THE IDES OF JULY 2019
Influence is a word which may reference more than one concept. It may refer to the effect alcohol or other drugs have when people use them. And these chemicals alter human physical responses and mental perspectives. While they can cause considerable influence, there is no mind or will motivating their influence. The chemicals simply obey the laws of biology and physics.
Influence describes a relationship between objects; such as the Earth’s moon and its gravitational pull on Earth’s oceans. Or the influence the Sun has over the worlds that are orbiting it. Which is a natural consequence of gravity and physics. Yet just as with a chemical reaction, gravity’s influence has no motivation or intent.
However influence is also considered to be one person’s ability to have an effect on other people. This kind of influence is an indirect power or control over other people or things. It is a normal and daily aspect of human behavior and one of many social tools we use to satisfy our wants and needs. But there are many types of influence. And even more ways to use it.
There are many ways people gain influence. When you have information or knowledge that others lack; there is a chance exert your influence. Being in a position of authority gives you influence over all those who are under your control. If you are wealthy, your financial status provides influence over those whose have more modest means.
And one person can influence organizations, in addition to other people. Such as a skilled attorney may sway a court of judges with their or logic. Or a parent’s appeal that has an affect on a school board’s enforcement of their policy. Or an ambassador from another land that convinces an ally to fight in a war. While they have no direct control over their audience, their words may still influence that audience.
Our society honors and/or respects many kinds of people. When people are respected their influence grows. There is a class of people who are known collectively as influencers and their advice is in demand. In fact, people are now encouraged to contact these influencers. So that they gain knowledge and insight into the influencers areas of expertise.
But people influence each other with deeds as well as words. While we do rely on other people, we are often competing with some or many of them at the same time. This means that sometimes our influence on other people is not in their best interests. Of course the reverse of that is also true. However, what is even more surprising is that our actions and deeds influence others without our realizing it.
Here is a brief example of an unnoticed influence, with the unintended consequence which followed. There once was a college student (in another century) who decided to write a reference book. He compiled notes on different sections of his composition. Soon his record-keeping became unmanageable.
Then he hit on the idea of recording coded information on index cards rather than typed records. The idea worked well and gave him many advantages. It was easier to file index cards than books of typed notes. The notes on the cards were easier to catalog, reference and sort; than typed notes in a book. And, of equal importance, index cards cost a dime for a pack of one hundred cards.
As he was a student with no job, the price of the cards suited his needs well. His research grew rapidly after these changes and he saw a way to expand the project. And make it more comprehensive. This required amassing more index cards. He began working weekends to earn money to buy more and cards. Which he did, like clockwork, for two semesters. His project was taking shape and he felt that had completed seventy percent of his goal.
Then the following semester he went to the bookstore and discovered the price of index cards had increased. The price of index cards went from ten cents per hundred to thirty-nine cents per hundred. At that moment he realized that his spending habits had not only caused increased costs for himself. His actions also raised the cost of those cards for every student and instructor who used that bookstore.
It had not been his goal to quadruple the price of index cards in the bookstore. But that is exactly what his actions helped to influence. And no matter how much he might regret that, there was no way to undo it. However if he’d taken time to consider his actions more fully, he might have behaved differently. Although it would have required the additional step of considering how his actions might influence other people.
There is no doubt that we influence and are influenced by other people. And it is important to know what those influences are. To understand how they manipulate or exert control over us. As well as grasp how our influence has sway or motivation over other people; and their actions. This will help identify whether the ideas we consider are to our benefit or not.
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J.A. Stubbs, Editor-In-Chief
Forgotten Lore Publishing, llc