fun of you? Well, that was thirty years ago, and you still remember it, don't you?

Remember how happy you felt when your coach rubbed your head and told you, "Great job!"

Remember how bad you felt when your boss singled you out and ridiculed you in front of the company?

Remember what a thrill it is to make your parents proud?

All of us, at some point, are children, teachers, parents, bosses, and coaches. And all of us have an effect on other people's lives. Please try to make it a good one.

Marty Gaal - April 2001