Instinctively, we always seek to gain control. We may not think of it as such, but ask yourself this question: what does it feel like to not have influence or control over a situation? It’s an uncomfortable feeling. It makes us feel helpless.
The more I’ve evaluated my conduct and thought impulses in relationships over the years, the more I’ve come to understand how much I crave control. It’s human and natural. But there are consequences. When we live with the results of a mindset conditioned toward control, it ends up backfiring on us.
Emotional Intelligence and Influence
“Success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person’s viewpoint.” — Dale Carnegie
What do you crave having control over most? Money? Time? Someone else’s decisions? As an author of two books, I recognize how much I crave time in solitude for using my creative imagination. What resonates most for you?
Take a step back in reflection and you’ll realize no one likes being controlled by another person. We do, however, like to be influenced. Influences begin in our thoughts which are imbued by emotions. The more we lead with self-awareness and empathy, the better we are for someone else.
In order to progress in our relationships, we are far better suited to aim for influence over outcomes, as opposed to striving for control over things we cannot control. By working toward influence in relationships, we gain new insights, develop empathy and practice listening with greater intention. We genuinely want to understand another human being.
That makes both us and the object of our affection better.
At the intersection of understanding our emotions and influence, we find greater insights into how to improve our relationships. Dr. Alex Lickerman shares his thoughts on the topic of emotions in relationships and how the power of influence makes a big difference:
The price of having satisfying relationships, then, lies in the fact that others will often not do as we want, frustrating us, yes, but also challenging us to become our better selves. And if we succeed in becoming those, we may, through the power of influence, help them to become theirs.
Six Key Principles of Relationship Influence
The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton
35 years ago, Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a landmark book entitled, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” In this book, he highlights six key principles of influence:
- Social Proof
All six of these principles help you to gain influence that leads to healthier, happier relationships. How do you plan to find the person you want to marry or enter into a long-term partnership with? All of these relationships scenarios require the power of influence!
Reciprocity is about doing something kind or generous for someone else, in the hopes that gesture may be returned in kind. I only try to do things that are genuinely in rhythm with my heart and mind’s desire. I want to help my wife. I want to do nice things for my friends. I love it when they return the favor, though I make every effort to give without expecting anything in return.
This is a servant leader’s mindset and it’s one seasoned with empathy and love.
Commitment is absolutely critical in relationships, so there’s no wonder we consciously work to commit to our partner or friend. Commitment is about gaining “buy-in” and trust from another person, by showing yourself to be trustworthy and honest. Commitment also involves eliminating distractions and focusing on what matters most to you and your partner.
Social proof is a relational currency of “peer pressure.” Social proof influences and inspires us to do good for someone else — to build a powerful, lasting relationship — because we observe that person, or others, doing the same. We want to do that which we hold in high esteem and observe to be compassionate and loving.
When aiming to influence, authority is often the most important factor. In the context of relationships, it means making a commitment to someone or doing something more lasting that shows confidence. In emotional intelligence, this is about self-management and the nuances of social skills to show someone that you are confident capable and able to be trusted in a relationship.
For liking, this is all about self-awareness. Sensitivity and self-awareness toward our emotions and the emotions of others. Furthermore, it’s the ability to use that awareness to help better manage our responses to ourselves and others. The more we influence our emotions — and the emotions of others — with positive thoughts and altruistic actions, the more we are liked.
Scarcity influences our behavior by often citing a diminishing amount of time or a limitation in some capacity. In relationships, we often hear, “I can’t wait forever,” when it comes to a partner waiting for a proposal. I suppose the same words could be used by my wife when I’m lagging behind to get ready in the morning!
Scarcity influences behavior by impressing importance on the value of time.
We all need methods to influence. Don’t mistake influence for manipulation. It’s far from it. Influence is an effort to gain alignment and unification with another person in a relationship. It begins with emotional intelligence.
Strive for this over control. Your desire to influence should tie back to your core values, innate personal desires and a call to do good. Follow this and you will live a life true to yourself.