But I Can’t Help The Way I Am!

Do you know anyone who says this when their behaviour doesn’t go quite to plan? (Perhaps you know them intimately?)

I recently had someone say this to me, when I tried to put a positive spin on a not so positive incident that had just happened to them.  This reaction got me thinking about the age-old question, “do we have to accept ourselves just as is, or can we change the way we are?”

The neuroscience research I have read suggests that one can in fact change, but in order to do so you need a PhD in your own patterns of thinking and behaving. That means becoming super aware, but how do you become aware of your default way of behaving right at the moment it is happening? Because, lets face it, if you want to react to something differently, you will need to have it well planned and get really good at catching yourself in the act.

Develop your skill at being Open to Influence

Becoming aware requires emotional effort and a willingness to become comfortable with feeling of discomfort. The reason I say this is because in order to better understand the impact of your actions on others, you need to be open to influence. By this I mean firstly listening with curiosity and no judgement to others people’s perspectives, reflecting on what they have said without becoming defensive and then possibly changing your view and perspective if what was said makes sense and resonates with you. This is about being open to influence.

What does being open to influence mean to you?

When I ask people what they think being open to influence mean , the most common reaction is to take the perspective that this is a weakness that will leave you vulnerable and open to manipulation and brainwashing.

I would argue the exact opposite. I believe that being open to influence is a strength that will leave you open to the greater awareness that is necessary for lasting change. If you are not open to really listening to others without bias and judgment, you will never.

So how do I go about this? Here is one suggestion that I have embodied personally and found to be extremely helpful.

Observe when what you intended has had an impact you did not expect.

 I’m talking about those times when you feel frustrated that someone has taken a completely different interpretation from your message, than what you had intended.

  1. Take a moment to notice how you are feeling in your gut. Is it a warm fuzzy feeling or is it a knot?
  2. If it feels bad, you may be feeling triggered because your intention and impact turned out to be different.
  3. Note to self: “The message is in the receiver not the sender.” It is all about the receiver’s interpretation that will get you what you want or not.
  4. Now is not the time to get angry or frustrated, it is the time to get mega curious about why the other person took your message the wrong way.
  5. In order to find out what you really need to know, you will need to put your own agenda aside and ask questions about things you do not already know. For example, you could say, “I would really like to understand what you took from what I just said?”
  6. Listen and take what the person says to heart so you can reflect on how your own behaviour resulted in the impact you got. This does not mean getting dark on yourself, it is reflecting purely for greater self awareness.
  7. Only now that you are more aware, can you consider how you could have behaved differently to get a different outcome.
  8. You are well on your way to changing the way you react, when you become skilled at this process, or as I call it being open to influence.

Based on my understanding of the neuroscience literature, it is not easy to change the instantaneous reaction we have to a perceived threat, but we can work to become skilled at catching ourselves when we are triggered and choosing how we want to behave. This is not an easy thing to do but is absolutely possible.

With repetition, we can change the way our brain is wired.

If you follow my strategy repeatedly, over time you will notice yourself becoming more open to influence in a positive and targeted way.  Practice this often and you will find that your focus will shift from defensive to open.

We all know that in the end what you focus on is what you get! I wonder how open you are to experimenting with all of this? Please share your thoughts.

Hi there! I’m Jacqui Snider and I’m here to help you and your business grow and flourish.

As an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and Trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals and organisations develop better home and workplace practices that everyone enjoys being part of. With more than 35 years of coaching experience, I have personally coached and trained in excess of 350 leaders, bringing about transformational change in both individuals and teams.

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