Sometimes I wonder if I happen to be in certain situations which provoke my thought process or am I just wired in a way that my thought process is on that ready – steady – go state, and gets fires in certain situations? Whichever way it is, my thought process seems to be in an ‘geared up and ready to be charged’ mode.. A boon and a bane!!!

Here was this all of a ‘young adult’ wanting to go to on a trip with a few friends, to a place about 300 plus kilometers from the city the family was staying in. Well, 600 plus kilometers to and fro, not to mention the distance they may travel if they want to visit some nearby places also. The conversation between the ‘young adult’ and the parents started out all amicably until the former realised that things were not going the way it was expected to go. So here is how the first few minutes went.. What the parents said is in bold..

How will you go? By an SUV.

Whose SUV is it? One of my friends’.

Who would drive the SUV? A couple of us would take turns to drive. I want to also drive but not really sure.

SUV’s are powerful vehicles and all of you are young and when a group of you drive together, you may want to go at a higher speed and that can be risky. We are mature enough and will not go at a higher speed. You need to trust us..

And this conversation went on for another half an hour, turning into a heated exchange of words and decibel levels slowly rising.

The ‘young adult’  so miffed that there was no positive answer coming from the parents for this trip with friends, threw a few words as a parting shot and left to meet a few friends. The words  had the power to cause a shade of anguish even if momentary, to the people it was being said to. There was a thundering silence for a while and both parents went on their work as though nothing happened. No one said anything but there was an unsaid unease in the environment for some time. The last I heard was that the trip of the ‘young adult’ was called off due to dates not working out for all the friends.

My thought process was fired. What really did the ‘young adult’ expect? Was the expectation that the parents would be convinced of what was being said about the trip and say an immediate yes, to the trip? That did not happen and so the ‘young adult’ being miffed?

The parents expected the ‘young adult’ to understand their perspective and fears, and back off from the trip? That this ‘expected understanding’ will convince the ‘young adult’ to call off going on that trip? That did not happen and they led to their few words?

Should they have tried convincing each other or influencing each other?

These two words kept coming back to me  – convince and influence. What did they attempt to do to ensure that the other person did what they expected to do? Did they attempt to convince the other person? or did they attempt to influence the other person?

Two verbs that seem to yield similar results – the other person doing what we think they should do. I tried to use them in sentences to understand if there was a difference. I was not able to spot a difference but there seemed to be a difference. I moved to the next step – dictionary online 🙂

I referred to Cambridge dictionary for the meaning of these two words, took each word separately, extrapolated them, put them in different perspectives and asked questions to myself.

Convince means – able to make you believe that something is true or right.

Does that mean that when we try to convince people, we are working to gain their trust; because we want them to believe that what we are saying is right? Is this what the ‘young adult’ or the parents were doing to each other, from each of their perspectives? So when they thought that they were not gaining that trust from the other, the heated exchange began? Is this heated exchange a reflection of helplessness felt by them when they were not able to convince each other? So when there is a sense of making someone believe in what we are saying and that we think does not happen, we think they don’t trust us?

Influence means – the power to have an effect on people or things.

Does this mean that the focus of influencing is not to make the other person believe in what we are saying? Or does it mean that we think from their perspective and articulate in such a way that they look at our perspective? Doesn’t this then involve quite some thinking? And then the skill of articulating too? Quite a few skills to be ready with, isn’t it? So till the skill of influencing is mastered, a significant amount of time needs to be put in to build it. Time that we may not really invest in, until we think influencing as a skill is important.. Does not being able to influence also lead to helplessness and anger? Or when we build the skill of influencing, we also look at various ways to articulate? Each way being a back up plan in case another way does not work.. This  hence may mean that we are also preparing our mind for things not going the way we expect it to; so helpless or anger may be slow to come by.

While all these questions were mulling or rather milling in my mind, I was given an opportunity to open the petals of a lotus flower, for use in a function. The lotus flowers come as tightly closed buds, and in different sizes but all of them ready to be opened. Someone told me that when you tap the tip of the tightly closed bud, it loosens at the top and then slowly one can open out the petals into the beautifully layered flower. The first few of them, I went rather softly banging on the closed flower buds, with my closed fist and it then became a challenge to open the layers of petals because they closed further tightly. Then I saw someone gently tapping on the tips of a tightly closed but and the tip loosened to the extent that it was so easy to unfurl the layers of petals open. The petals in the outer layers are bigger and they curl up slightly as they are opened. Less care in uncurling of the petal and it just tears into two halves, given the softness of the petal.

I could not but think draw a parallel..

Tightly closed Lotus bud = person we are influencing

Tapping the Lotus bud = Using the right approach to open up that person’s thinking

Unfurling the petals layer by layer = Slowly unscaffolding the person’s thinking so that they could understand what is being said

Less care in uncurling the petals leading to the petal tearing into two halves = Using words with less thought and less sensitivity leading to perhaps an irreparable break in the relationship.

This experience of opening the lotus flower, made me understand which path I would like to or hope to take most times – whether to convince others or to influence others.. Which path do you think you would take?