“It’s difficult to soar with the eagles, when you’re scratching with the turkeys!” ~Unknown
As the mother of a teenage daughter, I find myself thinking about this topic a lot. Any parent will tell you, we GET that who our kids hang out with shapes who they are.
But recently I started to wonder about this in my own life, and began thinking about the people I come into contact with every day (family, friends, and coworkers). How might I be allowing them to shape me?
Most of the time, we come across people and either “fall in” with them or not based on how well we “click”, but it's not usually a considered decision. When I meet someone new, I don't immediately ask myself if this person is displaying the kind of values and thought patterns that align with mine. I just simply interact with them; especially if it's a work relationship and there's no option not to interact.
Through that interaction, though, we are shaped by those around us, whether we are conscious of it or not. The term for this is modeling. Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) defines modeling as: a method or strategy of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating patterns of language and behavior observed in others.
This is how children learn, and it's a method of learning that sticks with us throughout our entire lives. As we grow older, modeling begins to be applied by us more and more pervasively. Watch any group of teenagers at the mall and you will see this in action. They all talk alike, gesture alike, share common opinions, and so on. As adults, we like to giggle at this sort of unoriginality or “copy-catting” that our children display, when in reality we aren't really immune to it ourselves.
NLP helps us understand how to think about and use modeling in a positive way though. Think about the often quoted phrase on job sites: “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. When applied to behavior, this becomes something more like: hang around with folks who represent who or where you want to be because, the more time you spend with someone, the more you begin to adopt their behavior and energy patterns. This can be a very positive thing if you are surrounding yourself with people you aspire to be like.
Conversely, this can be extremely limiting if you are hanging around people who are caustic, negative and generally unsatisfied. The thing is, you simply cannot hang around with negative or destructive people, and expect to live a positive life. Here’s why:
Your group influences your thoughts
Thoughts determine feelings
Feeling determine actions
Actions determine results
We cannot always choose who we hang around with, and when the caustic person is a family member or a coworker, it can be difficult to limit exposure. So, what can we do about that?
Well, the good news is that it works both ways! You do not have to play only the role of the “changed” through interaction; you can also be the “change agent”. If you are spending enough time around people who are energizers for you and who are influencing you in those positive ways, you will not only be more drag-resilient when around the curmudgeons, but you just might bring some of that positive influence their way. With exposure, over time, who knows what changes you may notice in them?
The point is that we are all walking around this world every day flinging our energy, good or bad, every which way. Those who are hit by it will respond in kind; and hit often enough, will begin to be changed by it. So, why not spend our time with people who are hitting us with positive and empowering energy? As we are influenced by them, we likewise influence others in our lives. Love begets love, kindness begets kindness, generosity begets generosity; what a wonderful thought!
Trish Cody is a speaker and coach whose work is focused on raising awareness of how our default tendencies and beliefs predict our capacity for success, and how those defaults can be adjusted to create more positive results. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, and learn a process of leading energy to attract positivity and success naturally.
All rights reserved; Trish Cody Coaching LLC; 2015