There is a lie out there that many (including myself) are prone to believe. It is the belief in a neutral “gear” of influence (if influence were gears in a transmission, you might think of positive as forward and negative as reverse). This neutrality is (supposedly) an ability to exist in relationship with someone without affecting them at all. It’s a myth and I’m calling it out.
See, we tend to think that we have three options when it comes to influencing others: Positive influence (for the good), Negative influence (for the bad), or Neutral influence (no influence at all). But this is a mistake. There are in fact only two: Positive and Negative; Neutral influence is no influence at all and shouldn’t even be on the list.
Influence must exist within the context of relationship. Relationships are the habitat in which influence flourishes, and the influences happens just as naturally and effortlessly as grass grows. So to say that I can have relationship with someone and can choose whether I influence them is preposterous. The question is not will I influence but how will I influence.
Here’s an example: a husband holds this erroneous assumption, that he has these three choices instead of two when it comes to influence in the marriage. Positive influence looks a lot like engaging, talking, honoring, being interested, and asking questions. Negative influence might be criticizing, cutting down, and dishonoring the wife completely. Neutral influence would (appear to) be simply going about your work, hobbies, and life without saying much of anything positive or negative. Naturally he concludes that, rather than make the effort to have positive influence, he can simply keep his mouth shut, do his job, and the results will not be damaging. Hey, it’s a better choice than the negative so it must be good, right? Wrong. There is no neutral.
So if you’re not positively influencing that only leaves one option… Negative, by definition, is the absence of the positive. This applies in your family relationships, friendships, work, and almost any relationship you can name.
The truth is if you are in someone’s life in any significant way you are influencing them no matter what you do. The question is how will you choose to influence them. Positive influence is a choice, and it is the only real choice you have. So take the steps to start choosing it.