Good day, team.
This past week, I’ve been thinking about how many of us constantly try to influence others to adopt our point of view. We try to convince others that the way we see something or the opinions we have are correct. We want others to see or think of something in the same way we do, so we work to sell them on our ideas and attitudes.
Just look at what happens at political conventions — candidates and their supporters make speech after speech trying to convince voters that their way of thinking is correct, with lots of examples to support their thinking. These speeches often contain both facts and falsehoods to convince the audience. The candidates position themselves as being right and the opposition as being wrong. Over the years, we have increasingly seen our political candidates criticizing the opposing party to gain the advantage in the election. Personally, I find this kind of negative advertising to be counter productive because it creates a lot of fear in people. Fear can be used as a strong motivator, but I don’t believe that fueling fear in people is a good way to win elections. In the end, none of us are better off.
What is often forgotten here is that behind all the opinions and influential statements are real people. The following paragraph from a recent post on Ramble, Ramble, a blog written by a woman named Ginger, says this so well:
“There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals or all conservatives … when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans … when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people. Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your co-workers.”
I see this same phenomenon occur within teams at work. It’s not uncommon for members of different teams to disagree. They may want the same outcome, but the way they want to go about getting that outcome can be quite different. For example, let’s say that the accounting manager and the marketing manager disagree about how much money should be spent on a new marketing campaign. It won’t take long before the accounting manager starts making some derogatory remarks about the marketing manager to his or her own team of accountants. This type of speech, meant to influence others on the team, may make the accounting manager feel better and more justified in the moment. When we feel strongly about something, we want others to agree with us. We don’t want those marketing people to spend too much money on a bogus campaign. We want them to stay within the budget we outlined. So the accounting manager forgets that the marketing manager is a peer and that they both are part of the same overarching team. Instead, it feels okay to throw the marketing manager under the bus to make things right. But what happens when someone on the accounting team is asked to give the marketing department some information? This person might have an immediate negative reaction because of what his or her boss has said about the marketing manager. In our desire to get people to think and act the way we want them to, we sometimes overlook the negative impact that our influencing can have on others.
I often ask myself these three questions when I feel strongly about letting others know what I think or feel:
- Is it worth doing damage to someone else just to be able to express my opinions?
- Am I trying to convince other people to come over to my side of the argument?
- What good results can come from this conversation?
When I hear people speak negatively about someone else, it always makes me feel sad. When I see a gang of people bully another group of people because they disagree with them, I feel outraged. When I observe myself thinking negative thoughts about someone I don’t understand, I feel irritated. None of these feelings help me in my life. They tend to seep into my state of heart and mind and pollute my inner peace and wisdom. When I try to influence someone to think poorly or negatively about another to build up my side of an argument, I end up feeling that negativity within myself.
This week, see if you’re trying to influence others against someone else. Maybe it’s in an aggressive way, making yourself look good and your opposition look bad, just like politicians do in their speeches. Or maybe it’s in a passive aggressive way by making side comments that incriminate someone you disagree with or think is stupid. Ask yourself whether you are helping the team by trying to influence others in this way. Is it worth the momentary pleasure that makes you feel as though you’re winning an argument or recruiting others to take your side? Does the feeling of “I’m right and you’re wrong” actually help all of the team meet its goals and get the results needed?
Of all the statements my mother repeated to me over and over again as I was growing up, this classic stands out: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This week, my challenge is to take my mother’s good advice and apply it to my speech and sharing of opinions. I encourage you to do the same.
Have a good week!
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