Invisible Influence

by Andrea Chilcote

As a student and teacher of navigating relationships, my work is a conscious effort in most cases. So I am fascinated and humbled when I learn about the unconscious ways in which I impact the lives of those around me. Today I was made aware of the result my work has had on a woman whom I admire greatly. And I began to think about the myriad ways we influence others as we go about our lives.

Throughout the past several days, I have observed women from many walks of life making their own unique contribution to the world around them. The circle they — (we) — touch may be small or large, but make no mistake, we have impact on others in our midst. We are all teachers. And, she who has this knowledge also bears responsibility. That is lesson number one.

In the The Thin Book of Naming Elephants, authors Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea Mayfield describe a phenomenon called “The Whisper Becomes a Shout.” They are referring to an observation that as one gains position authority in organizations, seemingly innocuous comments can be taken literally and followed to the letter with dangerous effects. I suggest that as we gain credibility in any walk of life — as an executive leader, a formal counselor or a Grandmother – the whisper becomes a shout. Become conscious of the messages you give out through both words and actions.

The acknowledgement I received this week provided lesson number two. Much of the time I do not know precisely how my work touches others, and never will. Lesson number two requires that we take a deep breath at the end of each day and feel satisfied in knowing we have done enough, more than we will ever, ever know.

You are having a profound impact even when you don’t see it. If we could all just rest each night knowing the good we spread in the world that day, surely we would be more energized and have more capacity for the next day’s work?

So here is the simple yet never easy opportunity provided by the two lessons: Stay present to the impact you have and choose your words and actions with care. Be bold, and at the same time, be compassionate. Then, remain confident in the knowing that you influenced in the unique way only you can do.

My hope is that you find this potent food for thought.


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