Monday, October 24, 2011

Who's Your Influencer, Baby?

reatest opening line for an article this week
  "Babies and psychopaths have one thing in common:  They're excellent at getting what they want."  Read the rest here:

The Art of Influence | Psychology Today

 As I read this article, my  mind naturally snapped to the horse world.  Oh, sure, politics is an easier target, but we're here about horses, mostly, and the craziness that surrounds them.

Every horseman--rider, owner, and wannabe alike--is influenced by someone and, in turn, influences someone else, even if it's only the horse at the other end of the rope.  Starting there, there's a whole cartload of reasons to be careful and aware of where the influencers in your life are coming from and what their agendas might be.  If the Ideal Example of the recent Rescue Phenomenon hasn't brushed your sleeve yet, let me update you.  We have a bunch of horses without homes and a bunch of people trying to find homes for them.  As influencers, these folks are top-drawer.  As a result, horses have on many occasions gone to homes where they really didn't belong to be owned by easily-influenced people without a clue.

One cookie and a carrot chunk gets
a hat on a horse's head.

Several days of cookies and his own broom
got me a new barn hand.

Then there's the money thing.  These influencers are not all on the up-and-up.  Hard to believe, I know!  Bad people in the horse biz?  Really?  Yes, Susie, there is a wolf in that sheep's outfit, and he's hitting you up for money in ways that you are hard-pressed to resist and for purposes that would curl your ponytail if you knew about them.

But that's not all the influencing that goes on in the horse world.  Just attend any show and note the riding styles, clothing styles, equine conformation styles, barn management styles, jargon being tossed about, and even the names of the classes, and you'll find influencers at work.  A plaque on my wall caught my eye while I was dusting (okay, truth be known I couldn't see it until I removed the grey fur) that showed that sometime back in the 90's I'd won a class called the Jerry Lewis Classic.  I have no idea what that was, though I suspect given my age that it was the Class Formerly Known As the Jack Benny.  That was a nice upgrade from the original "Old People On Horses" title.  We aging horsemen can be great influencers.  We have nothing left to lose including our dignity.

There are influencers correcting every inch of our riding lives if we let them.  They do this in insidious ways.  According to the article, most successful influencers are optimists.  Pessimists give up and go out for drinks at the first frown.  Optimists keep plugging until they wear down the opposition.  They're so sure they're going to prevail that they see no reason to quit until they do. 

ZIP:  "Touch what?  Sure!  Want me to do anything else while
we're at it?  A little tap dance or something?  Those carrots have
my name on 'em!"
The key to influencing is to make the request or demand seem to be in the best interests of the recipient of your attention.  It's also helpful (according to the current book Influencer:  The Power to Change Anything, by Kerry Patterson et al) to set up situations whereby the person you are trying to change hears or reads a pointed story and/or experiences the situation for him/herself as opposed to listening dumbly as you rant and lecture.  Knowing how easy it is to influence should make you doubly aware of the influencers in your surrounds and it should make it possible for you to apply the same principles whether to your spouse, boss, teenager or horse.  "Make the Undesirable Desirable" is the mantra.  They do it to you;  you can do it to them as well.  In education, we call it "finding their currency".  What is it they want, and how can you put that to use to benefit yourself?

With your horse, this is an easy process.  Horses don't have quite the level of ulterior motivation we humans have achieved, so convincing a horse to do something he doesn't want to do usually involves a calm approach (they like peace and quiet), lots of patience (predictability and control are big horse issues), and food (and more food, and even more food).  It's amazing what a horse can suddenly want to do when he hears the rustle of the cookie bag.  In my case, it's the black leather treat-and-clicker pouch.  I put that on, and suddenly my herd is lined up waiting to find out what they have to do for whatever is in the pouch. 

My point for today is that 1) influence comes in Good and Bad and gradations between the two, and 2) "give as good as you get" is a good motto to hang your hunt cap on.  According to Patterson (et al), two things are required for change:  The changer has to decide 1) whether the change is possible, and 2) whether it's worth it.  Figure out what pushes your buttons and note who's doing the pushing.  If you can see an agenda in the fine print that doesn't necessarily have your best interests as a basis, it's time to back off and switch roles with the influencer.  Convince him/her that it's in his  best interests to get out of your space and away from your Aura of Power, and move on in peace.  You'll know if the influencer is trying to be helpful, and you'll also know if he's not.  Just take a step back and make a mental list of what each of you stands to gain.  The devil is in the balance.

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