Vectors of Influence
Vectors of Influence come from all sides in a changing world and tension easily arises that hinder effective Human Transformation. Challenges arise leading teams through uncertainty and change of Digital Transformation. However, to arrive at good solutions, there is a lot of value in fostering discussions based on conflicting perspectives.
These interactions can play out to benefit everyone or to create rifts if emotions enter. In reducing conflict, it helps to appreciate the same interaction with the same person can go differently on different days. In other words, cut the other human some slack and listen for the core content of the message or conversation. Also, checking our own visceral reactions can really help – breath, then respond.
In taking a class on classroom management for my teaching credential, I remember hearing lots of questions on about what do I do in situation x, y or z. Life had taught me that every situation is different and hence deserves a different approach. The same teacher and the same student in the same situation on two different days can unfold very differently based many things that may have preceded that encounter. It took me back to my physics roots on the influence of various forces that can contribute to any collision. Hence, I came up with an image like the one I created above.
None of us Immune to the Vectors of Influence
None of us are immune to the influences of experiences throughout our lives or even in the course of a single day. We bring those experiences into any interaction as do those that interact with us.
This is why in person interactions for important or contentious interactions are so much better. They enable you to gauge mood and how things are going and to leverage cues and your intuition on whether it’s better to adjust your approach. Still, there may be hidden vectors of influence.
This is also why first impressions matter so much. All the following interactions with this other person will be grounded in the first interactions. As such, it’s worth the investment to consciously prepare for and respond during the first interaction.
You can’t change what the other person brings to the interaction (other than previous positive interactions to build upon). However, you can influence on where you start. This is why it’s good to start your day on the right foot. For example, a hug from one or more of your family members in the morning and knowing one awaits you when you return home can help start your day in a better place. One thing I do is timing a walk up 11 flights of stairs to the office in the morning (instead of taking the elevator). This helps start with a sense of accomplishment. Another suggestion to make your bed each morning (see video speech on that below). So, no matter how much you prepared in advance for the timing and delivery of something you want to say, its also important to check your gut at the start of the conversation on whether the person is in a good state to receive relative to how they usually are.
Time of Day Influence
While we may not be conscious of it, the time of day impacts our demeanor and ability to process complex situations.
A study discussed in Psychology Today highlighted the impact of daylight exposure on mood. This study involved over 500,000 people and showed that each additional hour spent outdoors significantly lowered the odds of becoming depressed. Greater exposure to sunshine each day also correlated with reduced antidepressant usage, greater happiness, and lower neuroticism. The study underlines the importance of our circadian rhythms, which align biological and behavioral functions with daylight. Disconnection from these rhythms, such as spending most waking hours indoors with artificial lighting, leads to mood decline and poor sleep quality.
An Argentinian study used large databases of time-stamped online chess games to investigate decision-making throughout the day. They found morning decisions tend to be slower but more accurate, while later decisions are more abrupt with less accuracy. This suggests that time of day does have a notable impact on decision-making abilities. The study also explored the concept of chronotypes (morning people or “larks” and evening people or “owls”). They found that chronotype did not significantly impact chess performance. However, decision-making quality varied with the time of day for all players.
Being the Peacemaker
We sometimes find ourselves in the role of a peacemaker when there is tension between others. There are various tools that can help in that role. See, for example: “The Leader as Peacemaker/ Managing the Conflicts of a Multifocal Workplace”
A Seattle Christian Counseling article discusses how a peacekeeper may exhibit codependent behavior. A fear of conflict can contribute to anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, self-worth issues, and people-pleasing tendencies. Striving for a peaceful atmosphere in various settings (family, work, church) without seeing results can be a sign of codependency. The article emphasizes the distinction between peacekeeping and peacemaking. Carrying a burden for someone else’s peace can take a toll on mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual health.
In my experience, it helps to role model and equip others with tools, approaches and perspectives that can help avoid or defuse tension. One of the most effective perspectives in that regard comes with seeing everything as a gift. Every failure, setback, feedback or criticism is an opportunity to learn. No matter how delivered, we can receive it as such. Likewise, on the delivery side, our perspectives are far more likely to be heard and received if we think of giving them as a gift.
Vectors of Influence on Horses
Having had my own horse and learning about horse whispering also provided a great deal of insight. There are many very subtle influences impact a horse’s demeanor. It starts with understanding the implications of them being both flight and herd animals. They once roamed the wild wary of predators. It helps to know how much they queue off of your fear, nervousness/calm as well as your body posture. Knowing this allowed me to move a horse around an arena with changes in posture and look. With time you discover they change direction and speed, simply queued off of subtle, non-verbal gestures. It offered me another perspective for interactions of all types.
When taking a class on the various theories of psychology, the professor started by having us learn about the childhood of the psychologists. Knowing what shaped their personalities proved to be invaluable in understanding some of the origins of their theories.
John Boyd’s OODA Loop and theory behind it also digs into having a full understanding of all vectors of influence. It was born out of his experience as a fighter pilot, but’s it’s applicable in a very generic sense.
Steven Covey provides a great example of how differently we can perceive things if we know what happened in someone’s day before we encounter then (and conversely how little when we don’t)….
“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what do think, and I guess they don’t know who to handle it either.”
- Robert Coram – Boyd – The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
- Sun Tzu’s – The Art of War
- Stephen R. Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People & the 8th Habit
- Wyatt Webb – It’s Not About the Horse
- Wikipedia: John Boyd’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action Loop (OODA)
- Simon Sinek’s talk on Empathy and Perspective