Living in groups is complicated. Each one of us is part of several different cultures from friend groups to ethnic communities, and more. We are individuals experiencing life on our own terms, yet, like pieces of a puzzle, we each fill a unique role within the cultures we help form.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying: You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so choose carefully. We can’t help but take on bits from the people around us. As individuals change to meet new conditions, the people we spend time with inform our decisions and are inadvertently affected by the changes we make. These changes add up over time and bit-by-bit cause the evolution of a culture. In this way we influence and are influenced.
Births, deaths, marriage, divorce, career changes, health issues, and migration all impact the way we experience the world, and how we choose to come out of these events. I am learning to be open to people’s changes, and to cheer them on as they barge through life. And to be empathetic when times are tough. Judging other’s choices is just an easy way to look at things, taking very little consideration. It can be a challenge not to judge, though. I find myself stumbling too often.
Receiving unsolicited advice or opinions can make a person feel they are perceived as senseless. Our main task is to command our own lives, not to influence the journey of others. We will naturally influence those around us so there is no need to make that our focus. If we really want to have influence we can do so by our actions, by doing our personal best, in order to inspire.
From the outside, some things people do may seem ludicrous but judging will only create a rift in a relationship. Instead, we can lift one another up with a focus on the bright side of people’s choices. Even when ideas fail (although is it ever really a failure? I mean, we always learn from the experience, right?) a good support will urge you to press on. When a dream becomes a reality it will spread hope proving it CAN be done.
The complicated part can be knowing when something needs to be said and when to let a person learn from their mistakes. I’ve caught myself offering advice-not-asked-for and regret it as the words are coming out. It’s another something I am really working on. But if it seems like someone I care about is putting themselves in harms way, maybe it is my job to talk to them. It’s is hard to come across in a non-judgmental way but if done thoughtfully it has the potential to open the door for logical conversation leading to positive change.
I once had a great friend open my eyes when I almost made the biggest mistake of my life. Her bravery in initiating that difficult conversation is something I will forever be thankful for. The way she approached me it never felt like judgement. I desperately needed someone to lay the facts before me and when she did it was clear that I was on a doomed path. Things changed a lot for me after that shift and I’ve been continuously growing, exploring, and learning who I am ever since.
Got a story or thoughts relating to change and/or influence? I’d love to hear them – please comment or send me a message!