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Attempts to influence

Modern life seems, in a way, obsessed with influence – influencers, online statistics, leveraging interpersonal power for whatever cause we’re putting our name behind. Maybe it ties in with branding and identity? This train of thought whereby all our interactions become quantifiable so we must use them wisely; rather than simply frittering them away on social niceties.

In some ways, that’s great: bringing a degree of conscious awareness to the influence we have over others, the example we set and standards we’re upholding through all we say and do, is surely better than leading unexamined or careless lives. It’s undoubtedly true that we’re social creatures, influenced by others’ opinions, approval or disapproval of our choices.

But there’s also something about this aware intention that can unfortunately come across as strategic, false, calculated, condescending, or possibly somewhat aggressive. To deliberately use social interactions to push an agenda seems quite specific. If we’re telling other people what to do, presumably we need to tread carefully?

Communication, relationship, and change are all such delicate matters. With the pace of modern life and deceptively ‘easy’ interface technology’s offering, we might be tempted to pick those things up casually and confidently; but they’ve likely never been straightforward (see Notes One).

Of course, there are many urgent and deep-seated problems rising to the surface of modern society. And, despite its challenges, technology serves us well by bringing all that to our attention while potentially offering a powerful tool for redressing things. Learning how best to put those functions to use, so they help rather than hinder, isn’t easy though.

My reservation, I suppose, is around this inclination to tell others what to do (Notes Two). We may think the conclusions we’ve reached are ‘right’, but what does it mean when we leverage social relationships to our own ends? We may ‘be’ right; although we might also have latched onto but one part of a bigger picture. By putting up firm boundaries or expectations, do we risk alienating others and closing down conversation?

Many of these are actually genuine questions rather than rhetorical ones, as I’m honestly unsure about the nature of modern ideas around communication and change (Notes Three). I mean, what if, in all our best efforts at improving things, we’re actually driving deeper wedges between people and pulling up the drawbridges to respectful, inclusive discussion?

Might we not be better off making time for wider dialogue based on deeper understanding? Rather than pre-packaged opinions, priorities and solutions, might it be wiser to present views clearly enough that others see where we’re coming from and what matters in our eyes? If we’re sure of being completely right, could we not lay our logic out to be tested, explored and appreciated, instead of it being a non-negotiable battle line?

I just think it might be worthwhile investing more in attempting to respectfully bring people toward an informed, balanced, empathetic, independent, empowering understanding of life; rather than using other forces to guide or push people toward certain ideas.

Notes and References:

Note 1: “People Skills”
Note 1: Listening, tolerance & communication
Note 1: Conversation as revelation
Note 2: Modern activism in practice
Note 2: People wanting change
Note 2: Dealing with imperfection
Note 3: Fear or coercion as motivators
Note 3: Need to stand alone & think for ourselves
Note 3: Tell me why I should

Looking further into how aims play out, Dystopia as a powerful ideal explored the disparity between ideas and realities.

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