If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton
The Two Types of Influential Forces
There are essentially two kinds of people in this world (there could, of course, be more, but for the purposes of this article let’s just keep it to two). And these people tend to live on completely opposite sides of the social spectrum.
The first kind of person has a very fleeting influence over others. They often come across as very strong and able, but their strength is shallow and as a result, they struggle to wield influence over others over the long-haul. The second kind of person has more of a subtle influence at first, however, this influence slowly builds and grows stronger over time.
Before exploring these two types of people in detail, let’s go through a quick self-analysis process to determine on which side of the social spectrum you tend to reside. Ask yourself:
Do I act out of a sense of fear or from a place of gratitude?
Do I typically like to take credit for things or do I give credit to others?
Do I always seek to be proven right, or am I okay with being wrong?
Do I feel superior to others or do I see other people as my equals?
Do I typically overshadow people or do I allow them to take the spotlight?
Do I often brag about my accomplishments, or do I prefer to talk about other people’s accomplishments?
Given your answers to these questions, how do you feel you are coming across to others in social situations? How are you presenting yourself to the world, and how does this help or hinder the influence you have over the people in your life?
The amount of influence we have over others, of course, depends on a various number of factors. I’ve discussed many of them in depth within the Becoming a Person of Influence article. However, there is one factor that stands out above all others that significantly impacts the amount of influence you have on people. That factor, of course, comes down to whether you operate coming from a place of gratitude or from fear. Or in other words, from humility or arrogance (in the form of domination).
Humility and arrogance, of course, operate on opposite sides of the social “influence” spectrum. Both certainly hold some power, but for one, that power is fleeting, while for the other it is subtle but lasting. Let’s explore these two sides of the spectrum in a little detail.
The Two Opposite Sides of the Social Spectrum
On one side of this spectrum, we have those who put themselves up on a pedestal above all others. These people appear to have an incredible amount of self-confidence. However, their self-confidence is nothing more but a trick, similar to that of a magician who uses carefully thought out illusions to convince others of the validity of their act.
This person shows confidence on the outside, however, on the inside, they typically operate from a sense of insecurity and fear. They fear that sooner or later they will be caught out; that their magic trick will no longer validate the person they project out into the world.
I guess we could typically call these people arrogant, vain, self-centered, obnoxious or possibly even “full of themselves”. The self-confidence they project out into the world might temporarily help them feel better about themselves, however, this also comes at the expense of others. Why? Because they feed off the energy of other people in order to raise their own self-value and self-worth.
All they do is talk about themselves and their accomplishments while making other people feel rather small and insignificant. And of course, they do this in an attempt to hide their own flaws and insecurities. In other words, they are hiding their authentic selves from the world.
Now this, of course, rubs people the wrong way. Most people quickly see through this illusory act and quickly lose all respect for this person. And when respect goes, so does any influence that these people potentially could have had over others.
There is, of course, a second type of person. And it could be said that this person is the exact opposite of the first. They are typically very genuine, polite, grateful, appreciative, sincere, modest, calm, and honorable. They don’t put on an illusory act in order to inflate their own ego at the expense of others. They are instead very authentic, open and transparent.
Yes, they too have their personal insecurities and fears, however, they don’t try and hide these parts of themselves from the world. They instead embrace who they are completely. And because they embrace themselves in this way they are able to authentically present themselves to the world. And it’s this authenticity that gives them incredible power and influence over others.
What it Means to be Humble
To be humble is to have humility. It’s about showing respect and courtesy to others while also giving yourself that same courtesy and respect in return. It’s all about being gracious in victory as well as in defeat. It’s about being assertive but not aggressive, about showing self-confidence but never at the expense of others; and it’s also about giving to others what they would essentially like to give to themselves.
A humble person will often put others on a pedestal before themselves, and this is not because they are inferior, weak-minded or lacking in self-esteem, but rather because they clearly understand that by raising others helps build their confidence. And with greater self-confidence, these people subsequently feel more empowered and worthy, and as a result, they become more trusting, receptive and open-minded. It effectively brings their guard down and gives the humble person a greater amount of influence over their behavior.
I guess this is kind of a form of manipulation, but I suspect that anything that we do consciously in a premeditated way must be considered a form of manipulation. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that it’s evil or wrong. All powers, just like the force within Star Wars, can be used for both good and evil. And helping to build people’s confidence is certainly on the light side of that force. 🙂
However, the value of humility goes well beyond the fact that you will have greater influence over people. Humility also encourages you to stay more open and receptive to alternate perspectives and ideas. Moreover, it eases the pressure on your shoulders because you don’t need to put on an act to try to live up to lofty standards and expectations. As a result, you experience less stress and anxiety. In fact, humility makes you feel better about your failures and mistakes because you’re always open to learning from every experience.
Humility does, however, require a great deal of self-control. It’s just easy to flaunt your own accomplishments and attributes in order to lift yourself above the pack. In fact, it’s part of human nature to act in this way. We see examples within the animal kingdom of how domination gains a primate influence and power over others. This is simply a part of nature. However, this form of domination isn’t true influence and is often very fleeting. It’s only when we work against human nature and utilize humility to its full effect that we begin to experience what it truly means to have influence over others.
How to Develop the Humility to Influence Others
How do we work against human nature? How do we actually work against our natural tendencies in order to live with more humility?
They are two very good questions, and there is no one single answer I could give you. There is instead a multitude of things that we must focus on making “a part of ourselves” in order to live with a humble heart. It is only when all these small elements work in unison and harmony do we begin to truly grasp what humility is all about.
The easiest way to go about this is to simply list the actions, habits, behaviors, and beliefs that create the humility cocktail. Mixing all these ingredients together is the only way to grow a true, genuine and authentic humble heart.
How to Grow a Humble Heart
A humble person…
- Understands that true success requires other people’s help and encouragement.
- Will often redirect praise to others. In fact, they will give credit for success to another person at their own expense in order to build the other person’s self-confidence.
- Openly acknowledges their faults and weaknesses with the intention to help boost other people’s self-confidence and self-esteem. In other words, they lower themselves in order to lift others.
- Recognizes their talents and strengths as gifts that they openly acknowledge and accept without the need to flaunt them.
- Recognizes that the strengths and the skills they have developed over a lifetime are a direct result of support that they have received from other people.
- Tends to dig deeper into what makes each person unique and special. As such they are readily able to recognize the beauty and the potential that exists within each individual.
- Believes that there is always more to experience and learn. As such, they never shut themselves off from the possibilities that may exist.
- Is always incredibly encouraging to others. No matter what mistakes or errors people make, they are always quick to acknowledge the positive takeaways from every situation.
A humble person…
- Is very open to constructive criticism. As such they are extremely teachable and willing to learn from their choices, behaviors, and actions.
- Is quick to apologize and to learn from their errors and mistakes.
- Is both a loyal follower as well as an inspirational leader. They clearly understand how to play each role for the greater benefit of the team.
- Is always willing to share their successes with others, but they do so not to gloat, but rather to inspire others to greater things.
- Has a competitive streak. Yes, they live with humility, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t strive to do their very best in every situation.
- Has a zest and appreciation for life. They tend to appreciate the smallest of things that others typically take for granted.
- Is intensely focused on serving the greater good of others. As such, they are always keenly aware of people’s desires, wants and needs.
- Keeps their goals to themselves. They clearly understand that talking about their goals can rub some people the wrong way. A focus on encouraging other people to talk about their goals and aspirations is far more appealing for them.
A humble person…
- Listens intently when others are talking. They seek first to understand before jumping to any wayward conclusions.
- Clearly understands that they do not know it all. They are therefore very open and willing to ask for guidance and feedback from others.
- Accepts compliments and praise with humility. They appreciate what is given to them wholeheartedly without guilt or shame. They accept the praise and then carefully switch the focus of the conversation onto the other person’s attributes and/or accomplishments.
- Experiences emotions just like everyone else, however, they typically don’t allow themselves to indulge in emotions that make them feel insecure and fearful.
- Never compares themselves to other people. As such, they never feel envious or jealous of others. Even more so, they never seek revenge over what someone might or might not have done to them.
A humble person…
- Is extremely comfortable in their own skin and never holds grudges. As such, they are always the first to forgive people for their behavior and actions, whether well-intentioned or not. They clearly believe that everyone deserves a second chance.
- Never goes out to seek recognition for something they have done. They instead work for the team. They put the cooperation and accomplishments of the team above all else.
- Never tries to dominate or overshadow others. Their focus is always on lifting other people’s spirits. That is after all how they tend to gain influence in social situations.
- Won’t be caught bragging, gloating, or boasting about themselves or their accomplishments. Likewise, you will never catch them judging and/or belittling people for poor results. They understand that people are always doing the best they can with what they have. Judging or belittling people will never make things better.
- Never responds with “I know”. Responding with “I know” immediately after someone finishes their sentence shows little respect for the other person and actually puts you on a pedestal above them. This is no way to influence or gain trust.
A humble person will often respond with respect and humility by saying:
I’d be honored…
It’s my pleasure…
I appreciate that…
You are most welcome…
A humble person…
- Always strives to be fair and supports equality in all social situations.
- Openly praises people for their talents, skills, ideas, and accomplishments. In fact, they will often be the first to praise another person in front of others.
- Is always very thankful for suggestions, ideas, support, help and even for the smallest of things that others rarely notice. This is all about being intuitively aware of people’s good intentions in every situation.
- Consistently contributes to helping make other people’s lives better. They will typically help lift people’s spirits when they are feeling down; help them accomplish their goals when they are struggling, and help people overcome obstacles that are keeping them stuck. And sometimes they will even do this anonymously in order to ensure that they don’t inherit the credit.
A Subtle Yet Powerful Influential Force
Humility might not typically be the powerful force one might initially think of when it comes to influencing other people. It’s certainly not something that has an immediate impact. However, when practiced over time it will progressively and covertly begin to win you favor in other people’s eyes.
Behind the scenes, humility works in a very subtle way that slowly magnetizes people toward you. It does this because it wins people’s trust, honor, and respect. And those whom we trust, honor and respect will always have the greatest influence on our lives.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Ways to Tell if Humility is Real or Fake @ Fox News
- 6 Principles for Developing Humility as a Leader @ Harvard Business Review
- 6 Ways Humility Can Make You a Better Leader @ Fast Company
- 7 Ways to Tell if You’re Truly a Humble Person @ Huffington Post
- 8 Psychological Benefits of Being Humble @ Psyblog
- 13 Habits of Humble People @ Forbes
- How to be Humble, Yet Firm: The Secret Formula @ Psych Central
- Humility: A Quiet, Underappreciated Strength @ Time
- Humility: The Missing Ingredient to Your Success @ Entrepreneur
- The Paradoxical Power of Humility @ Psychology Today
- Why Being Too Humble is a Bad Thing @ LinkedIn
- Why Curiosity and Humility are Critical to Success @ Inc.