What is influence?

Stoics teach that we should worry about what we can control and ignore what we cannot. This is generally sound advice and I tend to agree.

But, the Stoics have not covered all bases. Many psychologists advise that we cannot control how others feel, and we may not be able to control how we feel either. If we gain a better understanding of how we and others feel, we can then make adjustments to our behavior. This allows us to better advocate for ourselves and others, and better meet everyone’s needs. Yay!

My friend Michael is one of the smartest people I know and we dove into this topic on a long stroll. As they say in Starwars, only the Sith deal in absolutes. To say that we can control others doesn’t seem accurate. To say that we have no control over others doesn’t seem quite right either.

“The classical definition of power, commonly used by political scientists and others, is that power is the capacity to get others to do or stop doing something now, or in the future.” — Dr. Moisés Naím

The key thing to suss out here is influence. I must give Michael credit for helping me establish this thinking. Influence can be defined as probabilistic control. Lower influence denotes a lower probability that behavior will change based on whatever influence occurs. Higher influences denote a higher probability that behavior will change.

Things get interesting when we don’t know how much influence we have. Sometimes we have more than we think. Sometimes less. And sometimes, we truly have no idea how much influence we wield.

PS- please let me know if you’d like me to expand upon any of this and I’d be happy to elaborate. As my friend Marlon says, many books should be articles, and many articles should be tweets 🙂

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