39C. Circle of Influence

The Circle of Influence:

The circle of influence is another amorphous circle. Its edges are not really distinct at all but blend at one edge with the circle of responsibility and the other edge with the circle of concern. Time, distance and circumstances modify the size and contents of our circle of influence.

Take for example a couple who were married and get divorced. While married they included at least a portion of each other’s thinking within each other’s influence. Issues about disbursement of moneys, how to raise the children, the relative importance of large purchases (houses, cars, furnishings) all revolve around a MUTUAL influence sphere. If the MUTUAL influence declines the distance between grows. The couple all too frequently ends in divorce. After the divorce both may find that the other person has left the circle of influence completely. Major stumbling blocks after divorce include how to raise the children, visitation privileges and child-support payments. And, all this occurs while each is usually trying to remove himself/herself from the circle of influence of the other. It is usually a bad time, for the circle of influence is not to be confused with the circle of responsibility and yet needs to move to a circle of concern…where? Where the couple is concerned about each other…..wow! getting divorced is not usually associated with concern for the other person (although there are exceptions).

So, leaving marriage as a separate circle of responsibility/influence/concern, let’s look at some other areas in our lives. Next, for the benefit of all who work, is employment. Within employment we usually have many associations. On the first day of a new job we walk in and try to set the stage we want others to play on. We may want to be friendly, or stern, or aloof, or independent, or knowledgeable. Once the stage is set, and certainly a vastly different amount of time for each individual, we start to relate to other employees on different bases. We start to let down the façade, and let the individuals into our worlds on more mature relational bases. We become concerned about them, and they, usually, become concerned about us. Some of us, no, probably all of us try to influence those people around us. We talk to them offering advice that the person may be seeking. We try to influence them about “better” ways to do things. This is influence if you hadn’t noticed.

If the influence has to do with the specific job we are responsible for the influence is considered appropriate. If the influence has to do with anything else we should be careful. Our circle of influence may include or conflict with the lifestyle of the individual, and worse may conflict with the only way that the person is capable of conducting life.

Strong willed people are not be influenced. Weak willed people may be overly-influenced. Those in between are the only ones that the circle of influence works to the advantage of all concerned—that means you, too.

Now, let’s say that you are surrounded by negats (an affectionate term for a person who dwells on negative thinking, or doomsday beliefs, or on THEM as the cause of all difficulties in life). If the person is a strong-willed person your influence does not extend to them Talk as you want, rationalize, hold a public debate over the negative/positive attitude-choices in life and you will convince nothing except the electrons recording the message. The strong-willed person believes strongly. You will not change their belief in the slightest, as a matter of fact you may soon find yourself as part of the negats belief system in THEM (the people who caused all the difficulties in their lives).

The weak-willed person usually yes’s you right into belief. They hear what you say, almost unconditionally accept what you say and (frightfully) become an extension of your belief system. At least until someone else sways them the other way. These people drive everybody crazy as they switch overnight from one belief system to another. Most of us don’t have many weak-willed people at work with us. Most of us are in very responsible jobs and weak-willed people don’t usually seek responsible positions at universities or major corporations. But if you look around you will find the weak-willed person in all walks of life, just absorbing light and changing looks like a chameleon.

In between the strong-willed and the weak-willed is a group of people who are the ones we influence. These people listen to us (and we to them), assess the value of what has been said, and accept that which fits into their experiential realm. These people lie in our circle of influence, and we in theirs. The amount of influence is usually related to the relationship between the people. The relationship is far more important than the social position.

Frequently, especially as a younger person, I have been in a situation where I have felt that I ought to be able to influence a person because I am their doctor, or their sensei, or their professor. And yet I do not seem to be able to influence them at all. What I expect by virtue of my position as doctor, sensei, professor is misguided. How I influence a person is determined by my attitude and relationship to the person involved and not by my social standing and position. Similarly, the attitude and relationship that the person establishes with me determines to what degree, if any, the person influences me.

If I am a rough-necked strong-willed person, I am not (at least publicly) influenced by others. If I am a weak-willed person I am swayed by every breeze from the mouths of those I am in contact with. If I am between the two extremes of strong and weak-wills, I allow another to influence me more by my relationship (or desire for relationship) with that person and that person’s attitude than by that person’s position as sensei, doctor, lawyer, teacher, boss.

In martial arts the karate-ka attempts to reach beyond his/her own strong-will or weak-will of habit, custom, training and experience. The goal is to approach a “rational” way of living. Although all people including the most strong-willed and the deep-into-the-weak-willed people will say that they are being rational this is not necessarily true. The true rational person is the listener, the assessor and the one who finds herself/himself being influenced by other people’s opinion when and only when the new opinion aims at a higher quality life experience.

Following the guidance or complaints of negats does not lead to a higher quality of life experience. Those who blame others or THEM do not lead to a higher quality of life experience. Blaming others and negativism is an escape from assessing and improving one’s own circle of responsibility (one’s self-development). Those who live in negativity with blame on THEM find themselves with fewer and fewer choices while most of their choices seem to revolve around others actions rather than their own choices.

Now when we come into a work or play environment that has as few as one negat, we often try to relate to this person with a special effort. After all we don’t really want to alienate the person or be tagged as a nose-in-the-air snob so we attempt to empathize with the person in an effort to establish an incipient relationship. Sometimes the empathy leads us to discomfort and even shared negativity, after all, negativity is a very strong attraction with its epinephrine rush and addiction. We may find ourselves becoming negative and yet not being able to influence the others opinion or attitude. This is not a battle of the wills and we don’t want to buy into it as if it is a battle or a challenge or within our circle of responsibility. Who is more strong-willed makes little difference. There will be no winner to this battle. Stronger willed people just clash and nothing gets done except the clashing. As soon as we recognize (Annanko) that we are being influenced in a way that depreciates the quality of our life experience we want to make a change in our life-style so that we do not suffer the consequences of a decrease in the quality of our life-experience. We may still be able to relate to this person on a different level, one which does not allow such negat influence on our life-style..

One of my favorite quotes from my Sensei is, “That the birds of worry and woe fly over your head, this you cannot stop, but that they make nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” Don’t buy into any belief system based on anything that will lessen the quality of your life experience.

On the other hand if you have a strong-willed person who is a posat, then plug in. Listen, assess, accept, choose those things that will lead to a higher quality life-experience. I hate to say it, but you or I would be really stupid not to do this…don’t you agree???

The negat will do you little to no good in developing a higher quality life-experience. You really don’t want to shun these people but you don’t want them to enter where they influence you. You want to exclude yourself from their circle of influence without alienating them or getting to the point where you do not have concern for them. So, that brings us up to the circle of concern.