An Attitude of Influence

Things happen to us for a reason, and 99 percent of the time the reason is ourselves.

How often do you blame failure on yourself? If you're being deadly honest, you might feel little shame. Whose fault was it when you overslept? Whose fault was it that you forgot to make that important phone call today? Whose fault was it that you didn't get everything accomplished that you set out to do?

How many times each day do you lay the blame for your failure at someone else's feet?

How many times each day do the people you work with place the blame for their failures on someone else?

It's so easy to be a victim. The idea that all your problems are created by other people can be so comforting. "I've tried everything. I've done everything. I'm stuck. If my (boss, wife, children, mother, father, whoever else you want to blame) only did (whatever you failed to do for yourself) it would be different."

Victim-ism is the act of giving your own future away.

The moment you are tempted to put blame on somebody else, turn around and put the blame squarely where it belongs, on your own shoulders.

As long as you are quick to blame others, you will have absolutely no positive influence. The more you blame others, the more you negatively influence people. Think about anybody you work with who tends to blame their own failure on the behavior of others. Are you attracted to them?

The moment you accept responsibility for your failures and your successes, you start to build positive influence. The more you accept the responsibility for your failures, the faster you learn not to make the mistakes that led to those failures. As you accept responsibility, you demonstrate your willingness to be responsible for your failure or success. As you demonstrate that willingness, you exert a positive influence on everyone around you.

Victims have no influence.

Ethos, Pathos and Logos

Influence is persuasion. When you influence someone, you are persuading them to take a specific action, and to take that action without you directly telling them to do it. The Greek philosophy of persuasion and influence centers on three components...

Ethos:  This is the measure of trust that others place in you. Ethos is your character, how you demonstrate your guiding beliefs or ideas through your behavior and morals. You don't determine how much ethos you possess; your audience, the people around you, determine your ethos.

Pathos:  This is a measurement of your empathy, how well you sense and understand the emotions, sympathies, and imagination of those around you. As a mode of persuasion, pathos is the appeal to the other person's emotions. You could consider pathos a measure of how much you trust others, and of how much you are willing to be influenced by the sympathies and emotions of others.

Logos:  This is a measurement of your logic, your ability to be understood. Logos is the ability to perceive and make clear using reason. This is the logical argument. Logos is where others measure your phronesis, your practical skills and wisdom, your logical thinking, your prudence.

Influence involves possessing and using all three components. If all three components are present and aligned, then you will have influential power. If one of them is missing—or worse, if any one of them is out of alignment with the other two—you will have no influential power.

The order of these three components is important.

character-pack.jpgIf others do not view you as trustworthy or ethical, you will not have any influence over them. If you fail to acquire practical skills and wisdom, or to demonstrate virtue and goodness, or to demonstrate goodwill, others will not trust you. Your audience determines your level of ethos. If you have a direct interest in the outcome, an ulterior motive or stake, or you have no expertise, the people you wish to influence will mistrust you. You cannot achieve positive influence if you are not credible.

pathos.png If you are not interested in the feelings, emotions, ideas or imagination of others, they will reject your influence. You could say that a lack of pathos leads to pathetic influence. If you attempt to appeal only to someone's emotions, without engaging their ideas and imagination, your outcome may be pathetic. But if you are willing to understand the thoughts and emotions of others enough to accept their validity, that it is valid for others to have emotions and ideas, and that you recognize those emotions and ideas, you open the door to allowing others to influence you. Opening that door to you opens the door to them.

Once someone trusts you, and once you demonstrate that you are willing to recognize and understand their emotions and ideas, then you are in a position to use logic and reason to influence. If in your daily behavior you demonstrate ethos and pathos, people will naturally listen to your logos.

Easy to Get, Easy to Lose

It is easy to get ethos and pathos. You only need to demonstrate in everything that you do, your good character and your attention to others.

And that is the hard part. You can demonstrate positive ethos 99 percent of the time, but that 1 percent where you show the opposite characteristics can quickly destroy the trust others have in you. You can pay attention to others 99 percent of the time, and the one time you fail to consider the emotions and ideas of others, it diminishes your pathos.

People are actually very forgiving. They allow for imperfections and character flaws. Only absolutists punish others for their own failures. So you can slip up every once in a while as long as you are quick to recognize your mistake… and even quicker to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Recognition of failure and requesting forgiveness is the fastest way to repair your ethos and pathos. In fact, recognition and request could be one of the fastest tools for gaining a loyal following.

That brings us full circle to the beginning of this article. Recognizing your failure, taking the action of requesting forgiveness, and taking action to reduce the chance of making the mistake again moves you from victimhood to sovereignty.

The sovereign person has the greatest positive influence on others. The sovereign person has the exclusive right to make a commitment and keep it.

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